The Rampage of San Antonio are one year removed from being a PP juggernaut in the AHL. They are having a down season, but a strong enough one to be included in the postseason conversation in the Western Conference. They also play in a very stout West Division (with Oklahoma City), and thus are a tough team to guage when it comes to future playoff potential. They currently sit 4th in the Western Division which equates to the 8th and final seed in the playoffs were they to start today. We’ve seen a trend of 8th seed Westerners that is not surprising — play well at home, play abysmal on the road. This is not the case with the Rampage. Their home ice record is actually barely above 500 (16-15-0-1) and likely will be below that mark if they don’t make the playoffs. Their away record is significantly better (19-12-3-1). As you’d expect, both PP and PK totals are better on the road as well as overall goal scoring. This makes the Rampage deadly because they likely will play first and second rounds moreso on the road than on home ice near the Alamo.
The problem with this team is simply consistency. They have the talent to get it done, but lack the killer mentality to finish teams off early and often (something the Barons struggle with, but with more favorable outcomes). They are disciplined and force teams into taking silly penalties by virtue of being a speedy squad. Guys like Jon Matsumoto, Bracken Kearns, and Bill Thomas have a knack for scoring quickly. They have a tendency to give the Barons heartburn with their agility, and this would be a an area where the Barons defenders would need to be sharp and keep those forwards in front of them.
On defense they are smart with the puck and can move up ice quickly. Sean Sullivan and Cody Rolbak are two that come to mind quickly as your typical puck moving defensemen. It’s the forward lines that take the most abuse defensively in that they can be overly aggressive with the puck. As is the case with Matsumoto who has 21 points in 26 games, but with a -3 +/- since coming to the Rampage from the Charlotte Checkers. If you can shut down those top lines, turn the puck over quickly to the offensive end, and keep the defense on their toes you can beat this squad.
Dov Grumet-Morris and Jacob Markstrom round out the goaltending duo in San Antonio, and both aren’t all that bad. But in the end, the transition game for the Rampage can be beat and when it does the Rampage give up a lot of room in front of the net. Thus the goaltenders see a lot of shots, some from point blank range. Both are solid tenders and will be fine in the post season as long as they have help directly in front of the net.
Ryan Keller and Josh Green both have three goals a piece in seven games played against the Rampage. LeNeveu has seen the Rampage 5 times (3-2) while Danis has only seen them twice (1-1). The Barons will likely need to score quickly and earn a multiple goal lead in order to defeat the Rampage. You don’t want to play this team close heading into the third because they’ll bite hard when you give up a 2 minute penalty deep in the game. The top line will likely be Cornet-Arcobello-Keller if the two meet, but don’t count out a Josh Green infusion on that top line or perhaps a Teemu Hartikainen spot on the left.
I think the Barons quickness can handle the Rampage game plan. They are defensively sharp, but not defensively demonstrative. They can be pushed around, and sometimes don’t have the ability to push back late in the game. However, that road warrior attitude might be tough for the Barons to handle and subsequently force the team to be dynamite on the PK (along with very few penalties taken).
As the season winds down, the final game for the Barons will be against San Antonio. If the Rampage indeed hang on to that final spot in the West, we might see a small preview of things to come.
Rampage Clear Day Roster:
Goaltenders: Dov Grumet-Morris, Jacob Markstrom
Defensemen: Michael Caruso, Roman Derlyuk, Colby Robak, Keith Seabrook, Tyson Strachan, Sean Sullivan, Nolan Yonkman
Forwards: Evan Barlow, Mark Cullen, Bracken Kearns, David Marshall, Jonathan Matsumoto, Wacey Rabbit, Greg Rallo, Michal Repik, Eric Selleck, Bill Thomas, Scott Timmins, Justin Vaive, James Wright
The Rampage have also listed forward Ondrej Roman as “In Residence” and can play if a member of the 22-man roster is injured or recalled.
Predicted Outcome: Barons in Five