By Scott Strickman || AHL On The Beat Archive
In his first season with the Rampage, forward Chris Durno is building a reputation that fellow San Antonian “Big Shot Bob” Robert Horry of the NBA’s Spurs may even have to give a nod to. And he’s doing it in the same arena.
“I love being out there at the end of the game,” Durno said. “When the score is tied, everybody wants to score that goal.”
Everybody wants to score that goal, but lately it’s been a one-man show.
Since the start of the New Year, Durno has scored 19 points (11 goals, eight assists) in 22 games. Of his 11 goals, 10 have either tied the game or put the Rampage ahead, including four game-winners.
“That’s always something I strive to do — to be a clutch player at the end of the game,” Durno said. “Scoring big goals helps build confidence. I hope I can keep scoring those.”
Durno kicked off 2008 with the game-ender in a 3-2 overtime victory against Iowa on Jan. 5. He scored the goal on his franchise-record 10th shot of the night. In retrospect, it seemed to serve as a prelude to an offensive explosion for Durno, particularly in the clutch.
He potted the game-tying goal a few days later against Houston, but the best was yet to come for “Mr. Clutch.”
In a two-game set with Manitoba, Durno scored back-to-back winning goals on the penalty kill. While both counted the same on the scorer’s sheet, the second was a clear representation of the effort, focus and desire he brings to the rink every night.
With the score tied and under 10 seconds remaining in the game, the Rampage cleared the puck into Manitoba ice, seemingly sending the game into overtime. Durno pursued down the opposite wall, putting himself in position, just in case. The puck dribbled along the back wall toward goaltender Drew MacIntyre, who was behind his net. But it took a funny hop over his stick, right to a perfectly-placed Durno, who snagged the puck and wrapped it around the cage past a diving MacIntyre as the horn sounded.
“I got a couple bounces, that one in the last second was a good bounce,” Durno said.
Teammate Bill Thomas seemed to think there was more to the bounce than just luck.
“He scored that one goal with no time left, I’d say he’s been ‘Mr. Clutch,’” Thomas said.
It gave him four goals in as many games, three winners and an equalizer, to boot. Durno rounded out the month of January with six goals and six assists for 12 points in just 11 games. All six of his goals pulled the Rampage even or won games.
“I started playing with a couple different guys and got more of an offensive role,” Durno said. “A lot of guys are real good players on this team. Everybody has accepted their roles. I’ve been anywhere from a third-line winger to the first line. We have so much firepower here, 10 guys can score (at any time).”
It should come as no surprise the Rampage have fared well since the calendar turned. They have gone 12-5-1-4, taking 29 of a possible 44 points (.659) since Durno began to take off.
Durno wouldn’t say he made any New Year’s resolutions, but pointed more to steady improvement as the source of his recent surge.
“I’ve been gaining momentum the last couple of months, just improving the little things — everything from the face-off, to being competitive and focused on making the effort every night,” Durno said.
Thomas and Durno have combined for seven of the Rampage’s 12 shorthanded goals this season, fourth-most in the American Hockey League. The two also set a franchise-record for fastest two goals in a period, scoring 14 seconds apart on Nov. 4 at Quad City during the opening stanza. Durno also leads the team with 12 multiple-point games.
Thomas says playing alongside someone who can contribute in a variety of ways adds another element to his own game.
“It’s obviously good,” Thomas said. “He brings a lot of diversity and is playing red-hot.”
The Rampage have been at their best when Durno lights the lamp, compiling a 12-4-0-1 mark to take 25 of 34 points (.735). Durno holds the team-high this season for longest goal streak at four games, beginning with his game-ending tally in sudden death against Iowa and culminating with the short-handed, buzzer-beating score that set the franchise record. He also owns a team-best plus/minus rating of plus-16.
All the accomplishments have made this season even more gratifying for the fifth-year pro, who said he doesn’t consider himself young anymore at age 27.
“I definitely have something to prove,” Durno said. “Being undrafted, I put my time and dues in. Grinding it out in the minor leagues made me learn not to take things for granted. It’s been a great opportunity here.”