Game 57: Fuel at Kalamazoo

Fresh off a tough, physical road game Saturday night, the Indy Fuel traveled to Kalamazoo on Sunday to face the team directly ahead of them in the standings.

Kalamazoo got off to a strong start, with two power play goals in the first 12 minutes, and held on to beat the Fuel 5-3 Sunday afternoon at Wings Stadium.

Garett Bembridge scored two goals for the second straight game to help lead an Indy comeback attempt in the third, but Michael Neal also scored two for the K-Wings, who opened up a three-point lead on the Fuel for fourth place in the ECHL’s North Division.

Kalamazoo set the tone in the opening period, scoring on its first two PPs. The first came from Neal with two seconds left in an abbreviated power play in the first, coming 7:20 into the game. Ludwig Blomstrand followed with his 22nd at the 12:00 mark of the first on the man advantage to give the K-Wings a two-goal advantage.

Shane Owen kept the Fuel in it in the second period, stopping 13 shots, but the K-Wings added three goals in the third – from Dane Fox on the PP :37 in, and later from Gergo Nagy and Neal – to go up 5-0 with 13:33 left.

Bembridge scored with 8:12 left to get the Fuel on the board, and then scored a 6-on-4 PPG less than three minutes later to make it 5-2. Chris DeSousa scored 21 seconds after Bembridge’s second tally to make it a 5-3 game with 5:28 left, but the K-Wings were able to stymie the final Fuel push. Indy outshot Kalamazoo 18-11 in the third.

Kalamazoo was 3-7 on the PP, while Indy was 1-7.

Joel Martin stopped 32 of 35 shots in the K-Wings net. Owen stopped 28 of 33.

The Fuel next play Friday at home against Evansville, then will hit the road Saturday for a trip to Toledo.

Boxscore

3 stars

  1. Michael Neal (KAL) 2G, 4 shots
  2. Jeremie Blain (KAL) 2A, 2 shots
  3. Ludwig Blomstrand (KAL) G, A, 4 shots

Takeaways

  1. This looked like a tough weekend coming in, and turned out to be – three games in three cities in a 72-hour span, the last two against teams that were idle the day before. Despite the losses last night and today, the Fuel are right in the thick of the North Division playoff race.
  2. The Fuel also played this game without Mike Duco and Kyle Stroh, two of the team’s stronger scoring threats, as both left Saturday’s game early with apparent injuries. They also played with 5 defensemen for the fifth straight game, putting versatile forward Evan Vossen on the blueline, where he has primarily been paired with Nick Jones.
  3. Today marked the team’s first back-to-back losses of any kind since Jan. 9-10 – the weekend after the team’s substantial roster overahaul. This game was also the first regulation road loss since Jan. 10 in Toledo – a span of 14 games. The Fuel were 12-0-2 in that stretch, a league-high for games without a regulation loss.
  4. The game wasn’t quite as penalty-filled as Saturday’s contest against Wheeling, but featured a similar number of power plays. This time, Kalamazoo’s PP connected on 3-of-7, and the K-Wings’ early efficiency with the man advantage set the tone for the game. It marked the first time this season the Fuel had allowed three PPG in a game.
  5. The Fuel had a PPG, as well, connecting with the man advantage for the second straight contest. Each team had 23 PIM – nine minors and a major each, as Evan Vossen and Kalamazoo’s Matt Caria dropped the gloves in the second period.
  6. Garett Bembridge continues to have a hot stick, scoring his fourth goal in two games. The veteran has now tallied points in six of his last seven games – with four two-point games in that span. He has 24 goals for the season. Bembridge also had a team-high nine shots on goal, one shy of his season high of 10.
  7. The first period was very kind to the Fuel on Friday – who built a 4-1 lead after 20 minutes en route to a 5-4 SOW over Evansville. In the last two games, the Fuel were outscored 5-0 in the opening period. They did have two strong third periods, outscoring Wheeling and Kalamazoo 5-2 in the third over the last two games.
  8. Nick Bruneteau – the Fuel’s assists leader and top-scoring defenseman – snapped a three-game scoreless streak with two assists. It marked his eighth multipoint game of the year, and now gives him 29 assists and 32 points for the season.
  9. Chris DeSousa keeps finding the net. His goal gave him seven points in six games, and he has tallied a point in five of his six professional games, including four straight.
  10. With an assist, Nicklas Lindberg has now tallied a point in four straight games.
  11. Jamie Wise also had an assist for his second straight game since being returned to the Fuel from Rockford.
  12. Today was the first time the Fuel had allowed five goals in a game since Jan. 2 against Toledo – a span of 27 games.

Lineup
Based on the gamesheet. There was a bit of mix-and-match
Vincent Arseneau-Nicklas Lindberg-Garett Bembridge
Jamie Wise-Chris DeSousa-Pete Massar
Dean Chelios-Matt White-Rhett Bly
Garrett Klotz

Nick Bruneteau-Anders Franzon
Dan Ford-Justin Holl
Evan Vossen-Nick Jones

Shane Owen
BU: Mac Carruth

Scratches: Mike Duco, Kyle Stroh

Roster moves: Dean Chelios and Garrett Klotz were activated from reserve. Johnny McGuire and Saverio Posa were placed on reserve. Jason Torf was released as the emergency backup goaltender.

Standings watch: The Fuel are two points out of a playoff spot, as idle Cincinnati has 58 points. Kalamazoo vaulted Cincy into third place with 59, while the Fuel have 56. Wheeling, which is one point back of the Fuel, is playing Evansville later on Sunday. Kalamazoo has one game in hand on the Fuel, Cincinnati has two and Wheeling has three. Indy has 15 games remaining.

Next up: Home vs. Evansville on Friday, at Toledo on Saturday, then a busy 4-game week with a St. Patrick’s Day visit to Kalamazoo, a home game vs. Fort Wayne on March 18, then a weekend trip to South Carolina and Greenville the following weekend.

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