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David Spina started the scoring for the Rampage, notching his 16th goal of the season on the power play at the 16:06 of the first period. Taking a pass from David Schlemko at the goal line, Spina used his body to ward off a defender before turning toward the net and turning the puck on his forehand to slide it past the glove of Lake Erie goalie Jason Bacashihua. Dylan Reese picked up the second assist on the goal.
The rest of the first period would go scoreless, but the Monsters would strike first in the second frame, with Chris Durno netting his 15th of the season at the 5:37 mark. Standing idle in the high slot at the face off, Durno was the recipient of a clean faceoff win by Bryan Marshall. Right as it got to his stick, Durno blew a low wrist shot past San Antonio goaltender Karl Goehring.
As quickly as Durno tied the game, the Rampage came right back to take the lead again. The score would stay knotted for just 12 seconds, as Simon Ferguson recorded his fourth of the year at 5:49 of the second period. Wyatt Smith and Garth Murray picked up the assists on the goal.
But the Monsters would get right back into the game, evening the score just three minutes later, as Nigel Williams’ seventh goal of the season tied the score at two. With the puck on the goal line, Marshall found Williams waiting at the top of the faceoff circle. When he got the puck, Williams unloaded a slap shot that dribbled through Goehring’s five hole and in. Randy Rowe picked up the second assist on the goal.
Just as the Rampage had done earlier in the second period, San Antonio would strike again right after the Monsters evened the score. Thirteen seconds after Williams tied the game, Joel Perrault put the Rampage back on top, 3-2, with his 12th of the year. Sean Sullivan picked up the lone assist on the goal.
“We stress the importance of a shift after we score,” said head coach Joe Sacco. “We try to make sure guys are ready and get the puck deep and don’t allow the other team to gain any kind of momentum. Unfortunately, it happened to us twice tonight.”
Before the second period would end, the Rampage would tack on one more, to take a 4-2 lead into the third period. Kevin Porter’s initial shot toward the Monsters net hit the skate of a Lake Erie defender and took a fortuitous bounce to the stick of Chad Kolarik. When the puck got to his stick in between the hash marks, Kolarik ripped a wrist shot that scorched past the low blocker of Bacashihua. Brett MacLean picked up the second assist on the goal.
Although down by two, as has been the case all season, the Monsters refused to give up, scoring just 2:30 into the final frame. When Goehring went to play a Monsters dump in, the puck hit a seam in the boards and careened to the front of the net, where Mike McLean tapped in an easy one. David Marshall and Ray Macias assisted on the goal.
Trailing by one with momentum on their side, the Monsters would yet again watch as the Rampage pulled ahead by two on Kolarik’s 17th of the season. Coming in on a three-on-two break, Porter dished a pass to Kolarik, who was streaking down the right side of the ice. Picking up the puck in stride, Kolarik launched a bomb that whizzed past the blocker of Bacashihua, putting the Rampage back up by two. MacLean picked up the second assist on the goal.
Down again, but not out, the Monsters would claw back, putting themselves just a goal behind on Macias’s second of the season. Cutting through the high slot, Codey Burki dished a pass to Macias, who launched a bomb from the point past the blocker of Goehring at the 12:22 mark of the third, putting the Monsters a single goal behind the Rampage. With a goal and an assist, Macias recorded his third multi-point game of the year.
The never-say-die attitude continued, as the Monsters battled the last seven-and-a-half minutes of regulation time. With 4.9 seconds to go, on a power play and with Bacashihua yanked in favor of an extra attacker, the team won the faceoff in the Rampage zone, peppering Goehring with a few shots as the clock wound down to zero, before dropping the game by a single goal.
“I thought our guys really competed and never gave up, even at the end of the game,” said Sacco. Now, with just eight games left, the Monsters are nine points behind the North Division’s fourth-place team, the Toronto Marlies, who occupy the last playoff spot a team from the North Division can hold.
“We are still alive in the playoff race and we can’t give up or feel sorry for ourselves,” said defenseman Aaron MacKenzie. “We have to go out and win tomorrow night (Friday) in Rochester. Obviously, we are going to need some help from other teams ahead of us in the standings, but we can’t worry about that. We have to worry about our own games and take it one game at a time.”
The Monsters play their next two games on the road, as they travel to Rochester to face the Americans on Friday and play the Syracuse Crunch in upstate New York on Saturday.
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