SAN ANTONIO -- There was no feel-you-out period at the start of this one, a 3-0 Rampage win over interstate rival Texas at the AT&T Center. The Rampage stomped the Stars Friday night in Cedar Park, a record-setting 7-1 win that totally embarrassed the defending Calder Cup champs in their own den. It was the largest margin of victory for the Rampage over Texas, which had won all but eight of 30 games played in the Austin suburb.
The Rampage tied a franchise record with their seventh straight win Sunday.
The Stars were ready to rebound Sunday afternoon. Fortunately for the Rampage, veteran goaltender Dan Ellis was ready as well.
Right off the opening faceoff Ellis slid across the crease to stop the Stars' Derek Hulak’s breakaway backhander just seconds into the game.
Couple of nice stops with seven minutes to go in the first on Scott Glennie kept it scoreless.
On a pretty hockey play, Connor Brickley, a Panthers second round pick in 2010, found Mark Mancari at the side of the net and the veteran tucked it in under Stars goaltender Jack Campbell at 18:55 of the first period. Drew Shore kept the puck alive in the corner, Brickley skated parallel to the goal line to the slot, drew Campbell with him and backhanded a pass to Mancari on the doorstep. It was Brickley’s first assist of the season.
"You got to go hard and beat their defenseman to the net," said the veteran Mancari. "I got a step on their D-man and (Brickley) made a great pass."
Brickley’s work ethic paid off in the second period on the power play. Defenseman Alex Petrovic’s blast from the point had just enough juice on it to trickle between Campbell’s pads. Brickley found the puck in the crease behind Campbell and jammed it into the open net.
"Petro made a great shot and coach just re-iterates (remember, he’s a college kid) always get inside players, try and go to the net," said the former University of Vermont standout. "Right when I see the D get ready to shoot the puck, I just get to the net, hopefully find loose pucks. It was just laying there for me so I was just able to put it in."
Brickley now has five goals on the season, including two Friday night against the Stars.
Seven straight wins for the third time in their history...the last time was in January 2012, and they’ve outscored opponents 26-11 during this run. They will try and break the record at home Friday night vs. Oklahoma City.
Ellis has been phenomenal during the streak, winning six of them. He’s allowed only eight goals in seven games, and nearly shutout OKC last Sunday, only to have the Barons score in the last two minutes of a 3-1 Rampage win.
"He stays on an even keel, even when things we’re going so great for him," said Rowe of Ellis. "They had their chances today. They took advantage of our misreads on the D and Dan came up big for us."
Ellis is also picking on his former organization, the Dallas Stars, who selected him in the second round in 2000 after his college career at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and re-acquired him last season before dealing the Saskatoon native to the Panthers last year for Tim Thomas. Ellis has allowed only seven goals in five games against the AHL Stars.
"You try and play your best, regardless of the team," said Ellis after the win. "If you have success against one team, it’s great. It’s better for our team. But most important it’s just about points."
Special teams play has also spurred success for the Rampage. The penalty killers have been successful on 28 of 32 power play attempts. Against the Stars, a perennial power point leader in the AHL and especially against the Rampage over the years, San Antonio skaters stopped all eight Stars chances. On the power play, the Rampage began the streak near the bottom of the league in that category, but have gone 9 of 35, including a PP goal in each of the last five games.
Brickley has been the surprise of the season, however. The Everett, Massachusetts native and nephew of Boston Bruins TV announcer, Andy Brickley, scored five goals last season for the Catamounts. That was an improvement of two goals from his junior year. His best season was his sophomore year, when he tallied nine in 23 games.
"I don’t know what happened to him in college, but I don’t really care at this point. He’s been very consistent with us," said Rampage head coach Tom Rowe. "He’s probably a better pro. I think the pro game is more suited to his personality."
"I think it’s a reflection of the guys around me," said Brickley. "I’m playing with a lot of better players and I’m trying to feed off their energy, get in the right spots and the puck’s just been bouncing for me."
From his first shift last season when he signed his first pro contract and got eight games under his belt with a goal and an assist, Brickley has been a charger off the bench. His grind it down approach has paid dividends at this level.
"He’s a kid who can play for you anywhere from fourth line to first line," added Rowe. "He’s got skills, he’s got heart. He likes to bang around out there and is a little more reckless than some guys, which is an advantage. Our scouts did a great job, obviously, getting a kid like that to help you put points on the board. He’s a tough kid to play against."
Linemate Mancari, a veteran of 677 pro games and who was acquired last season from the Blues organization for Eric Selleck, said, "Connor’s playing great hockey. He works hard every shift and he made a great pass there."
At the beginning of the season, the Rampage were looking for big scoring seasons from Shore, Bobby Butler – who is tied for third in the AHL with 19 points – Garrett Wilson and Quentin Howden, who has been hurt most of the season.
Enter Brickley. Now, if he can just make a few more passes like today, his scoring line will fill in just nicely (5-1-6).
About the writer: Tony Uminski was born in Boston and settled in San Antonio after a 22-year Air Force career, where he served as a broadcasting and journalism specialist. He broadcast San Antonio Iguanas (CHL) and San Antonio Dragons (IHL) games, along with a year with the Indianapolis Ice. Following his return to San Antonio, Uminski has been covering the San Antonio Rampage since the team's inception in 2002 for the San Antonio Express-News, and is widely hailed as Mr. Hockey in the Alamo City. Currently, a high school teacher full-time, Uminski teaches speech and world geography at Incarnate Word High School.