One of the constants in the Indy Fuel’s recent surge in the standings has been Kyle Stroh’s offense.
He continued that in a big way Saturday night, recording the first hat trick – and natural hat trick – in Fuel history, scoring the first three goals in a 4-1 victory over the Evansville IceMen at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Stroh connected twice on the power play, and then roofed a feed from Pete Massar late in the second to give the Fuel a 3-0 edge going into the third. Garett Bembridge later added an empty-netter to seal the victory.
“It’s obviously a pretty special time for the organization and myself as well, to get my first pro hat trick,” Stroh said. “But I’m just glad the team’s doing well. We’re going in the right direction and all that matters right now is winning games. If points come, it’s a bonus.”
The Fuel have now won five straight games, and are 6-0-1 in their last seven.
“It probably wasn’t our best performance, but the guys did the little things and Mac got a solid game again,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “The power play was real good, getting us those first two goals, which was key to us.”
Mac Carruth made 27 saves in the Fuel net and got in on the offense – he assisted on Bembridge’s empty-netter. He has started all five games in the winning streak, allowing just five goals in that span.
Stroh, acquired in a trade from Rapid City on Jan. 6, now has five goals and six assists in nine games with Indy. He is now on a six-game point scoring streak.
“He’s an exciting player,” Hillman said. “He’s got a major-league release.”
Stroh’s first goal came midway through the first period, on the game’s first power play. Justin Holl spun the puck to the front of the net, where Rhett Bly and Stroh jammed at it in the crease. Evansville goaltender Chris Driedger stopped Bly’s first shot, but Stroh got the rebound and chipped it over Driedger’s pad and dropped it into the net with 6:48 to go in the first, giving Indy a 1-0 lead.
“It happened pretty quick. I didn’t have my sand wedge out, but I took a whack at it and fortunately it went over the goalie,” Stroh said.
The next time the Fuel had the man advantage, Stroh cashed in again, this time with Holl on the first assist, scoring from in tight by roofing a shot just outside the crease, giving Indy a 2-0 lead with 11:33 left in the second.
He made it 3-0 on a 4-on-4 off a feed from Pete Massar, who was below the goal line and fed Stroh at the doorstep for the hat-trick goal with 4:55 left in the second.
“The second, it was a good play – a scramble in front and it popped out. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. The third one, Massar did a heck of a job down low. Give him all the credit for that one – I just had a tap-in in front. Credit goes to all the teammates – it was a team effort tonight.”
The power play – which has been one of the ECHL’s best for much of the season – was solid throughout, going 2-for-4. Hillman said the power play was a point of attention before the game and the players responded well to the plan of attack.
“The units are just gelling, getting pucks to the net and getting greasy goals. It’s nothing special. Guys are getting pucks to the net and getting traffic. You’re always going to have success when you do that,” Stroh said of the PP.
At the other end, Carruth made several strong saves as Evansville pushed – especially in the third. The IceMen did score on a tally by Colin Murray on the power play 3:27 into the third, but the Fuel kept the play to the outside and allowed Carruth to see the puck, inhibiting any further Evansville offense.
“The guys are doing a great job blocking shots. The D’s are boxing guys out and making it simple,” Carruth said.
Carruth even got in on the action himself. With Driedger pulled for the extra attacker, Carruth got to an IceMen shoot-in first and flung the puck the length of the ice toward goal. It missed the gaping net by a foot to the left. He later assisted on Bembridge’s goal.
“I just wanted to get it off,” Carruth said. “It was a good opportunity for me to try to get the first career goal.”
Indy is now 12-21-7 and moved four points ahead of Evansville in the ECHL North Division standings. Indy also moved within seven points of Wheeling, which is currently in fourth place and holds down the final playoff spot.
- Kyle Stroh (Fuel) 3G, natural hat trick
- Mac Carruth (Fuel) 27 saves, 1 assist
- Rhett Bly (Fuel) 2 assists
- As noted, Carruth has allowed just five goals in the last five games, all Fuel victories. Tonight, he made 27 saves, a night after a 21-save performance. He has now stopped 140 of the last 145 shots he’s faced, giving him a .965 save percentage and a 0.98 GAA in the last five contests.
- Carruth’s assist on Bembridge’s empty-netter was the first goaltender point for the Fuel this season. He began the breakout with a sharp pass to Mike Duco, who now has a point in two straight games.
- Bembridge now has a point in three straight games and four of the last five.
- The PK allowed a 5-on-4 goal for the first time in eight games, but still had a solid day, going 3-for-4. The Fuel have now killed off 29 of the last 31 power plays against. Murray’s goal snapped a string of 13 straight penalty kills for Indy.
- The game saw each team take 22 PIM – 10 of which came from fighting majors. Johnny McGuire got the better of Evansville’s Kevin Harvey just 18 seconds after Stroh’s first goal, and Evan Vossen took down Brandon Martell late in the third period.
- Indy controlled the second period, outshooting Evansville 11-10 and outscoring the IceMen 2-0. Evansville responded by outshooting the Fuel 9-2 in the third, but many of those came from the perimeter thanks to solid Fuel defense.
- With a busy stretch – the Fuel are closing out a 15-game month of January – Hillman has been trying to keep fresh players on the ice. “We’ve been rotating a little bit because of our health, which has been good,” Hillman said. “We’ve had healthy bodies, good numbers. Everyone right now is playing with confidence, and we’ve had a lot of games in a short amount of days, so we’ve been trying to use healthy, fresh bodies. We’ll do that tomorrow.”
- It paid off. Pete Massar, who was the forward scratch last night, came into the lineup tonight and had a big assist on Stroh’s third goal. “He’s a great player. He’s a feisty little guy. He’s not afraid to go into the corners,” Stroh said of Massar.
Mike Duco-Nicklas Lindberg-Pete Massar
Vincent Arseneau-Kyle Stroh-Garett Bembridge
Evan Vossen-Matt White-Rhett Bly
Dillon Fournier-Nick Jones
Sam Posa-Nick Bruneteau
Kirill Gotovets-Justin Holl
BU: Shane Owen
Scratches: Garrett Klotz, Anders Franzon
Roster moves: Johnny McGuire was activated from reserve and defenseman Dan Ford placed on reserve. Jason Torf was released as emergency backup with Owen returning to the lineup.
Next up: The Fuel are in Evansville on Sunday night for the second half of the back-to-back. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m.