Receiving timely scoring and fantastic goaltending from start to finish, the San Antonio Rampage defeated their I-35 rival Texas Stars, 2-1, in front of a raucous crowd of 7,210 at the AT&T Center on Friday night.
Facing off against a Texas team that was 6-4-0-0 in their past 10 games and in third place in the American Hockey League’s West Division, the Rampage approached the contest with hopes of defeating the Stars in regulation in order to continue their bid for fourth place in the West Division and a Calder Cup Playoff spot.
San Antonio (31-27-3-6) entered Friday’s matchup with a 2-1-0-0 record in their last three games against Texas and outscored the Stars by a 9-6 margin in those contests.
The opening period saw referee Terry Koharski whistle both clubs for a combined five penalties in the first 20 minutes. Fortunately for the Rampage, one of those penalties resulted in a San Antonio goal.
After Texas right wing Colton Sceviour was whistled for a cross-checking penalty at the 6:49 mark of the first, the Rampage needed only 34 seconds of power-play time before left wing Alexandre Picard broke the scoreless tie at 7:23. Working on the man-advantage in the Texas zone, center Kyle Turris gained possession of the puck on the right half wall and cycled down to MacLean in the right corner. Wasting little time, MacLean then connected with Picard on a one-timer in the slot, where the left winger beat Texas netminder Matt Climie through the five-hole to provide San Antonio with an early 1-0 lead.
Picard’s marker represented his 21st goal of the season and his fourth goal in his first five games with the Rampage since being acquired by the Phoenix Coyotes (NHL) from the Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL) in exchange for right wing Chad Kolarik.
The Stars evened the game at one goal apiece, at the 4:13 mark of the second, on a power-play tally by center Aaron Gagnon. After a shot from the left point by Stars defenseman Dan Jancevski rebounded off Rampage goaltender Josh Tordjman’s stick and landed near the left post, Gagnon pounced on the disc, skated to the top of the crease and beat Tordjman through the five-hole.
Despite receiving four power-play opportunities in the second stanza, the Rampage were unable to break the tie and thus the two clubs headed to the second intermission deadlocked at 1-1.
To the delight of an energetic AT&T Center crowd, San Antonio reclaimed the lead six minutes and 53 seconds into the third on left wing Stefan Meyer’s 10th goal of the season. Battling through two Stars players on the left boards near the Texas blueline, center Gavin Morgan prevented a puck from leaving the Texas zone and fired a shot toward the left post, where Meyer was waiting to tip the puck past Climie.
Tordjman made 27 saves on 28 Texas shots for his 15th victory of the season, while Climie turned away 29 of 31 San Antonio shots in the loss.
The Rampage were 1-for-7 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill in the game.
San Antonio and Texas will reunite on Saturday evening for a 7 p.m. contest at Cedar Park Center.