The Indy Fuel returned from a two-week roadtrip Saturday night and found themselves in the same position they’d been in several times in recent weeks.
Third period, tied, game on the line.
And the Fuel made the plays at both ends to win the game. Robert Czarnik’s power play goal at 3:59 of the third period was the game-winner, and the Fuel allowed just three third-period shots in a 3-2 victory over the Wheeling Nailers Saturday at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
The Fuel are now 3-5-3 on the season. It was their lone game this week after playing 10 games in the first four weeks of the season.
“It definitely was good.” Only having one game this weekend gives guys a chance to recover, have this week and next week and maybe come back,” Czarnik said of having a week to focus on practice. “It gives a lot of guys a chance to step up and make an impression.”
Czarnik scored twice — his seventh and eighth goals of the season — and Matt White had a second-period power play goal to tie the game after the Fuel fell behind 2-1 in the first period. Cody Reichard stopped 21 shots to get his third victory in the Fuel net.
“Any victory when you’re learning how to win as a team is a huge one,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “The biggest thing, for us, we thought the compete level was higher for each individual, and that’s what’s been hurting us at times. The guys might let up for three seconds and that’s enough for someone to get to a rebound and a goal. We didn’t see that tonight. The guys competed for 60 minutes.”
The Fuel’s defensemen were strong at filling shooting lanes and scooping up the rebounds that did occur, while Reichard played one of his best games. The Fuel outshot Wheeling 33-23, including 13-9 in the second period and 11-4 in the third, when the Fuel outscored the Nailers 2-0. Wheeling was credited with two goals — the first came from the ECHL’s top scorer, Riley Brace, on a shorthanded breakaway at 13:49 of the first. Later, Wheeling’s Patrick McGrath shot a puck that richocheted off both posts, but the red light went on and McGrath was credited with the goal, putting the Nailers up 2-1.
But a resilient Fuel attack rebounded after a penalty-filled first period. Matt White scored 19 seconds into a power play, roofing a shot from the low slot 10:31 into the second. In the third, 14 seconds after a penalty on the Nailers for too many men on the ice, Brett Perlini won a faceoff and fed Czarnik, who scored while tumbling to the ice from the low slot, tallying his eighth goal of the year.
Czarnik also got the game started, ripping a shot through Hartzell’s 5-hole to give the Fuel an early 1-0 lead.
“(Patrick Cullen) had good speed. I just got out of the penalty box. I wanted to get the shot off quick and it went five-hole,” Czarnik said, describing the game’s first goal. On the game-winner, he gave credit to Perlini for winning a faceoff on the power play. “It just bounced out of the scrum and left me with a wide open look in front of the net.”
“He’s been a real strong player for us,” Hillman said of Czarnik. “He goes to the net hard, he shoots the puck well. Guys hopefully are watching him and see how his feet are always moving, and that’s what it takes to get not just the goals from the perimeter, but also the tighter-in goals.”
Wheeling had a handful of chances, including a wraparound that led to a pileup in front of the net, which the Fuel defense and Reichard smothered. The Fuel killed a late power play, and withstood a 6-on-5 situation that ended when Zach Torquato was whistled for interference with 26 seconds left.
- Robert Czarnik (Fuel) 2 goals, game-winning goal
- Cody Reichard (Fuel) 21 saves
- Matt White (Fuel) game-tying goal in 2nd
- The Fuel had a really solid third period, with the 11-4 shot advantage, and didn’t allow Wheeling a lot of great scoring chances. They also drew two back-to-back power plays in the period. A big part of that was a defense corps that kept the chances at bay. “It’s a young D corps. We thought that was one of their better showings.”
- Kirill Gotovets returned to the lineup and showed a lot of sandpaper and skill. He had three shots in the game.
- Two newcomers to the lineup both contributed. Kyle Gibbons joined the team last weekend and played his first game in Indy, and had a team-high five shots. Newly-acquired veteran Garett Bembridge had the second assists on White’s goal. The two combined on a 2-on-1 opportunity that was stopped by Wheeling’s netminder, but marked the Fuel’s best even-strength scoring chance of the third.
- With captain Mike Duco not able to go, Patrick Cullen wore the “C” for the Fuel. Bembridge and Garrett Klotz wore the “A”s.
- The Fuel PP was 2-8, with both goals coming in the first 20 seconds of a man advantage. The PK was a perfect 5-5, including killing a brief 4-on-3 in the first period. “Our PK kind of let us down in Wheeling and cost us the two points there,” Hillman said, referring to a 4-3 loss to Wheeling on Sunday that the Fuel avenged Saturday night. ” The guys did a good job tonight. The PK was good. On any night, you need your goalie to be your best penalty killer and Reichs was tonight.”
- A big crowd of 5,349 came to the Coliseum for Military Appreciation Night.
The Fuel used nine forwards and seven defensemen, and mixed the defensemen pairings (even in warmups) so the D pairs are a bit of a stab at pairings that were seen in warmups.
Moves: Pete Massar was moved from the reserve list to the 21-day IR earlier this week. Defenseman Ildar Telyakov went to the reserve list, Jason Torf was signed as an emergency backup goaltender, and the Fuel added Garret Bembridge via a trade with Missouri for future considerations. Also, defenseman Kirill Gotovets was activated.
Next up: The Fuel next play Wednesday at home against the Orlando Solar Bears, a team coached by former Indianapolis Ice player Vince Williams. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m.