In a close game, it often takes just one quick play to turn the tide.
Anders Franzon provided that Friday night, leading the Indy Fuel to a 4-2 win over the Fort Wayne Komets at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
With the Fuel killing a penalty late in the second period, Franzon dove low on the forecheck to challenge a Komet skater, jarring the puck free – right to Peter Schneider in the high slot. He buried a shorthanded goal with 3:03 left in the period to break a 2-2 tie. Josh Brittain followed with his second goal of the night two minutes later, and the Fuel defense held the lead from there.
“(Schneider) got us going when we were a bit down, 2-2 game,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “(Franzon) makes a really heads play to get involved in the penalty kill offensively from the back end, and then Schneider puts the puck behind their goalie for a shorthanded game-winner. Then, we followed up after that with a second goal. On a night when our power play struggled and our penalty kill wasn’t awesome — we gave up one — to get our first shorthanded goal was huge.”
Indy snapped a three-game winless streak and moved to 3-2-1 on the season, knocking Fort Wayne (4-1-0) from the ranks of the unbeaten.
“It’s a measuring point for us,” Schneider said. “We made a step in the right direction. We have a great team here in Indy this year. We’re glad we could show it tonight.”
The Fuel, who came in with the ECHL’s top power play at 31 percent, were 0-for-6 with the man advantage, and Fort Wayne was 1-for-5 on the power play.
Schneider’s goal was officially unassisted, but Franzon forced the play that put the puck on his stick in a dangerous scoring area. The Notre Dame grad buried it for his second goal of the year, and his sixth as a pro.
“Franny made a great play on the blueline, charging the zone,” Schneider said. “I tried to stay back and back him up a little bit. The puck popped out right to me. I took a shot, and it went in, but it was really Franny’s great play on the blueline that set up that goal.”
Josh Brittain and Ben Marshall teamed up two minutes later – just as they had for the game’s first goal. Marshall fed Brittain for a back-door tally with 1:03 left in the second to give Indy a 4-2 lead.
“We joked that Brittain had two goals before he had a shot on net because all he had to do was lay his stick there and Marshall was hitting it,” Hillman said. “He’s a great young defenseman, had a creative mind and creative feet. We like the way he’s coming along. Britain did what he does – he’s a valuable player, with a big body who goes hard to the net. He got rewarded twice tonight.”
Britain got the two goals and was the game’s first star, but he drove the net for both goals. His first tally, with 6:15 left in the first period, gave Indy a 1-0 lead. On that play, Marshall carried it up the left wing on the rush and fed Brittain driving the center lane, who tipped it through the pads of Fort Wayne goaltender Spencer Martin.
“Ben Marshall assisted both – two great passes,” Brittain said. “I couldn’t ask for better contribution from our rookies. He’s stepped up really big and was a big part of our win tonight and our wins the previous nights. He’s been a great addition to our team. I was just in the right place at the right time.”
Just 67 seconds later, Cody Sharib gave the Fuel a 2-0 lead, cashing in a cross-ice pass from Dillon Fournier for his first professional goal.
Fort Wayne was able to get back into the contest with a power play goal from Drew Daniels late in the first, as the Fuel appeared to be about to clear the zone on a puck that came to the point, but a Komet tied up the Fuel’s attacker at the point and Daniels corralled the puck and fired through a screen. The Komets used that momentum to buzz the net early in the second, and tied the game up 1:44 in off the rush, as Jordan Southorn scored from the right circle to tie the game at 2-2.
Indy was able to withstand the rest of the surge, and then gained a bit of momentum with three shots on a mid-period power play that netted several chances, but no goals. The Fuel had two PPs – and Schneider nearly put the Fuel ahead twice during the second one, with two deflections from the goalmouth on shots by Kevin Quick and Brittain. Bembridge also had a good look on the PP. The Fuel also had to kill two penalties in a physical second period, but the second penalty kill netted Schneider’s goal and the momentum-turner.
“We were on our heels a little bit, as the emotions kind of sank, but overall, the guys really played with a lot of composure,” Hillman said.
In the third, the Fuel played a simple defensive game, and kept Fort Wayne to the outside, using good stick position to deflect a number of passes and slow the breakout.
Owen needed to make six saves in the period, and he stopped 27 of 29 shots in the game for the victory.
