Home sweet home.
After playing six contests of a seven-game stretch away from the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, the Indy Fuel returned home Saturday night and pulled away to a 5-2 victory over the Quad City Mallards.
Five different players scored for the Fuel, who looked very comfortable in their home digs again. They are now 3-0-0 at home and 5-3-1 overall through nine games. The victory moved the Fuel into a first-place tie with Cincinnati and Quad City in the Midwest Division with 11 points. Fort Wayne is in fourth place with 10 points.
Josh Brittain snapped a 2-all tie with a goal 6:07 into the second – coming shortly after Quad City had tied the game with two early second-period goals – and Alex Lavoie added a goal and an assist on the two ensuing goals to lead the Fuel to the victory. Garett Bembridge, Rhett Bly and Peter Schneider also scored for the Fuel.
Shane Owen stopped 23 shots in the Indy net to seal the victory.
“I love playing at home. The fan support is great. It feels comfortable,” Josh Brittain said. “Team-wise, we respond well too. It was huge for us to get that win, to get two points out of the weekend.”
After a tough loss against Evansville Friday night, the Fuel bounced back with a strong start Saturday, and then responded after Quad City tied the game.
“I thought the guys showed really good energy,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said, noting that adding Reed Seckel and Cody Sharib to the lineup gave the team some fresh, energetic legs and both played strong games. “We needed to see the team respond after a little bit of a disappointing night last night. I’m pleased with the effort.”
The line of Brittain, Daniel Ciampini and Rhett Bly also gave the Fuel a lot of jump early, leading to the game’s first goal, and cashing in again to give the Fuel the lead in the second.
The first goal came just 98 seconds into the game, when Brittain flew to the end boards on the forecheck and forced the Quad City defenseman to cough up the puck. Ciampini picked it up and quickly fed Bly in front of the net for a goal on the Fuel’s first shot of the game.
“Our line specifically, it’s important for us to crete turnovers and play with energy,” Brittain said. “I thought at a crucial time of the game, early on, we could get a good forecheck going, pressure their D, get them on their heels, and luckily it turned around. Ciampini made a nice pass in front and we ended up scoring.”
On their next shift, they established a strong cycle that nearly led to another goal from Bly. They did cash in during the second, again at a critical time. Quad City’s Olivier Archambeault and Vladimir Nikiforov scored in a span of 2:32 early in the second to tie the game.Less than two minutes later, Brittain untied it, again with offense generated from the cycle. Brittain was able to jam it past Quad City goaltender Kevin Michalek for the go-ahead goal.
“One of our guys got caught out on a long shift and ended up changing at a weird time,” Brittain said. “I was able to come off the bench with energy, go right to the middle of the ice and the puck was right on my stick. I was fortunate to get an opportunity like that and I tried to make the most of it.”
The goal was key in shifting the game.
“Hockey’s a game of momentum,” Lavoie said. “It was really good that we had the third goal to break the ice a little bit.”
Bembridge made it 4-2 after Lavoie corralled the puck and headmanned it to the veteran winger, who ripped a shot from the left circle that banked off the inside of the post and into the net for his fourth goal of the season.
“Bember has scored a lot of goals in his carer,” Lavoie said. “He’s a great hockey player. It’s awesome that he can score a goal like that.”
Quad City had a flurry of chances early in the third – the Mallards outshot the Fuel 12-8 in the final period – but Owen kept them all out. He had to make a handful of early saves, as the Mallards got four shots in the first two minutes, but the Fuel began to take control after a timeout early in the third period. When the Mallards tied the game with two similar goals – both coming off rushes to the net – Indy regrouped and seized control of the game. Quad City had just two second-period shots after its second goal, and found few high-quality chances after the early stages of the third.
“That’s the biggest thing is when stuff like that happens and we face adversity, how do we stay composed and how do we respond,” Brittain said. “Coach Hillman said that in the room and called a timeout early and said, ‘this is our game. Regroup, take control and make sure we’re doing all the right things. If we do those things, there’s no reason we shouldn’t win this game.’ We did that, we came out on top obviously, and we’re going to keep building off the things we’re doing.”
Lavoie added some icing to the sundae by ripping a cross-ice pass from Cody Sharib into the net with 5:35 left.
