The Indy Fuel used a strong start Saturday night to roll to a 5-3 victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones in the second of two games between the teams at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
The Fuel earned a split in the series, doing so with a high-energy onslaught in a four-goal first period, and then getting a key wraparound goal by Garett Bembridge in the opening minute of the third to seal the victory. Cody Reichard, who returned to the team Saturday after being loaned to the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, made 28 saves for his fourth victory in the Fuel net.
Bembridge scored twice. He, Mathieu Brisebois, Mike Duco and Adam McKenzie all had tallies in a four-goal first period, which saw the Fuel grab a 4-1 lead. Cincinnati scored twice in the second, but Bembridge’s goal 56 seconds into the third set the tone for the final period, and the Fuel played solid defensively in front of Reichard to limit Cincinnati’s chances and seal the victory.
“It’s the third game in three nights. A good start was key for us,” Bembridge said. “They came back and did a really good job in the second period, and we had some letdowns, but the heart we have in the dressing room with these young guys right now is incredible. We fought through it and got the big win.”
Cincinnati struck first when Michael Neal scored a power play goal 2:08 into the contest, but the Fuel answered with two power play goals in a penalty-filled first period. Mathieu Brisebois tied the game at 1-1 5:24 into the game when Justin Holl held the puck at the point and fed Brisebois at the left circle, who skated in and sniped a shot into the top far-post corner. At 11:25, Adam McKenzie scored his first professional goal, wiring a point shot through traffic that deflected in. Bembridge banked the puck off Cincinnati goaltender Rob Madore from below the red line at 15:23, and Duco scored a power play goal at 18:51, again assisted by Holl, making it 4-1.
“I thought we had good energy,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “We’d been talking a lot about, it’s tough. You’re on a slippery slope with a young team and you make a lot of mistakes, so you start to simplify. But when you start to simplify, you start squeezing the stick and not trying to make plays. The focus before the game was to go out and try to make plays and move the puck. When there’s an opportunity to make a good play, we need to do that. We made some great plays in the first, especially.”
Cincinnati’s Bryan Froese and Patrick Cehlin made it 4-3 with second-period goals, as the Cyclones outshot the Fuel 14-8 in the period after Indy held a 14-10 shot advantage after one.
But the Fuel answered in the third as Kirill Gotovets thwarted a Cincinnati breakout, and Robert Czarnik found Bembridge behind the net, where he was able to stuff the puck in on a wraparound.
“I missed some glorious opportunities tonight. I was getting the bounces away from me the first part of the season. Tonight, they were back on me,” said Bembridge, who has scored three goals the last two nights. “The first one, I read the D-man’s skates were off to one side and I saw the goalie standing up, so I tried a bank shot. The second one, I missed an open net, but the puck came back to me. It was a great play by Gotovets, and the goalie was on the other side of the net and I tried a quick little wraparound”
Fresh off a division win, the Fuel (4-9-4) now look ahead to continuing their five-game homestand Wednesday against Evansville at the Coliseum. The Fuel have played three solid games in a row, and to finish things with two points on Saturday night can be a springboard into the three-game week next week, which follows with games against Florida (Friday) and Fort Wayne (Saturday).
“It’s really big,” Bembridge said of the strong third period and the victory. “It’s good confidence for these guys. It’s awesome. (Hillman)’s stuck with a lot of things right now. It’s very exciting right now in this dressing room. We’re going to go forward and we have a big game on Wednesday we’re looking forward to now”
- Garret Bembridge (Fuel) 2G, 5 shots, +2
- Mathieu Brisebois (Fuel) G, A, 3 shots
- Kirill Gotovets (Fuel) 2A, +1
- While the first period provided the winning margin, the Fuel won the third period for the second time in three nights – they outscored their foes 3-1 in the third periods in this three-game, three-night stretch. And as a result, they came away with three points on the weekend.
- Kirill Gotovets played primarily a forward role again and had two assists. He saw a few shifts on defense, but he had a solid effort skating on a line with Bembridge and Robert Czarnik for much of the night. It marked his second two-point game.
- Justin Holl had the primary assist on both power play goals – by Duco and Brisebois – and on both, made solid plays at the point and good passes to set up the goals. “He’s put in a lot of different situations and getting a lot of playing time, and he’s reacted well,” Hillman said of Holl, calling him one of the team’s most solid players each night. “He’s doing a great job in even strength and in the power play, and he’s earned all of those minutes with a great attitude coming here, and being a great teammate in the locker room but also performing on the ice.”
- Adam McKenzie joined the team this week, started both games on the blueline, skating with Mathieu Brisebois. He tallied his first professional goal in the first period. “Adam is a full-time student and serving in the military. This is an opportunity for him to step in and play a few hockey games,” Hillman said. “It’s been his dream to be a pro hockey player. It’s really great to see him get rewarded with a nice goal.”
- Robert Czarnik had an assist and has now tallied a point in five straight games, and seven of his last eight. He had the primary assist on Bembridge’s second goal.
- The game started with a lot of energy and physicality – including a first-period bout between Klarc Wilson and Cincinnati’s Geoff Irwin in which Wilson landed several punches. That was one of two bouts for the Fuel – later, Patrick Cullen came to a teammate’s defense after Cincy’s Josh McFadden was whistled for boarding, and the two tussled.
- The Fuel PP was 2-for-7 in a penalty-filled game (26 minutes for Cincinnati, 20 for the Fuel). After allowing a goal on the Cyclones’ first power play, the Fuel PK killed off the next three. Indy is the ECHL’s least-penalized team.
- The Fuel got 31 shots against one of the stingiest teams in the league at allowing shots on goal. Bembridge (5) and Matt White (4) led the Fuel in shots.
- Defensemen Anders Franzon & Nick Bruneteau were both plus-2 on the day.
- The Fuel victory marked Cincinnati’s first regulation loss on the road. The Cyclones had been 4-0-1 away from U.S. Bank Arena.
There were a lot of changes to the lines during the game, so this is a somewhat rough guide
Roster moves: One roster move prior to Saturday’s game – Cody Reichard was returned to the Fuel from his loan to the AHL Chicago Wolves, and he started the game.
Next up: The Fuel host another division rival on Wednesday when they meet the Evansville IceMen for a 7:05 p.m. puck drop.