The Indy Fuel continued preseason play Sunday by giving many of their veteran players their first taste of game action, and seeing them control all three zones in a 3-0 victory over Quad City.
Dylan Clarke, Josh Brittain and Daniel Ciampini scored goals for the Fuel – one in each period – and Shane Owen made 20 saves to notch the shutout.
“It’s good to get out there,” veteran Fuel forward Garett Bembridge said. “The boys are working so hard in this training camp and in the last game against Fort Wayne, too. I know it’s preseason, but getting those wins is a big thing. The guys proved it again tonight that we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
The Fuel finished last season with the second-best record in the ECHL from mid-January on, and return a core of players – including 20-goal scorers Bembridge and Kyle Stroh – who were a big part of that run.
Sunday’s roster saw nine players who did not dress in Wednesday’s preseason opener all get their first taste of game action, including four of the team’s five veteran skaters.
For the older players, the game was a chance to shake off some rust and get a taste of game action prior to Friday’s regular season opener against Toledo at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. For others, it was a chance to make one final statement before the final roster cutdown comes early this week.
And it showed, team came out flying, generating a number of early scoring chances and controlling possession, and continuing to do so throughout the afternoon.
“That was a real good tempo game for a preseason game,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “That was pretty close to what we’ll see opening night. It gives the guys an idea of how much speed there is in the game at this level and how physical the game is, as well.”
Things got going quickly, especially when Quad City’s Jake Baker was sent off for holding 6:18 into the game, giving Indy an early power play. The PP generated solid chances – Mallards starter Adam Morrison robbed Bembridge point-blank on a tip, and Peter Schneider also had a good chance from the left side as the Fuel’s passing was one step ahead of the penalty killers.
With the penalty winding down, Morrison stopped Clarke point-blank, but the Fuel chased down the rebound and re-set, with Cody Sharib feeding Clarke from the corner to the doorstep, where Clarke backhanded home a rebound to give Indy a 1-0 lead just after the power play expired.
Clarke and Bembridge generated a solid chance late in the period as the Fuel generated offense both off the cycle and the rush.
Indy made it 2-0 at the 5:09 mark of the second when Josh Brittain fired in a sharp-angle shot from near the left-side boards along the goal line.
While Indy generated chances, Owen and the defense were keeping the Fuel in the lead. Owen robbed Charlie Taft with the blocker from the low slot late in the first, and then stuffed Vladimir Nikiforov on a breakaway midway through the second. Quad City had another breakaway developing earlier in the period, but Nick Mattson chased the Mallards’ Raphael Bussieres down from behind and swiped the puck free.
The Fuel defenders used their skill to allow Owen to see the puck – rookie Ben Marshall had several shot blocks, Mattson foiled a breakaway, and Patrick Koudys and Sam Jardine used their size to keep the front of the net clear. Veterans Kevin Quick and Zach Miskovic used their experience to do the same.
“We’re happy with our D corps,” Hillman said. “A lot of good feet, a lot of good speed for those guys to get back if they do make a mistake, but we do want them to be aggressive. I thought we saw some good signs of that. Shane played really well. He looked great in Rockford’s camp and he’s looked great in two preseason game.”
Owen allowed one goal in 40 minutes on Wednesday before getting the full game and the shutout Sunday.
“It felt good to be out there and be in that full game-like feel, the speed, getting my timing back and my positioning and all those things you work on during the summer,” Owen said. “It was nice to get the feel of 60 minutes, and the shutout’s a bonus.”
In the third, Reed Seckel fed rookie Daniel Ciampini at the right side of the net from the point, and Ciampini buried it to make it a 3-0 game just 22 seconds in. The Fuel nearly had another chance, but Bembridge hit the far post from the right circle. Meanwhile, Quad City had seven shots and few solid opportunities despite two third-period power plays.
“I saw everything tonight,” Owen said. “They made it real easy for me.”
The Fuel currently have 25 players in camp, and will need to trim the roster to 21 active players and two on reserve prior to the opener.
Sunday’s effort continued the theme in making those decisions difficult.
“We’re real pleased with the level at which the guys are performing. We’re happy with the overall level of hockey sense that’s in the locker room. We’ve got some really, really tough decisions. There’s not an easy one in there,” Hillman said. “Obviously, we made a pretty big statement yesterday releasing two guys who were with us all year last year (Johnny McGuire and Pete Massar), which is so hard to do, but we feel like there’s a lot of quality in the room.The guys competed hard tonight, and we had three returning players not in the lineup. There’s a lot of tough decisions coming over the next 24, 48 hours.”
- Shane Owen (Fuel) 20 saves, shutout
- Dylan Clarke (Fuel) GWG
- Josh Brittain (Fuel) G, +2
Based on warmups. The lines changed up a bit in the third period
Josh Brittain-Alex Lavoie-Walker Wintoneak
Daniel Ciampini-Kyle Stroh-Peter Schneider
Casey Thrush-Reed Seckel-Terrence Wallin
Cody Sharib-Dylan Clarke-Garett Bembridge
Kevin Quick-Ben Marshall
Patrick Koudys-Zach Miskovic
Nick Mattson-Sam Jardine
BU: Alex Fotinos
Scratches: F-Rhett Bly, Matt White, Chris DeSousa; D-Anders Franzon, Dave Pszenyczny
- Most notable from ice level was how good the Fuel were at generating chances off the rush – and doing so throughout the game. The defensemen were getting the puck to the forwards and through the neutral zone quickly. And when the rush wasn’t there, the Fuel used solid zone entries, fetch the puck along the offensive end wall and were able to generate a number of chances from the points.
- Alex Lavoie didn’t get on the scoresheet in this game, but his line with Josh Brittain and Walker Wintoneak were in on generating a number of high-quality chances early. The trio finished with five of the Fuel’s 25 shots.
- Veteran Garett Bembridge skated with Dylan Clarke and rookie Cody Sharib much of the night, and Bembridge had four shots on goal. The trio had eight total. Bembridge and Daniel Ciampini led the team with four shots each.
- Everyone on the Fuel roster was +1 with the exception of Bembridge, Terrence Wallin, Kyle Stroh and Peter Schneider, who were all even. Josh Brittain was +2, scoring a goal and being on-ice for Ciampini’s third-period tally.
- A number of quality chances came with Nick Mattson on the point. In addition to his assist on Clarke’s goal, he helped rotate the puck low and made things happen.
- The Fuel penalty kill was excellent, killing off all four Quad City power plays. The PP was 0-for-2, but did score one second after the expiration of a PP. PP1 featured Brittain/Stroh/Schneider/Quick/Marshall, and PP2 Clarke/Lavoie/Seckel/Bembridge/Miskovic, with Mattson and Jardine also getting PP time. Several different players rotated on the PK.
- Again, the 3v3 overtime was used to prepare the teams for the regular season. It took just 43 seconds for Quad City’s Raphael Bussieres to take the puck coast-to-coast and score. The statistics from the overtimes were not counted in the game stats. This year, the ECHL will use 3v3 instead of 4v4 in overtime.
- The Fuel have shown speed, size and solid three-zone play through two exhibition games. They’re a substantially more experienced team than they’ve been in the franchise’s short history, and that should pay off come the start of the regular season.
Roster move: The Fuel released forwards Pete Massar and Johnny McGuire on Saturday. Massar was later claimed off waivers by South Carolina. The roster is now 25 players.
Next up: Opening Night! The Fuel open with a 7:35 p.m. faceoff Friday night at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum against the Toledo Walleye. They’ll then travel to Evansville for a Saturday night game.