From the drop of the puck Friday night, the Indy Fuel had a significant amount of jump to their play.
And while they came through two periods with a tie, they wore down the Missouri Mavericks with a heavy forecheck and solid defensive play in front of Cody Reichard to post the first victory in Fuel history, beating the Mavericks 5-1 Friday at the Fairgrounds Coliseum on “Pink in the Rink” night.
The Fuel exploded for four goals in the final 12:43 of the third period, including three in a span of 2:13 that turned a 1-all tie into a four-goal victory.
Tonight’s start really built off the finish Wednesday night, when the Fuel rallied from a two-goal deficit early in the second period to send an eventual 5-4 OTL to Kalamazoo into the extra session.
“We felt like, after the first period against Kalamazoo, we played a very good two periods of hockey against what’s probably a very, very good team,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said, referring back to Wednesday’s game. “It’s tough to know right now, but watching them play and watching our guys respond to that speed level and not only keep up, but we thought we won those two periods. Then, we started out strong today and to be able to play a more complete – we had about five minutes of our game today, but we had 55 minutes of really good hockey. The guys deserved to win. Were were so close, and had opportunities we’ve squandered the last three games. The guys in the room deserve it, our fans deserve it – they’ve supported us and been here through a couple of heartbreakers – these guys really wanted the win. We have a good feeling in the room, that they don’t accept losing just because we’re a new team. That’s not going to be a crutch.”
The game-winner was a strong play, as the Fuel forced a turnover on the forecheck. Anders Franzon pinched down the right wall to collect the puck and found captain Mike Duco’s stick in the low-slot. Duco was able to rifle the puck over Missouri’s Mike Clemente into the top shelf to make it 2-1 with 12:43 left. Justin Holl was credited with a goal 55 seconds later on a play from the right boards, and Rhett Bly had an unassisted goal another 78 ticks later, corraling the puck in front and poking it into the net.
“He’s the true leader of this team,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “He works hard, the guys follow him. Tonight, for the first time, offensively, he was rewarded for his work.”
The Fuel special teams were also strong. The PK killed all five Missouri power plays, while the Fuel scored on two of their eight man-advantage situations. Robert Czarnik scored on the PP in the first, and Patrick Cullen added a late third-period PPG.
Defensively, the Fuel only allowed 16 shots — starter Cody Reichard made 15 saves to become the first Fuel winning goaltender.
“We’ve talked a lot about the number of goals we’ve given up,” Hillman said. “We’re not going to be successful if we’re giving up four or five goals a night. There’s a lot of learning, a lot of getting guys on the same page, and I think tonight, we saw good steps second and third period last time, and tonight, we took a big step.”
- Special teams. On both sides. Not only did the PP hum at 25%, the PK was perfect. The Fuel PP is now 6-22 on the season, a 27.3% clip. The penalty kill was spectacular. Twice, Missouri went the full 2:00 without getting a shot on goal, while the Fuel PK generated solid chances — one a solo effort by Mathieu Brisebois that killed about 20 seconds of a man advantage, and another a breakaway by Patrick Cullen that Clemente denied. Hillman was happy with both special teams. “Our focus has to be, whether you’re four against five or five against four, you’ve got to outwork them. I thought for the most part, especially on the PK, we were able to do that.”
- Spread out the scoring. Ten different Fuel players registered a point tonight, and only one — Rhett Bly — had a multi-point game. Bly had an assist on Robert Czarnik’s first-period goal.
- Robert Czarnik has now scored a goal in each game. Rhett Bly and Patrick Cullen each have a two-game goal streak going.
- The Fuel came out of the gate with a significant jump and controlled the first period, outshooting Missouri 11-5 despite the game being 1-1. That eventually wore the Mavericks down and allowed the Fuel to bury three straight primo scoring chances in the third. Reichard had just 16 shots against on the night. “We thought we’d have a speed advantage, man for man,” Hillman said. “They have a lot of veteran players that play a different style than our guys. We like to get going, play a quick transition game and move the puck, and we thought over 60 minutes, that we’d be able to wear them down. I think we saw that. They started making some uncharacteristic mistakes in the third period, leading to some goals.”
- Ildar Telyakov and Jamie Wise were both +3 on the day. Rhett Bly and Robert Czarnik were +2.
- Kirill Gotovets suffered an injury early, forcing the Fuel to play with five defensemen. But the blueliners were solid against a very good Missouri attack. Defenseman Dillon Fournier, who suffered an injury Wednesday against Kalamazoo, is likely to return to the lineup this weekend.
- The “Pink in the Rink” promotion featured a jersey auction after the game, raising thousands of dollars for Susan G. Komen Central Indiana.
The lines changed a lot during the game, especially with Mike Duco slotting in on the wing of what has become his usual trio with Massar and Perlini, but at least here’s how they started. There were two changes from Wednesday’s lineup: Johnny McGuire replaced Klarc Wilson up front. Ildar Telyakov slotted into the lineup in place of Dillon Fournier.
Jamie Wise-Rhett Bly-Robert Czarnik
Pete Massar-Brett Perlini-Garrett Klotz
Johnny McGuire/Patrick Cullen-Matt White-Mike Duco
Mathieu Brisebois-Nick Jones
Justin Holl-Kirill Gotovets
Ildar Telyakov-Anders Franzon
B: Sean Bonar
Next up: The Fuel travel to Evansville for an 8:15 p.m. faceoff Saturday night. They’ll return home to complete a three-game weekend Sunday against Fort Wayne, with a 3:05 p.m. puck drop at the Coliseum. Both games will be broadcast on WXNT-1430 with Tony Brown on play-by-play. The Sunday game against Fort Wayne will also be televised on HTSN-6.2.