The Indy Fuel had a dominant start against the Reading Royals Friday night.
But the Royals had enough finish to outlast the Fuel 3-2 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
It was the Royals’ sixth win against the Fuel in as many meetings this season – excluding empty-netters, all six have been by one goal.
The Royals scored twice in the first 10 minutes of the second period to take a lead, and then got the eventual winner on a seeing-eye point shot with 4:25 left off the stick of Brett Flemming. Peter Schneider and Garett Bembridge scored third-period goals for the Fuel.
Shane Owen stopped 25 shots in the loss.
Indy came out red-hot, outshooting the Royals 20-3 in the opening period, including 10-0 in the first 7:30, but couldn’t solve Reading goaltender Martin Ouellette, who stopped 40 shots. Meanwhile, the Royals got three goals, all on shots from the point – a tip in front, a deflection off a defenseman, and a shot that went through several bodies.
“All three of those shots are harmless if there’s not good traffic,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “They do that well – those pucks get right through and into the top half of the net. They had some better-quality chances than those that got saved, but there were many at the other end for Ouelette. He had many quality saves.”
Indy had the better of the chances and momentum, especially early, and built more with Schneider’s goal with 11:50 left, and a five-minute penalty kill in the final 10 minutes.
“I think we outplayed them the entire game,” Bembridge added. “They had a couple of seeing-eye shots – a tip on the first goal, the second went off our D-man’s backside. Their D-men did a good job getting the pucks on net.”
Indy had a tremendous start, playing with a lot of speed and breaking into the Reading zone with a strong breakout and skating game, taking the puck to Ouellette’s net and creating a number of loose pucks in the crease. The best chance of the game came 90 seconds in, when Nicklas Lindberg and Pete Massar drew Ouellette out of the cage on a rush, but couldn’t corral the puck with an open net.
At the five-minute mark, Rhett Bly jammed the puck through Ouellette, but the puck sat in the crease and was cleared by the Royals. It eventually drew a power play, and Kyle Stroh ripped a shot that Ouellette blockered into the corner while his pad extended into the goalpost, knocking the net off its moorings and stopping play. Schneider set Matt White up for a tip in front shortly after the power play ended, but Ouellette got a pad on it. Schneider also nearly hit Jamie Wise for a tip in the crease.
“We came out with a ton of energy,” Hillman said.
All told, the Fuel had a 20-3 shot edge, five minutes of power play time, and Reading didn’t register a shot for the first 7:30 of the game. But Ouellette stopped all 20 missives.
“You’re playing one of the top teams in the league and they get outshot 20-3, they’re kicking themselves to raise their level,” Hillman said. “You expect that to even out, and it certainly did.”
In the second, the Royals turned the tables, holding the Fuel without a shot for the first nine minutes of the period, and taking a 2-0 lead. Olivier Labelle made it 1-0 with his 26th goal of the year. Maxim Lamarche fired from the point, which found Labelle’s stick in front of the net, and he tipped it into the top shelf.
“The first goal they got, it was a really good clearing attempt – it was about nine feet in the air and the guy pulled it down, and they got a real good tip in front from what looked to be a harmless play,” Hillman said.
Jordan Heywood made it 2-0 after Ian Watters drew the puck back to the point. He fired through a screen – a shot that might have changed direction in flight – and barely under the crossbar with 10:01 left in the second.
Each team had a power play opportunity later in the period, but neither could capitalize.
In the third, the Fuel got on the board on a strong rush by Nick Bruneteau, who skated across the blueline and dangled through both defensemen to the net. Ouellette stopped the initial shot, but Schneider barreled in to bury the rebound for his second goal in as many games.
“Bruno was rushing the puck down the ice. He made a couple of nice moves on the defender. I was just going to the net trying to get a rebound. I was lucky enough to get the puck on my stick. It’s nice to score a goal again, but winning games has got to be the priority.”
With 9:48 left, the Fuel went shorthanded when Bruneteau got a major for boarding, meaning a five-minute kill. Owen made a point-blank save on Lamarche all alone in front, but the Fuel limited the Royals’ chances during the five minutes and came away with the kill. Justin Holl had a strong chance for Indy on a 2-on-2 with a backhand shot that Ouellette stopped with a positional save off the upper chest. Moments after the power play ended, Flemming wired a shot from the right point off a faceoff through a number of bodies and into the net.
“We had the momentum. We did a great job on the PK,” Bembridge said. “It was a seeing-eye shot, it went through about four guys. But we never give up in this locker room.”
