The Indy Fuel returned home after a successful roadtrip, and found themselves meeting the team with the ECHL’s best record, the Allen Americans.
But what the Fuel did on the road – solid three-zone play, good goaltending, an outstanding penalty kill and some timely, balanced offense – they carried back home in a 4-1 victory over the Americans at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Four different players scored goals and 10 different skaters registered a point for the Fuel in the victory, while Mac Carruth stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced.
The Fuel held the ECHL’s most potent offense to just 22 shots, one goal and few really strong chances, while scoring four goals in two quick bursts in the second and third periods. As a result, the team had a signature win to build off its roadtrip.
“That’s an awfully talented hockey team,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “You can see why they’re in first in their division. It was a good win for our guys”
Indy has now won four straight games and is 5-o-1 in its last six heading into a home-and-home with Evansville that begins at 7:35 p.m. Saturday at the Coliseum. The victory was a continuation of what the Fuel have been doing in those previous games on the roadtrip – all but one of which were against teams currently in the playoff structure. Much of the streak has come since the Fuel added six new players two weeks ago.
“A couple of weeks ago, we shook up the roster, and it was gut-check time for everyone to look themselves in the mirror and see what more they can bring to the table,” Fuel forward Rhett Bly said. “Everybody, to a man, knew they needed to be better. With the changes, it seems our team attitude has improved drastically, it seems we’re working together. It’s the team-first mentality in the locker room. We’re having fun coming to the rink again, and it’s going in the right direction.”
Those new players continue to make big contributions. Evan Vossen had a key assist on Bly’s game-winning goal in the second period. Vincent Arseneau scored his second goal as a member of the Fuel, assisted by Kyle Stroh. That line contributed two goals, as right wing Garett Bembridge added a critical insurance goal 2:59 into the third.
The game started out slowly, as Allen took a 10-5 shot advantage after one, but Carruth stopped every shot – most of which came from the perimeter.
“They were coming off a nine-game winning streak, so the guys might’ve been a little nervous, but there was a lot of positivity, a lot of confidence, the right kind of first period where it was back-and-forth a little bit, nothing too crazy,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “We got a good penalty kill early, and that helped build confidence as well.”
Allen took a 1-0 lead 5:57 into the second when Gary Steffes scored his 25th goal of the season, a one-timer from the left circle off a cross-ice pass. The goal came on a counterattack right after the Fuel’s Kirill Gotovets rang the post with a blast from the point.
But Indy answered quickly with a strong forecheck. The cycle generated a significant amount of zone time, including a key play by Arseneau rotating back from his left wing position to hold the puck in at the point and continue the cycle. A couple of passes later, Dillon Fournier fed Stroh in front of the net. Allen goaltender Riley Gill stopped him on the doorstep, but Arseneau jammed in the rebound to tie the game at 1-1 8:20 into the second.
“We got a good cycle going in the zone,” Arseneau said. “Fournier made a helluva play to get the pass to Bembridge. It was crashing the net and getting a goal. It was a good rebound, it was a greasy goal, but it counted.”
Arseneau now has two goals and two assists in five games with the Fuel – after totaling one of each in 17 games with Ontario before being reassigned to Indy last week.
Just 1:29 later, the Fuel turned strong defensive-zone play into an odd-man rush, and Bly made it count. After the Fuel dug the puck out of the zone, Vossen charged up-ice on a 2-on-1, with Bly filling the middle lane. Vossen drew the defenseman and fed Bly in the slot, who had time to snipe the puck into the net and score the eventual game-winner.
“The puck came around the boards. It actually hopped over my stick, I kept going, it hit my body and cleared the zone, which was fortunate,” Bly said. “There was a tieup with (Matt White) and their defender, and that freed up a 3-on-1. I was yelling from the red line in at Vosser, and he made a great play. I think he had Whitey, too. I just pulled in a quick shot. It was a good play by Vosser to give me a lot of time, to suck that defenseman over.”
Indy kept the lead at 2-1 with a strong penalty kill late in the period. Allen had its best PP chance late in the man advantage, but Anders Franzon dove to sweep the puck out of the crease and clear the zone. Earlier, Vossen blocked back-to-back point shots on the kill. Indy was 4-for-4 on the PK.
“The whole reason we wanted Evan Vossen was because I knew from our experience together, he knows how to kill penalties,” Hillman said. “He knows how to block shots, better than anyone we had. Now, he’s out there doing it. Those types of things start to spread.”
