In a key game against a divisional foe, the Indy Fuel had a strong 60-minute effort Friday night, pulling away with a 4-3 victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Patrick Cullen scored the game-winner on the power play with 10:34 left in the third period, and the Fuel defense and Mac Carruth made it stand up with a 20-save effort. Robert Czarnik also had two goals, each one knotting the score.
Garett Bembridge also had a goal and an assist for the Fuel.
“You saw a ton of battle and compete,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “It’s a big win emotionally for the guys. Great win for our fans, great win for our players. Everyone involved deserved to break that streak.”
The Fuel snapped a seven-game winless streak with the victory, coming in the first game after the six-day holiday break. Indy is now 6-16-5 on the season.
“The break helped us,” Cullen said. “We knew we had the guys that could do it. It’s just a matter of going on the ice and getting it done.”
Czarnik now has 16 goals for the season after his two-goal effort. Bembridge has nine goals and 10 assists after a goal and an assist. All three of the Fuel’s top goal-scorers tallied goals in the game. But the Fuel did a lot of the little things throughout the roster to provide them the victory.
“Our big players for the most part got the goals for us, but there were a lot of good things,” Hillman said. “A lot of puck time, smooth transition out of our zone.”
On a night where the Fuel celebrated Boxing Day, the two teams took a slightly different twist to that meaning – two incidents led to three sets of fighting majors, and another skirmish at the end of the game saw four players receive roughing minors and three get whistled for misconducts. In total, 96 penalty minutes were whistled – 63 to Indy and 33 to Cincinnati – much to the delight of the 4,782 in attendance.
Indy was 2-for-7 on the power play, while the Fuel killed 6 of Cincinnati’s 7 chances with the man advantage.
Cullen’s game-winner was the result of power play patience, with the Fuel probing the Cyclones’ box to find an opening. Cincinnati’s Rob Madore made the initial save on a point shot by Nick Bruneteau. Pete Massar collected the rebound in the left corner, who fed Bembridge below the goal line. A quick pass to Cullen in the slot led to the Fuel forward’s seventh goal of the year, and a 4-3 Indy lead.
“I just tried to get open. Mass played it on to Bembridge. I was lucky enough to buy some time in the slot and get it by him,” Cullen said. “We were stressing not to force stuff (on the PP), and that’s helping us a little, making the puck do the work. A little bit of familiarity and coming back with a clear mind and coming back to work has been the biggest thing for us. We tried to work as hard as we could.”
As noted, Carruth made it stand up, although he was only required to make five saves in the third period. He came up big when he needed to for his first win as a member of the Fuel. He held his stick and glove in the air and applauded the fans on his way off the ice.
“Mac made some huge saves that will go unnoticed, but if those go in, it’s a different game,” Cullen said. “He came up huge for us tonight. The D – we’ve been stressing that a lot. We can still clean it up a little more, but overall, it’s a good step. Coming out of the break, it’s a huge momentum for us going forward.”
Early on, the Fuel had to battle from a quick deficit, as Cincinnati’s Patrick Cehlin scored on a far-post feed by Brian Nugent on the game’s first shot just 2:56 in. But the Fuel didn’t take long to respond. Less than two minutes later, Dan Ford hammered a shot from the center point that rang the left post. The rebound kicked left to Czarnik, who scooped it into the net at the 4:52 mark
“The puck redirected right back to me and it was an empty net,” Czarnik said.
Bembridge made it 2-1 with 5:41 to go in the opening period with a snipe from the right circle into the top shelf just under the crossbar, assisted by Cullen and Dillon Fournier.
It looked as if that lead would stand up, but a late power play by Cincinnati turned into Cehlin’s second goal of the period with :04 left. The Cyclones then took the lead at 10:46 of the second on a left-circle shot by David Pacan.
At the 16:20 mark, Czarnik tied the game with a beautiful goal. Mathieu Brisebois fed him with a tape-to-tape pass from the defensive zone to the offensive blueline. Czarnik cut in down the right side on the goaltender on a 2-on-1 with Duco, and sniped a far-post shot that tucked just inside the upper left corner of the net, sending the teams into the third period tied 3-3.
