For much of 2015, the Indy Fuel have been a team showing resiliency.
They did it again Saturday night.
Trailing by a goal going into the third period and having gone shorthanded six times in the opening two periods, the Fuel rallied on goals by Nicklas Lindberg and Mike Duco to beat the Fort Wayne Komets 3-2 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Shane Owen came off the bench and stopped all 14 shots he faced to get the win, and Lindberg scored twice for the Fuel, who overcame deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 to get the victory.
Indy is now 2-1-1 in its last four games, a stretch in which the Fuel have ended the longest winning streak in ECHL history, and then took three of a possible four points off the top two teams in the North Division – both games in which the Fuel had to rally from third-period deficits.
“We’re playing desperate hockey,” captain Mike Duco said. “We have to be. We know each and every night it could be the season. That’s the mindset we go with every game. It shows on the ice. We’ve got to keep pushing.”
The Fuel’s response mixed desperation in the offensive zone with strong 5-on-5 play on both ends, and got the equalizer at 7:42 of the third. Kirill Gotovets fired a shot from the point that Fort Wayne goaltender Roman Will stopped with the leg, but Peter Schneider and Lindberg both had whacks at the rebounds, and the latter poked it home to tie the game.
The Fuel took the lead at 14:08 of the period on the rush, with Jamie Wise barreling down the middle with the puck, taking it through two Komet defenders to the net. He got Will to commit, then got the puck to Duco for the go-ahead goal.
“It was one heck of a pass by Jamie Wise,” Duco said. “Luckily, I got my shovel out and just shoveled it home. I didn’t really know it went in – I thought I kicked the goalie at first, but everyone was celebrating.”
All three Fuel goals came by driving the net . Lindberg also scored on a first-period wraparound when Chris DeSousa’s point shot was wide. Schneider furthered the play by getting a stick on the puck, and then Lindberg buried a wraparound 7:33 into the game to tie it at 1-1.
“I knew the goalie was far out, so I wrapped it around and it went in,” Lindberg said.
Both of Lindberg’s goals came on plays that started with a shot from the point, and Duco’s tally was a rush straight to the crease with teammates following, getting bodies and pucks to the net. Coach Scott Hillman said that’s “playoff hockey.”
“We’ve been doing that a lot in practice – getting a lot of traffic and getting a lot of shots,” Lindberg said. “If the goalie sees the puck from the blueline, he’s going to stop it. If he doesn’t, it’s a bad goal, so you have to get traffic in front to get those screens and rebounds.”
“You go to the net, that’s where goals are scored. I live by that, and the proof was right there,” Duco added.
After Duco’s go-ahead goal, Indy kept the play to the outside and didn’t allow Fort Wayne any strong opportunities, despite spending much of the last 90 seconds in the offensive zone with the extra attacker on the ice.
Owen was perfect coming off the bench, stopping all 14 shots he faced. Fort Wayne took a 2-1 lead on a pair of power play goals in the first – the first coming just 91 seconds into the game off Mike Embach’s stick. Shawn Szydlowski drew the high-sticking minor off a faceoff, and 30 seconds into the power play, Embach fired a slapshot through traffic and a screen for the first goal. With 1:38 left in the first, Eric Faille scored his 26th of the season by deflecting Embach’s shot from the point into the net. It came two seconds after a Komet penalty had expired, giving Fort Wayne a man advantage, and came on a delayed penalty.
“To give up those two early power play goals, you’re worried, because that’s a dangerous team if they get hot,” Hillman said. “To be able to refocus, and for Shane to be able to jump in there cold starting the second period, I’m real proud of all the guys.”
Starter Mac Carruth stopped six of the eight Komet shots he saw in the opening period, but Hillman said he played a hunch and went with Owen to start the second. Owen had taken the loss Friday in Cincinnati, but had made a number of spectacular saves in the second half of the game, and carried that into Saturday.
“We didn’t think those goals were necessarily on Mac, it was just a gut feeling,” Hillman said. “Shane really made some big saves. We kept the quantity down, but there was some good quality on both of our goaltenders on those limited number of shots.”
Owen’s biggest stop came at the end of the second, on a 3-on-1 that came moments after Joey Leach exited the penalty box. He also had to come up big early in the third, stuffing Szydlowski as he attempted to curl to his backhand on the doorstep.
Now 28-30-10, the Fuel remain five points behind fourth-place Cincinnati with a game in hand for the final playoff spot in the ECHL’s North Division, as the Cyclones beat Evansville on Saturday. Indy is two points back of fifth-place Wheeling, which lost its third straight game Saturday. Wheeling has three of its four remaining games on the road, and all of Cincinnati’s remaining game are at Fort Wayne and Toledo.
“I still think there’s a good chance for us to pull this off with the game the other teams have,” Lindberg said. “We knew we needed to get this win.”
