Visiting Allstate Arena for the first time in 2009-10, a valiant San Antonio comeback from a 3-0 deficit fell just short as the Rampage were edged by the Chicago Wolves, 3-2, on Wednesday evening.
Entering Wednesday’s matchup with a three-game win streak in hand and the reigning Reebok/AHL Player of the Week, Justin Pogge, in goal, San Antonio (24-21-3-6) faced a Chicago club that was 8-0-0-2 in their last 10 games and in first place in the West Division standings.
The contest featured the return of San Antonio right wing David Spina, the Rampage all-time leader in assists (67), who missed the first 53 games of the season due to injury.
The Wolves opened the scoring at the 3:53 mark of the first on left wing Patrick Galivan’s second goal of the season. After Chicago forward Reid Simpson won a draw from the left faceoff circle to defenseman Arturs Kulda on the left point, Kulda then fired a low slap shot that was tipped in front by Galivan to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
Chicago then added to their lead at the 8:10 mark of the period with a goal by right wing Joey Crabb. With Pogge heading behind his own net to leave the puck for a Rampage defenseman, Wolves center Matt Anderson intercepted the puck and found Crabb all alone in the slot, where the Wolves winger found the San Antonio goal to increase the Chicago lead to 2-0.
Two minutes and 46 seconds later, the Wolves struck for the third time in the opening period with Anderson’s 10th goal of the year. After Chicago center Jason Krog won a draw to right wing Tim Stapleton on the right half wall, Stapleton found defenseman Mike Vernace on the right point. Vernace then fired a waist-high slap shot that was tipped by Anderson, in front, high to Pogge’s blocker side to provide Chicago with a three-goal cushion.
Down by three goals to open the second stanza, San Antonio decreased the deficit to two goals at the 2:31 mark of the second with a shorthanded goal by defenseman David Schlemko. Gaining possession of the puck on the San Antonio blueline, center Kyle Turris bounced a pass for a breaking Schlemko along the left boards near the Wolves blueline. Schlemko then drove into the left side of the Chicago zone before firing a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot that was deflected by Wolves netminder Drew MacIntyre behind the Chicago net. Refusing to give up on the play, Schlemko grabbed the puck and quickly fired a backhand, from behind the Wolves net, off MacIntyre’s backside and into the Wolves net to close the score to 3-1.
Continuing to poke away at the Chicago lead, San Antonio crawled to within one, at the 12:39 mark of the second, on Schlemko’s second tally of the night. After a rebound off a shot by Rampage center Kevin Porter landed in front of the crease, Schlemko raced down from the point before beating MacIntyre high under the crossbar to bring the Rampage to within one goal.
Entering the final frame down by one, San Antonio outshot Chicago by a 10-7 margin in the third, but failed to convert on three power plays in the final 20 minutes.
MacIntyre made 32 saves on 34 San Antonio shots for the victory, while Pogge turned away 28 of 31 Chicago shots for his first loss in his last four starts.
The Rampage were 0-for-3 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill in the contest.
San Antonio will continue their Rodeo road trip on Friday when they visit the Rockford IceHogs for a 7:05 p.m. matchup at the Rockford MetroCentre.