“We let the veterans take the room between the second and third and talk from their experience on what it takes to preserve a two-goal lead and how to play,” Hillman said. “It’s awesome for our captains to speak up and the other veterans like Brittain and (Dylan) Clarke to give their two cents. That goes a long way with our young players. Our guys have bought in, that brings results.”
- Josh Brittain (Fuel) 2 goals, 4 shots, +1
- Ben Marshall (Fuel) 2 assists, +2
- Peter Schneider (Fuel) game-winning SHG
- The Fuel have played a pretty tough schedule out of the bat, with four of the six games against Toledo and Fort Wayne, who were two of the top teams in the ECHL standings last year, each return a number of players and currently lead their respective divisions. “We’ve only played six games, but four of those have been against teams that had 100 points last year, and we’re above .500. That’s a good sign.”
- The victory handed Fort Wayne its first loss. The Adirondack Thunder (6-0-0) are the lone unbeatens left in the ECHL.
- Brittain scored both of his goals by driving the net and tipping in passes from Marshall. They were the ECHL veteran’s first two Fuel goals – and first points in an Indy sweater. He had 22 goals with Ontario, Kalamazoo and Missouri last season. “I’m trying to lead by example, telling the guys before the game, Fort Wayne doesn’t like guys in their crease, players in their area,” Brittain said. “If we’re driving the net, getting the goalie off his game, putting pucks to the net, luckily, we get rewarded. It was great.”
- Garett Bembridge is in the midst of a new point streak. He had the second assist on Sharib’s goal, and now has a point in five of the Fuel’s six games this season and a point in three straight. Rhett Bly had the second assist on Brittain’s first goal, and also has a three-game point streak going. Schneider also now has a goal in two straight games and a point in three straight.
- Fort Wayne’s Trevor Cheek came into the game having scored a goal in all four contests, but he was held off the scoreboard.
- Not enough can be said of the third period by the Fuel. They set the tone early with a number of deflections, which led to solid chances by Garett Bembridge, Ben Marshall and Josh Brittain among others, all off turnovers in the neutral or Fuel’s offensive zone, but more importantly, they kept the Komets’ deep offense to the outside and limited their chances. The Komets’ best look on Owen came with the extra attacker, but it was a purpose shot by Southorn from the point that the Fuel netminder got the pad on, and the Fuel controlled the rebound. The Fuel also stayed out of the penalty box in the period. “Being hard on our sticks in the third period and making sure we can win games like that against a division rival,” Brittain said. “It’s crucial we can play good D in the third with a lead, and we were able to do that tonight.”
- Being able to score the key insurance goal late in the second period was critical for the Fuel. “That was huge for us, having a two-goal lead, that’s way easier to defend,” Schneider said.
- Indy is now 2-0 on Pink in the Rink nights. Last year, they got their first win in franchise history with the pink uniforms.
- In addition to his two assists, Marshall was really solid in the offensive zone. He had a couple of solid scoring chances – just missing the post on a center-point rip in the first period, and generating a solid chance off a turnover early in the third.
- Walker Wintoneak made his regular season debut in the ECHL after playing in the SPHL last weekend. He provided a strong net presence on the power play and had one shot.
- The Fuel were outshot 29-28. Bembridge led the way with six shots. Brittain had four and Dillon Fournier three.
- The rookies had a solid effort. Sharib scored his first career goal and was +2. Marshall was also +2. Daniel Ciampini and Walker Wintoneak also had good looks. “We’re seeing some of the young guys put in some good minutes, but you can’t say enough about the veterans and the job they’re doing teaching the young kids how to play in those situations — guys like Sharib getting more involved, Wintoneak back in the lineup, Marshall’s doing a good job, some young guys. Ciampini had his biggest night in terms of minutes and played a strong defensive game for us,” Hillman said.
The Fuel dressed 11 forwards and 5 D tonight. These were the lines based on warmups, but both Sharib and Wintoneak saw frequent shifts and the D rotated through partners.
Dylan Clarke-Kyle Stroh-Peter Schneider
Matt White-Alex Lavoie-Garett Bembridge
Daniel Ciampini-Josh Brittain-Rhett Bly
Cody Sharib-Walker Wintoneak
Kevin Quick-Anders Franzon
Dillon Fournier-Zach Miskovic
BU: Mac Carruth
Scratches: Patrick Koudys, Reed Seckel (res), David Pszenyczny (IR)
Next up: The Fuel play two games next week in Evansville – at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and 8:15 p.m. Friday, and return home Nov. 7 to face Quad City in a 7:35 p.m. game.