Game 34: Fuel at Wheeling

Sunday was a historic day for the Indy Fuel, as the franchise notched two firsts.

Goaltender Shane Owen stopped 28 shots to notch the first shutout in the Indy Fuel’s history, leading the franchise to its first road victory, 3-0 over the Wheeling Nailers.

After playing well in two losses, the Fuel came out determined on Sunday and controlled the opening period, outshooting Wheeling 13-3, drawing two power plays, seeing Dillon Fournier jump to his defense partner’s defense and drawing a fighting major in the process, and taking an early lead when the Nailers turned the puck over and Rhett Bly cashed in on the ensuing play from the slot just 2:56 into the game, assisted by linemates Matt White and Dean Chelios.

A key insurance goal came late in the second, when Pete Massar scored his fifth of the season in the final two minutes of the period to give Indy a two-goal lead. Kirill Gotovets made it 3-0 with an unassisted goal in the third, and then it was time for Owen to shine.

Making his second start with the Fuel, Owen stood tall in the final period. He made 15 of his 28 saves in the last 20 minutes as Wheeling pressed for the equalizer.

Indy is now 7-21-6 on the season. The victory was also big because it pulled the Fuel two points closer to the Nailers for the final playoff spot in the North Division, which Wheeling holds with 32 points. The Fuel’s road trip continues Thursday with the first of two games in Greenville against the Road Warriors.

ECHL boxscore
IndyFuelHockey.com story

Three stars

  1. Shane Owen (Fuel) 28 saves, shutout
  2. Rhett Bly (Fuel) GWG, +2
  3. Pete Massar (Fuel) G, +1, 4 shots

Takeaways

  1. In two games with the Fuel, Owen has been solid, and he was rewarded with his efforts with the shutout today. Stick tap to the goaltender and the team.
  2. One thing Coach Scott Hillman has been trying to instill is defensive responsibility – strong backchecking, tight gaps, et al – and the team has been very strong in that area for four straight games.
  3. The trio of Dean Chelios-Matt White-Rhett Bly was +2 on the day, and both goals – Bly’s first-period tally and an unassisted third-period goal by Kirill Gotovets – came after forcing turnovers.
  4. The defense pairing of Nick Bruneteau and Sam Posa – two rookies who love to block shots – was also +2 on the day. They were on the ice for each of the first two goals.
  5. Kirill Gotovets’ goal was his fourth of the season. Interestingly, it was the first to not come against the Reading Royals, against whom he had scored the first three.
  6. Bly has a point in back-to-back games and is +3 for the weekend. His goal was his first since Dec. 17 against Reading and his sixth this season. Massar scored his first goal since Dec. 13 at Florida, when he had his first two-goal game of the year. “Secondary scoring” is key with or without the leading scorers in the lineup, and it’s excellent to see a number of different players tallying goals for the Fuel. On the weekend, six different players – five forwards – had goals for Indy.
  7. The Fuel PK has been excellent, going 10-for-10 on the weekend and 3-for-3 today.
  8. Pete Massar and Kyle Stroh led the offense with four shots on goal.
  9. The early shots on goal dominance (13-3) coming a day after having a positive shot differential against Toledo shows a very hungry and focused team.
  10. With the Fuel picking up their first win in their black sweaters, they’ll have plenty more chances – they’ll play eight straight games and 11 of 12 in their dark uniforms. After this six-game roadtrip ends on Jan. 19, the ECHL “jersey reversal date” happens and the home teams will wear dark uniforms for the balance of the season, meaning the Fuel will wear the black uniforms at home when they return for two home games and a five-home-dates-in-six-games stretch on Jan. 23.

Lineup
Same as last night, as far as the 16 skaters go. Lines are as best as could be judged from the gamesheet. Again, Czarnik & Ford were the scratches.
Mike Duco-Nicklas Lindberg-Garett Bembridge
Dean Chelios-Matt White-Rhett Bly
Evan Vossen-Kyle Stroh-Pete Massar
Mathieu Brisebois

Kirill Gotovets-Anders Franzon
Sam Posa-Nick Bruneteau
Dillon Fournier-Justin Holl

Shane Owen
BU: Mac Carruth

Next up: The Fuel’s six-game roadtrip continues with four games in five days against teams in the south – including three straight in South Carolina. Indy will face the Greenville Road Warriors on Thursday and Friday, and then the South Carolina Stingrays on Saturday. On Monday afternoon, Indy meets the Gwinnett Gladiators. It will be the Fuel’s first meeting with all three teams.

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