As the Indy Fuel head into the final four weeks of the regular season, every game brings a playoff atmosphere.
Tonight could have been a big playoff preview.
The Fuel had a strong effort Saturday night in the WesBanco Arena, falling to the Toledo Walleye 4-3 in a shootout.
Indy gained its first point in four meetings with the Walleye – one more meeting is forthcoming at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum – and played one of its best games of the year.
The Fuel built leads of 2-1 and 3-2 before old friend Kyle Bonis tied the game on the power play with 6:02 to go. Toledo, holder of the ECHL’s top power play, scored twice with the man advantage. The Walleye then won a shootout 3-2 to get the extra point.
Both teams gained key points in the postseason race – Toledo moved to 38-13-6 and into a first-place tie with Fort Wayne in the ECHL’s North Division. The Fuel moved their record to 25-25-9 and stayed within a point of the playoff chase. Indy is currently tied with Wheeling for fifth place in the division.
Kyle Stroh had a goal and an assist for the Fuel, helping give Indy a 2-1 lead. Cody Lampl scored on the power play to put Toledo up 1-0 seven minutes into the first, but Stroh answered with a shorthanded goal at 14:37 – his 19th of the year and 12th in 27 games with the Fuel. Two minutes into the second, Stroh fed Chris DeSousa for a goal that put the Fuel up 2-1. It was DeSousa’s fourth goal of the year.
Toledo’s Troy Schwab tied the game with 8:49 left in the second, but the Fuel regained the lead when Rhett Bly tallied his second point in as many games, scoring his 11th goal of the season on a feed from Saverio Posa with 2:25 left in the second, a period the Fuel controlled possession, outshooting the Walleye 14-8.
The only scoring in the third was Bonis’ PPG – his 28th of the year – coming with 21 seconds remaining in the Walleye’s fourth power play of the night. Toledo outshot the Fuel 18-5 in the third, but Mac Carruth held the fort.
Carruth stopped 36 shots in the Fuel net, returning to a rink where he played a year ago. Neil Conway had 28 saves for Toledo.
Pete Massar and Nicklas Lindberg scored in the shootout for the Fuel. Schwab, Tyler Barnes and A.J. Jenks scored for Toledo, with Jenks clinching the game in the fifth round.
- A.J. Jenks (TOL) A, shootout winner
- Mac Carruth (Fuel), 36 saves
- Kyle Bonis (TOL) G, A
- The Fuel are no stranger to overtimes – this is the 18th game that has gone past 60 minutes. The Fuel are now 9-9 in OT/So games. In fact, four of the last five road games have gone past 60 minutes, and the Fuel had won the previous three.
- The Fuel’s last three games against the top two teams in the division – Toledo and Fort Wayne – have all been road games that have gone past regulation. Indy has won two of the three, but has gone toe-to-toe with the ECHL’s top teams in the standings.
- It was good to see Kyle Stroh back skating a regular shift – he was the 10th forward last night and saw a lot of PP time – and also to see Mike Duco back in the lineup after missing back-to-back games. Stroh had a two-point night for the first time in 12 games.
- Chris DeSousa has been a point-a-game player since coming to the Fuel, and he had his fourth goal in eight games tonight. He has tallied a point in six of the eight games he has played in so far.
- The line of DeSousa (5), Stroh (1) and Bembridge (6) generated 12 of the Fuel’s 31 shots on goal, and were +2.
- Nicklas Lindberg saw his seven-game scoring streak snapped, but he was third on the team with four shots on goal.
- Fans who bought tickets in the end where Toledo shoots twice got their money’s worth – Toledo outshot the Fuel 32-11 in the first and third periods, when shooting at that end. Indy outshot Toledo 20-8 in the second period and OT shooting at that end.
- Big week coming up for the Fuel with four games, two against hot teams, another against a first-place team. Nothing will be decided, but the Fuel continue to put themselves in the playoff mix. This week will be big. After it, the Fuel will have six of their next seven at home.
Via the gamesheet
Chris DeSousa-Kyle Stroh-Garett Bembridge
Jamie Wise-Nicklas Lindberg-Pete Massar
Evan Vossen-Matt White-Rhett Bly
Saverio Posa-Nick Bruneteau
Dan Ford-Justin Holl
Anders Franzon-Nick Jones
BU: Shane Owen
Scratches: Garrett Klotz, Johnny McGuire (res), Quinn Sproule (res)
Standings watch: Two teams the Fuel are battling for playoff position won tonight – Kalamazoo beat Reading 5-2, and Cincinnati beat Fort Wayne 3-1. Wheeling dropped a 4-1 decision to Elmira. Kalamazoo now has 63 points with 13 games left and is in third place, Cincinnati moves into fourth place and the final playoff spot with 60 points with 14 games left. Indy is in fifth with 59 points and 13 games remaining. Wheeling is sixth with 59 points and 14 games left. Sunday, Cincinnati is at Fort Wayne and Kalamazoo is at Reading. The Fuel and Wheeling will both be idle.
Next up: A four-games-in-five-nights week for the Fuel begins Tuesday with the St. Patrick’s Day “greening of the ice” game in Kalamazoo. Indy returns home Wednesday to meet Fort Wayne, then travels to South Carolina and Greenville for weekend games.