The question tonight is a familiar one. Is tonight the night that the Admirals get rewarded for their work? Recent games game been positive for the Admirals but, fact remains, they’re still losing games. In March the Admirals have pulled in a record of 3-7-1-0 (7 points) from 11 games. It looks bad but there is lots of good being done. Is tonight the night that things start trending forward?
~Short & Sweet~
The San Antonio Rampage enter tonight’s game with a record of 39-20-5-1 (84 points). They now sit atop the West Division by 2 points over the Oklahoma City Barons. Haven’t looked at the conference standings in awhile? It’s tight all-around and the same can be said for the division leaders battling out for the top three spots. The Utica Comets lead the Grand Rapids Griffins, and the Rampage, by a single point. That’s the gap from #1 to #3 and the same gap can be said from #8 to #11. Admirals need to avoid plummeting into that vortex.
It’s been a hot run for the Rampage. They have won 5 straight games and are 8-1-0-1 (17 points) in their last 10 games. This current winning streak for the Rampage started after they were shutout 4-0 by the Lake Erie Monsters. Since, they’ve outscored opponents 25-12 on this current winning streak including a 9-3 thrashing of the Charlotte Checkers and a pair of overtime victories.
~When Last We Met~
As you might recall, when the Admirals and Rampage locked up in San Antonio it was a tight game and a good game for the Admirals. The game ended with a 4-3 (OT) loss for the Ads but they outshot the home-side 35-24. The problem? That’s been the trend lately. Lots and lots of shots but not enough results coming from them.
It’s not as if the Rampage did any sort of rope-a-dope to the Admirals, either. Huge credit should be given to the Admirals defensively for limiting the Rampage in shots during that game. Looking at San Antonio’s recent winning streak they have only been outshot in a game once. Every other game? It has been all Rampage all the time as far as putting pucks on net are concerned. They’ve averaged 33.8 shots per game while limiting their opposition to 26.8 shots per game during the win streak. That Admirals defense, as I’m sure they did last time, will need to expect a wave of offense looking to wear them out.
~The Usual Suspects~
The top scorers for the Rampage haven’t changed all that much since last time. Bobby Butler still leads the way for San Antonio with 55 points (25 goals, 30 assists) in 62 games. Butler is currently tied for sixth in the AHL in scoring with Nick Cousins (Lehigh Valley Phantoms) and Tim Kennedy (Hershey Bears).
Following Butler in scoring are three other players on the 40+ points plateau: Mark Mancari, 42 points (12 goals, 30 assists)… Brett Olson, 41 points (13 goals, 28 assists)… Connor Brickley, 40 points (21 goals, 19 assists).
Michael Houser is still the main man in net for the Rampage at this point. He has a record of 17-9-3-1 this season with a 2.80 goals against average, 0.902 save percentage, and a shutout. He has played all 10 games that the Rampage have played this month and has won 8 games with a 2.15 goals against average and 0.923 save percentage. Could we see Rob Madore‘s Cincinnati Cyclones goaltending battery-mate of this season Sam Brittain instead? I doubt it.
What will the Admirals forward lines end up being tonight and how will all these recent shots get converted into actual goals? Perhaps recent PTO signing Gary Steffes could help. It is his first chance in the AHL since the 2012-13 season and he has exploded for 73 points (44 goals, 29 assists) in the ECHL this season. Steffes has tallied 16 points (9 goals, 7 assists) in 10 games in the month of March alone.
What I like about the Steffes signing is that it is a short term solution to the current Nashville Predators injury bug that has taken two of the Admirals more active offensive skill players. While Steffes might not be a Kevin Fiala or Viktor Arvidsson he is also not Fiala or Arvidsson. He hasn’t had the proper chance to really prove himself at the AHL level and this could be the icing on the cake for Steffes in an ECHL season that has been massive from him. He’ll be eager to please the Admirals and hungry to earn an AHL spot here, there, or anywhere and the Admirals are the possible launch pad for him to do that.
He could only be here for a few games or more. Who knows. But he is here now and that’s more AHL daylight than he’s seen in a long time. Can his play translate with the Admirals? We’ll just have to wait and see.
It should also be yet another chance for Eric Robinson to show his value to the Admirals. Personally, it has been a small sample size of 2 games but I’ve really liked what I’ve seen out of Robinson. He moves around really well. Last time out he had a few really nice looking scoring chances and appeared that the coaching staff felt more than happy to keep giving him ice time. He hasn’t looked overwhelmed or out of his depth yet. Like Steffes, he’s also trying to prove himself worthy of an AHL level contract. Having a pair of hungry competitive players should be a nice boost despite some of the bigger names getting recalled on emergency basis.
Expectations for tonight’s game? What are the keys to the Admirals earning a win over a hot San Antonio Rampage team tonight? Who would you feel more confident starting in net tonight, Magnus Hellberg or Marek Mazanec?