The Indy Fuel couldn’t find a more fitting way to close out a very successful January.
Mac Carruth turned in a stellar 41-save performance, three different Indy players scored goals and the Fuel led from wire-to-wire in a 3-0 victory over the Elmira Jackals Saturday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Garett Bembridge, Kirill Gotovets and Justin Holl all had goals for Indy, which was outshot 41-18 in the contest but came away with the victory.
Carruth stopped 17 shots in the first, 10 in the second and 14 in the third. Indy killed off five Elmira power plays in the victory.
“The guys played well, they cleared guys out of the front of the net, they blocked shots, especially on the power play – (Elmira’s) power play is great,” Carruth said.
The win marked the Fuel’s ninth win in the last 11 games, a 9-1-1 stretch. In the nine wins, the Fuel have allowed two goals or less in each game.
After giving up the first goal in three straight games, Indy stressed a strong start, and took an early lead off an offensive-zone draw. Kyle Stroh drew the puck back to Bembridge, who rifled the puck past Elmira’s Sam Marotta and into the net to give Indy a lead just 2:28 into the game.
Getting the first goal – especially early – was a key for the Fuel.
“It definitely deflates them a little bit,” Bembridge said. “It was a heck of a draw. Stroh set it up on a silver platter for me and the goalie got screened a little bit. It’s nice to see those go in early in the game.”
Indy had to kill off three Elmira power plays in the opening period and two more in the second of a physical contest. But it was the Fuel who got the next goal, a critical insurance goal with 51 seconds left in the second. Gotovets fired a blast into the top shelf to give the Fuel a 2-0 edge.
“I was happy to score,” Gotovets said. “When I wound up, I was just hoping it wouldn’t hit anyone and it was going in the net. I was pretty happy to hit the net. I was looking to shoot it right away there.”
Justin Holl made it 3-0 midway through the third with a power play goal from the right circle, a blast that broke through the Jackals’ goaltender and into the net.
The Fuel power play was 1-for-7 on the game.
Carruth’s shutout was his second of the month and of the season. He was called upon a few times. Elmira had a flurry of shots in close that Carruth got a pad on, and Nick Jones kicked out a rebound in the crease midway through the second with the game 1-0. He then stopped Ryan Rashid from in close a minute later, and then kicked out back-to-back tough shots from the slot by Taylor Stefishen to keep it a one-goal game in the second. Elmira’s best chance in the third came early, as Justin Sawyer fired from the point. Carruth got the initial shot, then stopped two rebounds from the top of the crease that bounced off skates and sticks.
“He’s in a wonderful rhythm, when you see a goalie seeing the puck, feeling the puck like he is, it’s exciting,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said of Carruth. “The guys feed off of that, for sure. You need your goalie to be your best penalty killer. If your system’s correct, you can hopefully help your goalie see those pucks. Even when we messed up, he made some big saves. Tremendous night for him.”
Carruth has now won six straight starts. He and teammate Shane Owen both have sub-2.00 GAAs in the last 10 games.
“Shaner and myself, we’ve got a pretty good groove going right now, as far as a goalie tandem,” Carruth said. “He’s one of the better goalies in the league right now, and he’s a good partner to have, pushing you in practice.”
The victory allows the Fuel to finish a strong month. Indy played 15 games in January, and went 9-5-1, but rallied to pile up 19 out of a possible 22 points in the last 11 games of the month. It’s a remarkable push and puts the Fuel in position to compete for a playoff spot in the final two and a half months of the year. Indy is four points out of a playoff spot, and five points back of third-place Cincinnati. Indy is now 15-22-7 on the year.
“I’ve coached a lot of first-place teams, and I don’t remember many 9-1-1 stretches,” Hillman said. “It’s hard to do that. Certainly, when you had six wins going into that stretch. The biggest thing is, we hit each other in the arm each day and we say ‘it doesn’t matter how many we’ve won, we’re still under .500, so we’ve got a lot of work to do.'”
