A goal in the final minutes of a period can be a big swing in a game.
So when the Alaska Aces scored twice in the final 1:45 of the first to seize the lead from the Indy Fuel, it set the tone for the second period.
But the Fuel returned the favor, as Daniel Ciampini and Garett Bembridge scored goals in the final 39 seconds of the second period, giving the Fuel a 3-2 victory over the Aces Friday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
“I think we’re playing well at home,” Ciampini said. “That’s what we want to do – we want to make it tough for teams to come in here and play. We want to use the crowd to our advantage – it’s been awesome. Our attendance has been great and our crowds have been really into it. It’s really helpful. We’re definitely trying to make sure it’s tough to play here.”
After taking the 3-2 lead, the Fuel held on with Shane Owen making 12 third-period saves to preserve the lead. Indy is now 4-0-1 on the season at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, and 6-3-1 overall.
Bembridge scored twice and Ciampini also had an assist for a two-point night to lead the Fuel to the victory.
The big play came with the Fuel trailing 2-1 with an offensive zone faceoff in the final minute of the second. Alex Lavoie won a draw to Ciampini on his left wing. He fired the puck into the netting high on goaltender Steve Summerhays’ stick side to tie the game with :39 left in the period.
“We’re trying to make sure we were winning our battles on face-offs,” Ciampini said. “That was a key thing there – me and Lavvy got into a little scrum. We were able to come out with the puck. He madea great pass to me. I looked up and noticed I had a lot of space. I’ve had a monkey on my back. I had a lane to shoot, I just ripped it on net over the blocker.”
Just 29 seconds later, Indy set up in the zone and Kevin Quick launched a shot from the point. Ciampini and Bembridge were both in the line, and Bembridge tipped it past Summerhays and into the net to give Indy a 3-2 lead. It turned out to be the game-winner.
“Momentum was on our side. We wanted to continue that,” Ciampini said. “We were lucky to get a goal. We got a shot through with the forwards going to the net.”
Getting to the net was a theme of the evening, and it paid off with the winner.
“That’s a big part of our game,” Bembridge said. “We have to go to the net hard. We saw that tonight. We had a lot of guys going into the dirty areas, a lot of second and third chances. Their goalie played really well tonight. We need to stick with that tomorrow, that constant net drive and making it hard for the goalie to see the puck.”
Prior to the two-goal outburst, the Fuel had been generating chances. Ciampini had three solid chances on consecutive shifts, Bembridge hit a goalpost cutting in alone on the circle. Anders Franzon and Peter Schneider had good looks as the Fuel generated the majority of the solid chances in the period.
The late-period flurry came after the Fuel allowed two goals late in the first after scoring early and controlling much of the play in the opening period. With 1:45 left, a Fuel turnover at the blueline led to Alaska’s Gleason Fournier collecting the puck and finding Ben Lake open in front for a goal. And 1:06 later, out of a scramble in front, a puck off Garet Hunt’s stick oddly bounced past Owen’s pad and across the line to give Alsaka a 2-1 lead.
After dominating the opening period, the Fuel had to regroup.
“After the first, we just took a deep breath,” Bembridge said. “They’ve got two, we’ve got 40 minutes to go, it’s a long game. We turned around and did the same thing to them. We sat back, we relaxed, we know how to play at home, we know how to play in these situations. (Coach Scott Hillman) did a great job of keeping us all calm. Shane helped us throughout that game. He made some big saves when we needed it.”
In the third, Owen came up very big, stopping 13 shots as the Aces outshot the Fuel 13-4. He made a pad save on Tim Coffman early, then stuffed Justin Breton in tight as the Aces got off six shots in the opening five minutes. With two minutes left, Alaska surged again. Owen stopped an initial shot, and the rebound bounced wide into the crease, where Nick Mattson cleared it out of harm’s way.
“They’ve got a heck of a team over there. They’re fast, they transition well,” Bembridge said. “They play hard all the way to the bitter end. For us to stick with that in the third period, that was big for us.”
A goaltender interference penalty on the Aces’ Tomasso Traversa with 1:25 left, as he tripped Owen up behind the net as the Fuel goaltender was trying to play the puck, slowed the Aces’ final push.
“He’s been really solid,” Hillman said of Owen. “That was definitely key throughout the second and third period. He played a great first period, a couple of odd bounces and turnovers. He was, in my opinion, the first star of this hockey game.”
The Fuel took an early lead when Ciampini won the puck below the goal line and fed Bembridge out front, who rammed the puck past Summerhays.
