The beloved Rampage have been icing some truly odd and truncated lineups lately due to injuries to the parent clubs. A couple weeks ago they played with 16 skaters in Tucson and Friday night they played with 13 forwards and 5 defensemen. For what it’s worth they won both of those games but safe to say that isn’t what you’d like to see your affiliate going through. The Rampage have 17 transactions on the wire over the past week and finally Sunday Eric Veilleux was able to choose the best possible lineup rather than play who was hanging around.
One of the major additions to Sunday’s lineup, especially to Avs fans, was Vladislav Kamenev. Despite missing 4 months with a badly broken arm he was immediately dropped into the top line center role and along with the return of Sammy Blais from a concussion paid huge benefits.
SA 4 – ONT 0
Goals: Girard, Blais (3)
Shots For: 23
Shots Against: 21
Shot Share: 52.3%
PP 2/3, PK 0/1
Ontario is the Kings affiliate and the play the old Kings style – heavy, grinding possession with plenty of physical play. That said the Rampage have had success against them with a 2-1-2 record coming into last night’s contest. The forward lines were somewhat fluid but fell into something like this for most of the game:
Sanford – Kamanev – Blais
Agozzino – Girard – Petryk
Kostin – Belzile – Ranford
St-Amant – Beaudin – Joly
There weren’t any consistent d-pairings really. By TOI I’d say it went something like Meloche, Butler, Geertsen, Graves, Graham, De Jong with the last 2 guys playing very little.
The first period was a little scratchy as EV and Ladouceur worked through the new lines and pairs on the fly trying to find some chemistry. The top line gradually got better as Kamenev got up to game speed, Blais found his rhythm and Sanford realized he was playing with skill guys for the first time since joining the Rampage. By the end of the period they looked stout and Sam Blais actually got a puck past Ontario’s goalie but it was about a half-second after the horn.
The second started out with a smart breakout pass from Nic Meloche to Aggz, who took it into the zone and fed Felix Girard for the opening score of the night. By about the halfway mark of the period the top line was really moving. Blais was working his usual zone-entry and shot-generation magic, Kamenev was starting to find the open man in the slot regularly and Sanford was playing the net-front screen/puck retrieval role well. Sanford drew a high-stick call with around 6 minutes to go and the Rampage got their 1st PP of the day. Blais converted on a tip from Kamenev’s shot from the point and we went to intermission up 2-0.
The 3rd was all Rampage. Ontario didn’t get a shot in the first 9 minutes and by 14 minutes in only had 3. I’d say Meloche and the top line had about 10 minutes of TOI each. About halfway through the period Kamenev found Blais for another goal and the pass was so beautiful I almost cried. Elite-level stuff. Five minutes later Blais got the hat trick on the power play from yet another wonderful play by Kam to make it 4-0 and all that was left was getting Ville Husso his 4th shutout of the year. Mission accomplished.
Blais was first star of the game with the hat trick and 7 shots on goal. Husso got the second star with the 21-save shutout. The homers in the press box selected the Reign’s Michael Mersch as the 3rd star because why not.
Besides the top line, I really liked Klim Kostin’s game last night. He’s a little inconsistent but the Blues had some personnel looking on, including Head Coach Mike Yeo, and he showed well for sure…. Nic Meloche has taken the #1D role on and thrived lately, it’s great to see the progress he’s made this season. Last night was no exception as he had another game in the high 20’s for TOI and helped Husso to the shutout. He also had an assist on the 1st/winning goal….
My choice for 3rd star would have been Vladislav Kamenev if you can believe it. After shaking off the rust of the first 20-25 minutes or so he played a dominant 1C role and made a lot of space for his linemates. Of the Rampage’s 23 shots on goal, they had 11. The great thing to see was since none of them had played together much they eschewed EV’s system and fell into more of an NHL style offense where the center sets up chances by passing into the slot rather than the usual fire the puck from wherever and hope something good happens.
Looking ahead to what he might bring to the Avs once the conditioning loan is over, he’s got great vision and reads the play well. His passing skills are very good and has a knack for running the offense, including the PP, from the right half-wall. I don’t want to make it sound like he’s all pass and no shoot either, he had several good scoring chances on his own ranging from shots from the point to driving to the net. His line had the puck so often we didn’t get to see his defensive skills much but they are there. Blais traditionally struggles in the d-zone and Sanford has been pretty lost there since joining the Rampage but they had little trouble exiting the zone and moving the puck forward yesterday.
Rudo made a shift-by-shift of last night’s game, check it out when you get a chance. It’s very promising. Also look for Meloche (#41), he had a solid game and was out concurrently quite often.
Kam’s conditioning loan has a limit of 3 games/6 days so he will be with the Avs again no later than after Friday’s game. The Rampage play tomorrow in San Diego then back home Friday night vs the Mooses. I’d say he’s a candidate to make his re-debut on Sunday vs the red wings but if I’m Jared Bednar I would be seriously considering bringing him to St Louis to play the Blues on Thursday or, even better, his old club Nashville at the Pepsi Center on Friday.
Thanks again to the San Antonio Rampage for the cover photo, the AHL for boxscores and statistics and Rudo for the time and effort to create the shift-by-shift video.