“I was skating to the net, I kinda got open and Sharib gave me a great pass right on the tape,” Lavoie said. “I picked a hole and shot. It was awesome.”
The Fuel built an early two-goal lead. After Bly’s tally in the opening two minutes, Peter Schneider made it 2-0 with 4:00 left in the first, burying a rebound after Michalek made a big save on Dylan Clarke. That goal came with a lot of traffic around the Quad City goalmouth – something the Fuel were doing much of the night.
“As the games have gone on, we’re learning our team i most effective when we’re cycling the puck, holding it down low, managing the puck,” Brittain said. “It was great to see, a great team effort tonight.”
- Alex Lavoie (Fuel) G, A
- Josh Brittain (Fuel) GWG
- Rhett Bly (Fuel) G
- Balance was the name of the game for the Fuel. Five different players scored goals, and all three forward lines found the back of the net. Five different players have at lest three goals on the Fuel roster, and they skated on three different lines Saturday. Eleven of the 16 skaters for the Fuel registered a point – with Lavoie (G/A) the only one tallying two points. “(Scoring balance) is important if you want to be successful over a long season. We like the way our centers are playing, the guys down the middle give some balance, and we have some wingers who have contributed in different ways. Early on, we’ve gone with that approach of trying to balance the three lines.”
- Schneider, Bly and Brittain all scored their third goals of the season in the win. Bembridge tallied his fourth, and has now tallied a point in seven of the nine games this season.
- Defenseman Kevin Quick now has a three-game assist string going, as he tallied the second assist on Bembridge’s second-period snipe. He has four assists in the last three games and six for the year. Dylan Clarke also had an assist and now has tallied a point in three straight games. Those are the two longest active scoring streaks. Ben Marshall’s three-game string of multi-point games was snapped.
- Special teams were not a huge part of the game – only three penalties were called. Both of Quad City’s were for delay of game (one for a player shooting the puck over the glass, another for closing one’s hand on the puck), and the Fuel had to kill a third-period penalty. Neither team scored with the man advantage.
- Saturday saw one unfamiliar sight – for the first time in team history, Matt White was not in the lineup. The second-year forward had played in 80 consecutive games prior to Saturday evening, a remarkable feat given the number of back-to-backs on the ECHL schedule.
- Lavoie (5 shots) and Bly (4 shots) generated a lot of offense for Indy, especially in the second period when the Fuel took control of the game, outshooting QC 12-4, with the Mallards getting just one shot over the last 10 minutes of the period.
- Shane Owen made his first start since last Saturday’s win over Fort Wayne and was solid. Quad City had a few flurries of good scoring chances in tight, especially at the start of the second and third periods, but he came up big. It was his second straight game allowing two goals and getting the win. “It wasn’t an easy game from a goaltending standpoint,” Hillman said. “We have a lot to work on. We can’t give up that much quality, but we are lucky to have two really solid goalies.”
- The Fuel are now 3-0 in the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, where they will play three of their next four games after spending a lot of time the first three weeks on the road. “You feel that little boost right now,” Hillman said. “I don’t think we worried about being on the road, but we have gotten a little bit of a jolt in each of our home games. It’s good to see the guys excited about playing in their home building. We didn’t get hurt by going on the road a lot early – we’re about .500 on the road (2-3-1) and we’ve played better than that at home. That’s exciting. We want to play good hockey for our crowd.”
Based on warmups
Dylan Clarke-Kyle Stroh-Peter Schneider
Cody Sharib-Alex Lavoie-Garett Bembridge
Daniel Ciampini-Josh Brittain-Rhett Bly
Kevin Quick-Anders Franzon
Dillon Fournier-Zach Miskovic
Nick Mattson-Ben Marshall
BU: Mac Carruth
Scratches: Patrick Koudys, Matt White (res), Walker Wintoneak (res), David Pszenyczny (IR)
Roster moves: Prior to the game, the Fuel activated Patrick Koudys and Reed Seckel from reserve, and placed Walker Wintoneak and Matt White on reserve.
Next up: The Fuel will host the Alaska Aces for two games Nov. 13-14. The Friday game will feature the Stanley Cup and exhibits from the Hockey Hall of Fame, as well as an appearance by Barry Melrose.