A night after defeating the Abbotsford Heat in a convincing fashion, the Rampage squandered an early two-goal lead and fell to the Heat, 3-2, in a shootout on Saturday at the AT&T Center.
Saturday’s game matched an Abbotsford team that, as a result of undisciplined play, entered the game leading all AHL clubs in penalty killing opportunities (211) against a San Antonio squad that had scored seven power-play goals in their last three games.
After converting on three different power-play opportunities on Friday, the Rampage utilized the man-advantage to take an early lead on Saturday as San Antonio left wing Ryan Hollweg opened the scoring with a power-play goal at the 11:13 mark of the first.
Driving into the left side of the Abbotsford zone with speed, Rampage right wing Mikkel Boedker cycled the puck from the left half wall behind the net to center MacGregor Sharp. Simultaneously, Heat netminder Matt Keetley vacated the goal in an unsuccessful attempt to cut the pass off along the boards and was caught out of position. Noticing the vacated net, Sharp then redirected the puck out to Ryan Hollweg near the left hash mark of the right faceoff circle, where the veteran left wing found the open goal to provide San Antonio with an early 1-0 lead.
Taking full advantage of more undisciplined Heat play late in the first, the Rampage added another power-play goal, from the stick of right wing Ryan Weston, with 1:08 remaining in the opening period. Controlling the puck on the left point of the Abbotsford zone, San Antonio defenseman Shaun Heshka sent a cross-ice pass to Boedker at the top of the right faceoff circle. Boedker then fired a low slap shot that bounced off Keetley’s pads and landed near the right post, where Rampage left wing Brett MacLean tapped the rebound toward the right post with Weston waiting to knock in the loose puck to provide the Rampage with a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Abbotsford emerged from the dressing room in the second looking like a completely different team, controlling the play in the middle frame from start to finish.
Turning the tide on San Antonio, the Heat closed the deficit to one with a power-play goal by left wing Colin Stuart at the 10:54 mark of the period. Regrouping on the penalty kill in the neutral zone, a San Antonio defenseman misplayed a bouncing puck at the San Antonio blueline, allowing Heat blueliner Brad Cole to extend his stick and poke the puck forward before finding left wing Colin Stuart near the right hash mark of the left faceoff circle. Drawing Rampage goalie Justin Pogge over to the left post to contest the impending shot, Stuart beat the San Antonio netminder low inside the right post to close the deficit to 2-1.
Continuing to pour on the pressure, Abbotsford tied the game with 59 seconds remaining in the second on a goal by former Rampage left wing Pete Vandermeer. Heat defenseman Gord Baldwin jumpstarted the scoring play by sending a pass from the right point down to former Rampage center Garth Murray in the right corner. Murray then finessed a saucer pass from the right post to Vandermeer just outside the mouth of the crease, where the Heat left wing outmuscled a San Antonio defenseman and redirected the puck high over Pogge’s stick and into the Rampage goal to knot the contest at two goals apiece.
The Heat outshot the Rampage by a 19-4 margin in the second, tying the San Antonio season high for most shots against in a single period, in which the Rampage were held without a shot through the first 13 minutes of play in the period.
The final frame featured back-and-forth action in which Pogge and Keetley stood their ground and turned away all 14 and 12 of the respective shots they faced in the period, thus sending the game to overtime.
During the extra session, San Antonio controlled the puck possession game and had their share of scoring opportunities, including a well-crafted shot by newly acquired center Gavin Morgan that was gloved by Keetley. However, despite dictating play for the majority of overtime, San Antonio was unable to solve the Abbotsford goaltender and the game was left to be decided in what would be a Rampage franchise-high 9-round shootout.
In the shootout, the Heat outscored the Rampage, 3-2, and emerged victorious in the ninth round with a goal by right wing David Van der Gulik.
Pogge made 43 saves on 45 Abbotsford shots in the loss, while Keetley turned away 32 of 34 shots for his fifth victory of the season.
Despite falling in a shootout, San Antonio, 6-1-0-1 in their last seven games, picked up a point in the standings after tying in regulation.
The Rampage return to action on Wednesday in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they’ll battle the Grand Rapids Griffins in a 6 p.m. (CST) matchup at Van Andel Arena.