Indy took advantage of a 6-on-4 power play in the final 30 seconds, with Bembridge batting in Nick Jones’ rebound into the open side out of a scramble, but the there wasn’t enough time to get the equalizer.
A lot went right Saturday, but as the season comes closer to its conclusion, the Fuel are hoping to pair two standings points with the effort.
“We’re pleased with the shot total and the pressure around the net,” Hillman said. “You wish to finish. Sometimes, the veteran guys have a way to finish those off, like Bembridge had on the late goal. If we generate those types of chances every night, we’re going to be pleased with the result more often than not.”
The Fuel are back at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum Saturday night to face the South Carolina Stingrays, winners of an ECHL-record 23 straight games.
“They’ve won about 86 in a row, I think,” Hillman said, exaggerating a slight bit. “We’ve got to figure out a way to scratch one out. I don’t care if it’s our best game, our worst game, we’ve got to find a way to get a win.”
- Martin Ouellette (REA) 40 saves
- Jordan Haywood (REA) G, +1, 2 shots
- Peter Schneider (Fuel) G, 2 shots
- Tremendous start for the Fuel, and a couple of pucks got through Ouellette, but not enough to get over the line. It was a couple of what looked like harmless plays and shots – all from the point – that found the back of the Fuel’s net. “You get 40 shots, you’re doing a lot of things right. Two goals directly off draws we lost, straight into the net,” Hillman said.
- After struggling to generate chances in the second period – one in which Reading had a 17-7 shot edge – the Fuel came back and carried the play in the third. “There wasn’t near as much momentum in the second period. The first and third were tremendous. That’s hockey,” Hillman said.
- Peter Schneider – a familiar face to Indy hockey fans – made his home debut and scored a goal. He now has three points in three games with the Fuel since finishing his college career at Notre Dame. “He plays with great energy. He went to the net hard. That was his first shift of the third period when he banged that in,” Hillman said.
- Schneider wasn’t the only new addition to the lineup. Kirill Gotovets made his first appearance since Feb. 8, after having spent a month in the AHL. He had a shot on goal and an even +/-.
- Indy was 1-5 on the PP, scoring on a late 6-on-4. The Fuel killed off all three Reading PPs, including the third-period major.
- Reading’s Ian Watters was one of the key players in the game, winning two draws directly back to the point for the Royals’ second and third goals.
- The game turned out to be a penalty-filled one, with each team receiving 52 PIM, and having two players each receive game misconducts. The Fuel had a five-minute PP in the first period when Andrew Johnston was given a five-minute major and a game for being the aggressor in an altercation that didn’t draw a return penalty, but it was cut short by a tripping call in the offensive zone. Yet, the Fuel had chances on both ends of the major PP. In the third, Reading had a five-minute power play that yielded one good scoring chance, but otherwise, an excellent kill for the Fuel. Bruneteau also received a game for his boarding major, and Mike Duco and Reading’s Maxim Lamarche were both given game misconducts for re-starting an altercation after it had been stopped. Pete Massar and Chris DeSousa also received fighting majors early in the second period for scraps with Ryan Cruthers and David Marshall, respectively.
- The Fuel spread their 42 SOG around – Justin Holl and Chris DeSousa led the team with five shots each. Garett Bembridge, Pete Massar and Nick Jones had four each. All 16 skaters had at least one shot.
- With his goal, Garett Bembridge now has points in consecutive games and 11 of the last 14. Anders Franzon had an assist for his first point since Feb. 27 in Fort Wayne. Nick Bruneteau now has points in five of his last eight. Nick Jones has points in four of his last seven, and Kyle Stroh has points in four of his last six.
Based on warmups
Chris DeSousa-Kyle Stroh-Garett Bembridge
Mike Duco-Nicklas Lindberg-Pete Massar
Matt White-Jamie Wise-Rhett Bly
Anders Franzon-Nick Jones
Kirill Gotovets-Justin Holl
Saverio Posa-Nick Bruneteau
BU: Mac Carruth
Scratches: Evan Vossen, Doug Jenney, Dan Ford (res), Johnny McGuire (res)
Standings watch: Every other team in the North Division playoff race won tonight – Kalamazoo beat Colorado 2-1 in OT; Wheeling beat Fort Wayne 2-1; and Cincinnati beat Evansville 4-2. The Fuel remain in sixth place with 61 points, and now trail Wheeling and Cincinnati each by three points, and Kalamazoo by eight. Wheeling has a game in hand on all three teams.
Next up: The Fuel host the South Carolina Stingrays on Saturday, then meet the Toledo Walleye next Wednesday.