- Nicklas Lindberg (Fuel) 2G
- Mike Duco (Fuel) GWG
- Peter Schneider (Fuel) 2A
- Another resilient come-from-behind win for the Fuel.
- One of the notables from the loss on Friday was Shane Owen’s play in the latter half of the game, making a number of outstanding saves, including sweeping the puck off the line and stoning a Cincinnati shooter on a shot from the doorstep after a turnover put the puck on his stick. That was key in giving Hillman the “gut feeling” to give Owen the net in the second period. “If he doesn’t play solid in the last half of last game, I probably can’t make that move today,” Hillman said. “it’s a gut feeling that he was hot at the end of the game, and can he jump in there and repeat it.”
- Carruth also had a couple of big saves in the first period, stuffing Brett Perlini twice in tight – on the initial shot off the rush from the low slot, and then getting a pad on the rebound.
- Chris DeSousa got on the scoresheet with the second assist on Lindberg’s first goal, but he was generating a number of scoring chances – especially on the Fuel’s four power plays. In the first, he nearly had a 2-on-1 pass and an open side midway through, then on a late power play, he had a tip in front and a shot through traffic from the low slot stopped by Will. In the second, he set up a weak-side tip that went wide on the PP, and then set up a shorthanded chance with a big drive off the rush from the left side with Matt White fishing for the rebound. Will was able to cover both. DeSousa tallied a point for the third straight game.
- The Fuel have been keeping opposing teams’ shot totals down of late with solid defensive efforts, and that was the case again Saturday, as they outshot Fort Wayne 29-22 – and that’s a game in which the Komets had six power plays. Three came in the opening period, when Fort Wayne outshot Indy 8-5. The Fuel held a 24-14 shot advantage the rest of the game, and a 2-0 goal advantage. Indy also outscored Fort Wayne 3-0 on 5-on-5 play. Earlier in the week, they allowed just 27 shots in 65 minutes to a powerful Toledo offense, and held another of the league’s best teams, the Reading Royals, to 28 shots. It’s part of a commitment to defense that has been key. “It’s a total team buy-in type of scenario,” Hillman said. “You shake your head at what we looked like defensively the first month of the season. You talk about Toledo beating us 8-1. To play those good teams in the last few weeks of the season and see how far we’ve come, I take a lot of pride in that that the guys have come that far.”
- Saturday’s game marked the first time in five games that the Fuel were scoreless on the PP, going 0-for-4 but generating a number of chances – a lot, as noted above, off Chris DeSousa’s stick.
- When Nicklas Lindberg scores, he does so in bunches. Saturday’s two-goal effort marked his first points since March 17 at Kalamazoo – snapping a six-game scoreless streak – and his first goal since March 13 against Evansville, an eight-game goalless streak. Lindberg has seven multi-point games with the Fuel, and he had his second two-goal game of the year, Feb. 7 against Evansville. Fifteen of his 23 points this season have come in multi-point games.
- Rookie Peter Schneider had his second multi-point game of the year, with two assists. He now has two goals and three assists in six games.
- With the second assist on the game-winner, Rhett Bly also extended his scoring streak to two games.
- With the game-winner, Mike Duco extended his to three games, and the captain has now tallied a point in four of his last five.
- Jamie Wise had the assist on Duco’s game-winner, and also has a two-game scoring streak going. He has tallied points in three of the last four and five of the last seven since being moved to center.
- The Fuel’s attack was balanced – DeSousa/Lindberg/Schneider had eight shots, the other two forward lines had six each, and the defensemen combined for seven shots. The other SOG belonged to versatile forward Evan Vossen. No player had more than three shots on goal in the game.
- The Fuel finished the season series with Fort Wayne having won three of the last four games in the rivalry. Fort Wayne took the season series, with Indy going 3-6-2 in the eleven-game series.
Matt White-Kyle Stroh-Garett Bembridge
Chris DeSousa-Nicklas Lindberg-Peter Schneider
Mike Duco-Jamie Wise-Rhett Bly
Saverio Posa-Nick Bruneteau
Anders Franzon-Nick Jones
Kirill Gotovets-Justin Holl
Scratches: Doug Jessey, Pete Massar, Johnny McGuire (res), Andy Simpson (res)
Standings watch: Kalamazoo beat Wheeling 5-2, while Cincinnati shut out Evansville 4-0. As a result, Kalamazoo now has 73 points and Cincinnati 71 to be in third and fourth place, respectively. Wheeling is in fifth with 68 points, and the Fuel are in sixth with 66. The top four teams make the playoffs. All except Cincy have four games remaining – the Cyclones have three. On Sunday, the lone game in the ECHL is the Fuel hosting Elmira.
Next up: Back to the Coliseum on Sunday for a 3:05 p.m. puck drop with Elmira – another team playing its fourth game in five nights, and the third road game in three nights. The Jackals lost in Toledo 4-2 on Saturday.