GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The San Antonio Rampage scored a quick pair of goals with less than eight minutes remaining on Saturday to grab their only lead of the game before holding on for a 4-3 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins at Van Andel Arena.
In addition to snapping the Griffins’ season-high four-game winning streak, San Antonio’s rally broke the Rampage’s nine-game skid at Van Andel Arena, as they won their first game here since Oct. 17, 2015.
The Griffins (26-23-3-4), who remain in third place in the Central Division with a four-point cushion over both Chicago and Rockford, will host a rematch with the Rampage (20-21-7-5) on Sunday at 4 p.m.
Despite being outshot 18-10 during the opening period, the Griffins went to the locker room ahead 1-0 thanks to a late goal by Givani Smith. After teaming with Chase Pearson and Matthew Ford to gain control of the puck behind the Rampage goal, Smith planted himself near the right post and roofed Ford’s feed into the near corner of Adam Wilcox’s net at 18:28.
The Rampage pulled even with a power play goal against a tired Griffins penalty killing unit 12:23 into the second, as Cam Darcy’s off-speed one-timer from the left circle fluttered past Pat Nagle and under the crossbar. But the Griffins quickly answered with a power play goal of their own to reclaim the lead at 14:05, with Chris Terry taking a pass from Matt Puempel in the right circle and snapping a wicked shot over Wilcox for his team-leading 19th tally of the season.
With 2:40 left in the frame, the Rampage forced a turnover in the Griffins’ end and again knotted the score. Nagle made the initial save on a Jake Walman’s shot from the left side, but Mike Vecchione was waiting alone in the slot to clean up the rebound for the 2-2 tie. A much worse outcome for the Griffins during the sequence was an injury suffered by Moritz Seider, who took a routine hit from Austin Poganski into the boards while playing the puck behind the net but fell awkwardly to the ice. He eventually made his way to the locker room with assistance and did not return.
Pearson continued his strong game by staking Grand Rapids to its third lead of the night 2:25 into the final period. Taking a pass from Taro Hirose as they broke into the San Antonio zone, Pearson bore down on Wilcox and made a move before seeing the puck ramp off the stick of the pokechecking goalie, over his prone body and across the line.
The Rampage, though, scored twice in a span of 61 seconds to seize their 4-3 advantage. Nagle denied a mini break by Vecchione but was powerless to stop Poganski’s follow-up at 12:40, and Klim Kostin threaded a shot over Nagle’s right shoulder from the left circle at 13:41 for a power play goal and the Rampage lead.
After killing off a subsequent tripping penalty to Smith, the Griffins eventually pulled Nagle for an extra attacker over the final two minutes but were unable to net the equalizer. Nagle finished with 37 saves to Wilcox’s 39.
San Antonio went 2-for-5 on the power play, ending the Griffins’ run of five straight games without allowing a power play goal, while Grand Rapids finished 1-for-4.
Notes: After qualifying to rank among the Griffins’ all-time goaltending leaders by virtue of playing his 20th career game tonight, Nagle currently stands fifth in franchise annals with a 2.19 goals against average and is tied for third with a 0.921 save percentage. (Twenty-five goalies have reached that 20-game plateau in team history.) He has appeared in 17 games for Grand Rapids this season after totaling only eight games in the AHL – including three with the Griffins – during his first eight pro seasons.
Three Stars: 1. SA Kostin (game-winning goal, assist); 2. GR Pearson (goal, assist); 3. SA Vecchione (goal, assist)
[Post content courtesy of the Grand Rapids Griffins]