Indy put the game away in the third in a 20-second span. Early on, Arseneau had a sneaky chance in front that was stuffed by Gill, but again, the Fuel kept the puck in the zone with the cycle. Nick Bruneteau fed Sam Posa center-point for a slapshot that Gill stuffed, but Bembridge pounced on the rebound for his 13th of the year at 2:59.
Just twenty seconds later, the puck came free into the Allen zone. Gill came out to try to play it, but his clearing attempt went right to a flying Duco, who fired the puck into the vacated net through a defenseman sliding to make the save.
Indy again had to kill off a late power play, but Carruth stopped Steffes on a rebound after getting Nolan Descoteeaux’s initial shot from the point, sealing the victory.
Carruth stopped 21, and it marked the sixth straight game the Fuel have allowed two or fewer goals in regulation.
Indy is now 11-21-4 and is now two points ahead of Evansville in sixth place in the ECHL North Division.
- Vincent Arseneau (Fuel) G, +2, 6 SOG
- Mac Carruth (Fuel) 21 saves, 1GA
- Rhett Bly (Fuel) GWG
- Defense (clap-clap). The Fuel have simply not allowed the puck to cross the goal line in their recent winning streak, and it’s allowed the team to be much better in all three zones. “That’s key right there,” Hillman said. “We don’t so much care who we’re playing. We’re trying to build off what we’ve done. Every single player in this locker room understands it’s defense-first, we build from our own end.”
- The cycle game was strong, pinning Allen in its own end for long stretches. Two of the goals came off the cycle, and the other two came from strong defensive-zone work that led to counterattack chances. “We have been focusing on needing to generate our chances off our hard work, whether that’s D-zone play or getting on the forecheck,” Hillman said. “It’s not going to be zip-zip-zip splitting the seams and getting there. It’s got to be hard work, tenacity, getting there.”
- Both of the above-mentioned points lead to this: After giving up 10 shots in the first period, Indy outshot Allen 16-12 in the last two.
- With four kills tonight, the Fuel have now killed off 11 straight PPs and 26 of the last 27, a span that now goes back eight games. Indy is 5-2-1 in that stretch.
- Arseneau continues to impress. Not only did he pick up his fourth point in five games with the Fuel tonight, but he also was around the net non-stop, generating a ton of scoring chances from in close. His line – with Bembridge and Stroh – was +2 and generated 10 of the Fuel’s 21 shots.
- Balance – 10 different players of the 16 skaters were on the scoresheet tonight, with none tallying more than one point. All three lines scored a goal.
- Nick Jones was returned to the Fuel from the Worcester Sharks on Friday – and had an interesting storyline. He and Greger Hanson were teammates in Worcester, both were sent down this week, and both were playing against each other on Friday. Jones finished the night +2.
- Having so many defensemen – the Fuel’s 20-man roster currently includes eight players listed as D – Justin Holl moved up front and skated at right wing on Friday. He had a shot and was +1.
- Nick Bruneteau added an assist and now has 19 for the year. He now has a point in four of the last five games.
- With an assist, Stroh continued his hot streak. It was his fifth straight game with a point, a stretch in which he has two goals and six assists.
- Sam Posa also had an assist and now has points in two fo the last four games and three of the last six.
- In Mac Carruth’s last four starts, all wins, he has allowed four goals and has a .966 save percentage.
- True “Old Time Hockey” – in a game with the Hanson Brothers in attendance, there were no fighting majors, despite Allen being the top team in the ECHL in both committing penalties and drawing them. The Fuel were generally disciplined in not going to the box.
Mike Duco-Nicklas Lindberg-Justin Holl
Vincent Arseneau-Kyle Stroh-Garett Bembridge
Evan Vossen-Matt White-Rhett Bly
Dillon Fournier-Nick Jones
Sam Posa-Nick Bruneteau
Kirill Gotovets-Anders Franzon
BU: Jason Torf
Scratches: Pete Massar (F), Dan Ford (D)
Roster moves: The Fuel made a couple of moves on Friday. Forward Jonathan Parker was placed on the 21-day IR. Nick Jones was reassigned to the Fuel by the AHL’s Worcester Sharks. Jason Torf was signed as the emergency backup goaltender.
Next up: The Fuel host Evansville at 7:35 p.m. Saturday, before heading to Evansville for a 7 p.m. Sunday game.