- Mac Carruth (Fuel) 41 saves, shutout
- Garett Bembridge (Fuel) GWG
- Kirill Gotovets (Fuel) G
- The Fuel allowed 41 shots and Carruth was good when he needed to be, but he was seeing the puck in part because Indy held Elmira to the perimeter. “I think our D has done a really good job lately. We’ve given up a lot of shots, but a lot of those shots are on the perimeter. We’re not giving up a lot of big scoring chances for the other teams. I think we’ve done a good job. Mac obviously has been great for us the last few weeks, and Owen, as well.”
- Speaking of defense, the Fuel again got big offensive production from their blueline. Two of the three goals came from defense partners Kirill Gotovets and Justin Holl. Nick Jones had an assist and now has four helpers in his last four games. Gotovets’ goal was his third of the month and his sixth of the year. Holl scored for the first time since Dec. 13.
- The game was a physical contest, with 68 total penalty minutes handed out. Three different fights broke out – between Garrett Klotz and Justin Sawyer in the first (a long, good battle in which both players landed several punches), Nick Bruneteau and Colin Jacobs in the second, and between Arseneau and Steven Shamanski in the third. “Guys stuck up for themselves, guys pushed back well,” Hillman said. “They are known as a physical team, this was a good test for us and we did well.”
- After Friday’s game, getting a good start was a point of emphasis for Saturday. Having the lead early allowed the Fuel to maintain control of the game. “We get up that goal, we’re confident, we’re going to be playing on our toes and not let the other team come in on us,” Bembridge said. “Our goalie obviously played a whale of a game tonight and saved the game for us.”
- Midway through the first period, Elmira goaltender Sam Marotta appeared to suffer an injury after contact with Kyle Stroh on a play where Stroh was crashing the net. Marotta (who might played one game for the Ice as a junior player in 2009-10) played the remainder of the first period and all of the second, but gave way to emergency backup Justin Sand in the third. He made his ECHL debut and stopped five of six Fuel shots in the third. Sand played club hockey in college, and had played 22 games for the FHL’s Danville Dashers two years ago. His play impressed his opponents. “I can’t give enough credit to their emergency backup who came in and made a couple of big saves for them,” Carruth said.
- After being held off the scoresheet for the first time in eight games on Wednesday, Kyle Stroh started a new streak with a goal on Friday. Saturday, he added an assist for a two-game streak and points in nine of his last 10 games. He has seven goals and seven assists in 13 games with the Fuel, equaling his production in 31 games with Rapid City. At +10 with the Fuel, Stroh is also leading Indy in +/-.
- Garett Bembridge has the longest active scoring streak for the Fuel, with points in seven straight games. He has four goals and five assists in that stretch. In the last 10 games, he’s +6. He now has a 17-17-34 line on the year, with 15 goals and 13 assists with the Fuel.
- Vincent Arseneau continues to collect points. He had the primary assist on Gotovets’ goal, and now has points in three straight games. He now has a 4-3-7 line in 10 games with the Fuel and is +5.
- Mike Duco returned to the lineup after a two-game absence and picked up where he left off, getting an assist to extend his scoring streak to four games.
- The Fuel debuted their new red alternate uniforms Saturday night. They added a sharp look to the team’s color palette.
Mike Duco and Garrett Klotz returned to the lineup, as did Dan Ford.
Vincent Arseneau-Kyle Stroh-Garett Bembridge
Mike Duco-Nicklas Lindberg-Pete Massar
Evan Vossen-Matt White-Rhett Bly
Anders Franzon-Nick Jones
Kirill Gotovets-Justin Holl
Dan Ford-Nick Bruneteau
B/U: Shane Owen
Scratches: Sam Posa, Johnny McGuire
Roster moves: The Fuel placed Dean Chelios on reserve and activated Dan Ford prior to the game.
Next up: The Fuel travel to Evansville for games Friday and Saturday before returning home Sunday, Feb. 8 to face Kalamazoo.