“It was a nice pass from Brisebois up from the defensive blueline,” Czarnik said. “I went down on a 2-on-1 with Duco and shot it top-left.”
Czarnik nearly had the Fuel’s first hat trick, but an empty-net bid was thwarted by a diving Cincinnati defenseman in the final minute.
The two teams play each other again on Saturday night at the Coliseum, the second time they’ve played back-to-back games this season. After a game that saw nearly 100 PIM between the two teams, controlled emotion will be key for both teams.
“The biggest thing is there’s a lot of emotion,” Hillman said. “There was some pretty reckless play toward the end. It’s’ going to be a fun night, but guys have got to keep their emotions in check.”
- Robert Czarnik (Fuel) 2G, 6 shots
- Patrick Cullen (Fuel) GWG, A, 3 shots
- Garett Bembridge (Fuel) G, A, 3 shots
- Special teams were just that. Indy’s PP was 2-for-7, with the game-winning goal coming with the man advantage. The Fuel PK was 6-for-7 on the night, including four straight kills in the second and third periods to preserve the win.
- The Fuel juggled the lines and saw scoring coming from throughout the lineup. Both even-strength goals came off Czarnik’s stick. Bembridge and Cullen, who were skating together, had the two power play goals. “We like the lines. Guys had roles and fulfilled those roles. We needed goals from the top two lines, and we got them,” Hillman said.
- Generating offense from the points? Check. Five different defensemen had assists in the game, and D-men had all four of the assists on the Fuel’s two even strength goals — Dan Ford and Justin Holl on the first, Mathieu Brisebois and Nick Bruneteau on the second. Dillon Fournier also had the assist on Bembridge’s PPG in the first period. Brisebois also had two outstanding scoring chances stopped by Madore – one in the third period where he made an incredible deke in traffic in the high slot to get past two Cyclones and cut in alone on Madore, and another later where Brisebois hammered the puck from the right circle at a net Madore had vacated, but the Cyclones’ goaltender was able to scramble back into position and make a diving save.
- Fourier and Holl each now have points in four of their last six games. Czarnik also has a similar streak of points in four of his last six going.
- One new player, defenseman Sam Posa, joined the roster. He was scoreless but had two shots on goal. Garrett Klotz also played in his first game since Dec. 5. He had one shot and seven penalty minutes – including a second-period fight with Christiaan Minella.
- Speaking of fights, Kirill Gotovets dropped the gloves with David MacDonald and Matt White tangled with Brian Nugent in the same second-period melee.
- It might not show up on the scoresheet in terms of goals and assists, but captain Mike Duco had a solid game. He was a +2 skating with Robert Czarnik and Rhett Bly, and also drew two penalties with neutral zone takeaways. On the first, he stripped the puck at the Fuel blueline and looked to have a breakaway – only a trip by the Cyclones’ David MacDonald 120 feet from the net prevented him from getting there. The Fuel scored on the ensuing PP. Later, a steal at the Cyclones’ line in the second drew a high-sticking call on Mikko Vainonen. “Duco’s workload has gone up and his work intensity has picked up, too. He’s leading us in the right ways. He gives us a lot of grit, a lot of tenacity below the goal line as well. Big night for our captain,” Hillman said of Duco.
- Carruth has had a number of good performances and hard-luck defeats this season, but made 20 saves in getting his first victory. He saw just 12 shots in the second and third periods, stopping 11 of them. “Mac played hard. We’ve left our goalies out to dry quite a bit in the first third of the season. That’s the goal, to get better in front of them. We have two quality goaltenders, and we need some big games from them,” Hillman said.
As noted, the holiday break saw some new lines, with Robert Czarnik skating with Mike Duco and Rhett Bly, a line that was put together last week against Fort Wayne. The lineup also saw some new combinations.
Mike Duco-Robert Czarnik-Rhett Bly
Garett Bembridge-Patrick Cullen-Pete Massar
Kirill Gotovets/Garrett Klotz-Matt White-Klarc Wilson
Dan Ford-Justin Holl
Dillon Fournier-Mathieu Brisebois
Sam Posa-Nick Bruneteau
B: Cody Reichard
Next up: The Fuel host Cincinnati at 7:35 p.m. Saturday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, then travel to Fort Wayne for a New Year’s Eve tilt.