The Indy Fuel had a solid game against the Fort Wayne Komets Wednesday night in every area except one – the most important one.
The Fuel dropped a 4-1 decision to Fort Wayne at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum in a closely-played, tight-checking contest.
A couple of old friends – Brett Perlini and Mike Embach – scored two goals on rebounds 4:30 apart in the second period to give the Komets a 2-0 lead, and the Fuel comeback was stunted by a pair of late goals 23 seconds apart.
Nick Jones had the Fuel’s tally, scoring a goal for the second straight game.
Each team had a power play goal, and the Fuel had a number of outstanding chances – including three partial breakaways – but ran into a strong goaltending performance from the Komets’ Roman Will, who stopped 26 shots.
“(Will) just played well,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “We had point-blank chances that didn’t go our way. It was a good hockey game. We had good chances. The scoreboard doesn’t show what the game was like.”
Indy started out with two outstanding chances – Pete Massar forced a turnover at the blueline and turned it into a partial breakaway. He went backhand on Will, who stopped the initial shot and a follow-up chance. Two minutes later, Garett Bembridge sprung Kyle Stroh in alone up the left side. Stroh’s shot went toward the 5-hole, but Will was able to squeeze the pads and cover the puck while looking behind him.
A similar feed from Bembridge sprung Matt White in the third period with a pass into the seam splitting the defense, but Will also denied that opportunity.
“A couple (of the breakaways) were turnovers our guys created with good defensive reads,” Hillman said.
Fuel goaltender Shane Owen was also sharp in the opening period, stopping 12 shots. He stopped Embach on three power play whacks from the top of the crease midway through the period, then stuffed Kaleigh Schrock on a shorthanded breakaway with 4:45 left, keeping the game scoreless after 20 minutes.
Fort Wayne broke through in the second on its second power play of the night. James Martin waited for a screen to form at the center point and fired a slapshot that rang the left post. The rebound kicked out to the goalmouth past 2 players, and Perlini pushed it through the 5-hole in the scramble to give Fort Wayne a 1-0 lead 4:31 into the period.
Four and a half minutes later, Embach intercepted a pass at the center red line, skated up the left side and was stuffed by Owen. However, the rebound popped into the air, and Eric Faille – in his first game since returning from the AHL – tipped it back to Embach for the eventual game-winning goal at 9:01 of the second.
Indy had a couple of good chances late in the period – Nicklas Lindberg won a faceoff to the goalmouth, where Massar tried to reach it past Will’s pad into an open side, but was denied. With four minutes left, a weak-side rebound came to Jones, but Will got his left pad in the way of the shot to keep it a 2-0 game.
The Fuel broke through in the third. With C.J. Severyn in the box for cross checking, it took just 34 seconds for the power play to convert. Jones blasted a shot from the left point past Will’s pad and inside the far post to make it a 2-1 contest. Kyle Stroh and Rhett Bly had the assists.
“Strohzy made a great pass in the seam,” Jones said. “I looked to (Holl at the other point), but I had a bit of a lane and just fired. (Jamie Wise) was in front and did a great job. He took away the goalie’s eyes.”
For Jones, it was his fifth goal of the year and his third in March.
The Fuel had another late power play on a penalty to Faille, and had substantial zone time, but were unable to score. On the next shift after he came out of the box, Faille scored a key insurance goal for Fort Wayne, one-timing a cross-ice pass from Shawn Szydlowski with 4:38 left. The goal came after a Szydlowski intercepted an outlet pass and fed the puck across.
Perlini then followed with a goal 23 seconds later to make it a 4-1 contest.
Indy is now 25-27-9 and, with 59 points, is still one point shy of playoff position. The Fuel travel to South Carolina for two games this weekend – Friday at the red-hot South Carolina Stingrays, Saturday at Greenville.
“It’s huge,” Hillman said of the upcoming road trip. “We’re playing two awfully good hockey teams. We’ve got to scratch out points. We’ve got to fight our way back to .500 as quickly as possible. All it takes is two games.”
- Brett Perlini (FW) 2G
- Shawn Szydlowski (FW) 2A
- Mike Embach (FW) GWG, +2
- The Fuel played pretty well in a lot of phases – Hillman used the word “glorious” to describe some of the team’s scoring chances. Will was simply good enough to get most of them. “We were trying to get in on the forecheck and get pucks on net and when you do that, good things are going to happen,” Jones added. “Give it up to (Will), he played pretty well.”
- Fort Wayne likes to play a tight-checking game – or at least it has against Indy so far this season. This game was another one like that, even though the Fuel were able to generate a number of chances against it. “They played a patient hockey game, so the game was slower-paced at times. It was good, controlled,” Hillman said. “Both teams played pretty good hockey. Unfortunately, they capitalized on a couple more than we did.”
- Chris DeSousa dropped the gloves in the second period against Fort Wayne’s Cody Sol – impressive for DeSousa given he was giving up eight inches and 52 pounds to the 6-foot-5, 242-pound Komet blueliner. DeSousa held his own during the bout.
- Nick Jones has given the Fuel an offensive boost in the last few games, and he scored for the second time in as many nights. He’s provided four goals and two assists since his latest return from the AHL on Feb. 20. “He’s really playing well,” Hillman said. “He’s playing solid defense. He’s contributing on the power play and got a big goal tonight. His goal in Kalamazoo (Tuesday) was a steal he made in the neutral zone, he jumped up into the play, and got rewarded going to the back door.”
- Jones says that boost is in part applicable to getting comfortable with his defense partner. “I’m just getting used to things, getting my legs back under me,” Jones said. “I’m really comfortable playing with (Anders) Franzon. I know he’s going to be there backing me up.”
- With an assist, Rhett Bly has now tallied a point in three of the last four games, and became the fourth Fuel player to reach 30 points this season. Kyle Stroh now has points in two of his last three and has 38 points on the year (19G/19A).
- Evan Vossen led the Fuel with four shots. Matt White and Kyle Stroh had three each.
- Fort Wayne’s two goals in 23 seconds were the fastest 2 allowed by the team this season.
- The Fuel PP clicked again tonight for a goal and was 1-3. Indy has scored at least one PPG in five of its last six games, and is 7-28 in that stretch (25%).
- To show how strong Indy has played of late, this marked the first time the Fuel have gone without a win in three straight games since an 0-5-1 stretch from Dec. 27-Jan. 10, which was followed by an 18-2-2 stretch.
- Tonight broke an odd stretch of scoring – the Fuel had scored three goals in each of the last five games prior to tonight. The last time they were held to one goal was a 2-1 SOL at Elmira on Feb. 20 – leading to a stretch of 10 games with at least three goals.
From the initial lineup sheet …
Chris DeSousa-Kyle Stroh-Garett Bembridge
Mike Duco-Nicklas Lindberg-Pete Massar
Jamie Wise-Matt White-Rhett Bly
Anders Franzon-Nick Jones
Dan Ford-Justin Holl
Saverio Posa-Nick Bruneteau
BU: Mac Carruth
Scratches: Quinn Sproule, Garrett Klotz, Johnny McGuire (res)
Standings watch: All other teams in the battle for playoff position were idle. Kalamazoo remains third with 65 points, Wheeling and Cincinnati are tied for fourth with 60, and the Fuel are in sixth with 59. Cincinnati plays at Greenville Thursday. The other teams are next in action Friday.
Next up: A two-game road trip to face the South Carolina Stingrays on Friday and the Greenville Road Warriors on Saturday. The Fuel will then return home March 27-28 to face Reading and South Carolina, starting a stretch of six of seven games at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.