Photo courtesy of Stephen Whitaker, The Echo
The Rampage’s point streak came to an end last Wednesday, but they responded over the weekend with a pair of wins at home — both against division rivals.
Friday’s contest — the seventh contest through twelve games that required overtime — was decided in a shootout. The first three Rampage shooters scored and gave the Rampage a 5-4 win over the Stockton Heat.
The team is operating without their most reliable starting goaltender Calvin Pickard, who is in the middle of an NHL stint. The first goalie to take the reigns from Pickard was 23-year-old Czech netminder Roman Will. His play so far has not been impressive enough to earn him the interim starter role.
Rookie goaltender Spencer Martin made his AHL debut on Sunday against the Texas Stars and earned first star honors by stopping 46 of 47 shots. The score would suggest that the Rampage employed a tight, stifling defense, but ultimately, Martin’s play was the difference.
After scoring just over a minute into the game, the Rampage held at least a one-goal lead until the end of regulation. But they struggled to create offense and keep the puck away from their own net, which led to their being outshot 34-16 over the final two periods. The usually prosperous Texas Stars offense was given an abundance of opportunities to tie the game after the momentum shifted their way, but Martin stood strong.
After such an impressive debut performance, Martin may have the chance to overtake Will on the depth chart. As long as Pickard is out of the picture, it will be interesting to see what dynamic develops between these two netminders.
Giving up leads late in games is often attributed to youth and change, and the Rampage are not immune to inexperience. The absence of impact players like Pickard, Dennis Everberg and Captain Ben Street and the transitory nature of the team’s defense, which is largely built around young players, make it a struggle to find consistency.
“We have a lot of young guys that are still playing in different situations. You’re going to hear me say that a lot…because unfortunately, that’s the truth,” Chynoweth explained. “We hope that they continue to grow and learn from it.”
The team is happy with the results so far — they sit atop the Pacific Division — but their next challenge is not letting that success blind them to the aspects of their game that need to improve.