“It was right place, right time,” Bembridge said. “It was a heck of a play by Ciampini. He battled hard to get that puck back. He threw it out front and I saw Lavoie there, but you see the puck and you’re in front of the net, you just go for it. We had a good net drive, Lavvy as well, and I just put it on net.”
The Fuel generated a couple of excellent chances early to extend the lead – Summerhays batted a puck out of the air with his goal stick moments later, and Rhett Bly set up Matt White for a short-side shot that went just wide.
The same two teams play again at 7:35 p.m. Saturday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum for Guns ‘N Hoses Night honoring police and firefighters. While the Fuel are pleased with the two points, they also see room for improvement on the second half of the back-to-back.
“We’ve got a lot of areas we need to think about before tomorrow. They’re a good hockey club,” Hillman said, saying Friday’s game featured flashes of the team’s best play but also some rough areas. “We’ve got to make a few adjustments to make things a little easier on ourselves.”
- Garett Bembridge (Fuel) 2G, GWG, +3
- Daniel Ciampini (Fuel) G, A, +2
- Alex Lavoie (Fuel) A, +3
- One line generated all three goals, and it came as a mid-game adjustment. Ciampini moved to the left wing with Lavoie and Bembridge, and it paid off. Lavoie and Bembridge were +3, Ciampini +2, and they generated three goals on five shots between them. “It’s good to see that whole line get going,” Hillman said. “That was a line we put together mid-game, moving Danny to that line with those two guys and he responded big-time.”
- Ciampini had a solid game. He was credited with two shots on goal, but he generated several other chances that went just wide, including hitting a crossbar, but he broke the ice with his goal off a faceoff late in the second. It marked his second goal of the year, but his third straight game with a point – and also his third straight with an assist. “It’s been like that for a couple of games now. I hit the crossbar there and it seemed like it was going to be another one of those nights,” Ciampini said. “I was able to stick with it. I’ve been doing some extra stuff after practice. That’s been really helpful. Tonight was good to get the monkey off my back. Hopefully, I can keep rolling. Obviously, working on being defensively responsible as well. That’s something I pride myself on. I’m looking to continue and make my line any better.”
- This will be the third time this season the Fuel will play a team in consecutive games. They’ll do it again next weekend with a home-and-home with Quad City. “It’s similar to college. You play teams back-to-back. They’re going to make changes, we’re going to make changes,” Ciampini said. “It’s part of the game. It’s huge to get the win and have the momentum going into it. They’re going to come out strong, so we have to match it if not come out better.”
- Anders Franzon was very active in the offensive zone. He had four shots – tying Kyle Stroh for the team lead – and a couple of quality ones. His best came early in these second, when he got loose in the high slot and let rip a shot that looked destined to go inside the post, but Summerhays was able to get a piece of the blocker on it and deflect it wide.
- Ben Marshall has been active on the blueline generating offense, and he had the second assist on Bembridge’s first goal. He was +2 on the evening. The third goal also was set up by the defense, with Quick and captain Zach Miskovic getting the assists. Marshall now has points in four of his last five games. Quick has a four-game assist streak.
- Bembridge had his first two-goal game of the season, but it marked his eighth game with a point this year. He moved into the team lead in goals with six.
- The Stanley Cup spent the day with the Fuel – from its arrival in Indy on Thursday night (and a quick photo op on the Yard of Bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) through a tour of the city on Friday. It made a stop by the dressing room en route to being put on display for fans. Barry Melrose was also in attendance – often alongside former Racer and his old WHA adversary Al Karlander. Zach Miskovic’s game jersey was donated to the Hockey Hall of Fame. “Barry has been a real gentleman, he introduced himself to all the guys. It was an honor to have representatives from the Hall of Fame, the Stanley Cup, all the great trophies, and of course Barry to come along. Guys get excited about stuff like this, they get really excited to play in front of a crowd like this. They get excited about a full house like this. It’s a great building to play in. We really appreciate the support of Indianapolis.”
Based on warmups, although there was some movement during the game, most notably with Ciampini and White swapping lines.
Dylan Clarke-Kyle Stroh-Peter Schneider
Matt White-Alex Lavoie-Garett Bembridge
Daniel Ciampini-Josh Brittain-Rhett Bly
Kevin Quick-Ben Marshall
Dillon Fournier-Zach Miskovic
Nick Mattson-Anders Franzon
BU: Mac Carruth
Next up: A 7:35 p.m. Saturday rematch against Alaska at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.