The Indy Fuel came into the weekend hoping to get four points from the Alaska Aces.
They did that, completing the sweep Saturday with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Aces by using the points.
Kyle Stroh and Cody Sharib scored in regulation, and Daniel Ciampini ended the game with a beautiful deke and score in the fourth round of the shootout to seal the victory. Mac Carruth made 29 saves in the Fuel net and was perfect in the shootout to get the win in goal.
“It’s definitely a big statement we try to make,” Stroh said of the weekend sweep at home. “We try to make it hard for other teams to play. Every point we can get at the start of the year is going to help us. It was a big weekend. We played hard. They weren’t the two prettiest games, but the were wins.”
The victory kept the Fuel perfect at home at 5-0-0. They are 7-3-1 overall. Indy has allowed two goals in each home game, and has posted two 3-2 shootout wins.
After an up-and-down game on Friday, which resulted in a 3-2 regulation win for the Fuel, Indy came into the game focusing on playing a more structured game and building off the cycle.
“We played much, much better tonight than we did last night,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “We talked about a lot about offensive structure, but also a lot of what we thought their strengths offensively are and how we can shut them down much quicker tonight than last night. I thought we played much better below the dots.”
Both Fuel goals came off the cycle, as the Fuel got possession off the forecheck, worked the puck out to the points, and found the net.
“We had quite a bit of turnovers last night. It’s something we tried to limit tonight – and that’s just getting pucks down low, keep it clean at the bluelines, getting the puck low on the cycle, getting it to the D, getting traffic to the net,” Stroh said. “That’s just a simple hockey game. It worked out for us tonight.”
The Fuel found themselves in an early hole – Alaska’s Tyler Maxwell scored on a bad-angle shot 79 seconds into the game. Indy began to turn the tide and controlled the rest of the period, tying the game up at 8:09 when Stroh jammed home his own rebound.
Peter Schneider won the puck down low and got it to Nick Mattson at the point. His shot was wide, but Stroh grabbed the puck off the boards at the side of the net and fired it off the pads of Alaska netminder Troy Redmann. Stroh grabbed the rebound and beat Redmann to the open side.
“Matty shot it and it went wide. I took it to the net, got one shot off and got to my rebound,” Stroh said. “I was just trying to get it on net somehow and it went in.
“As (teammate Dylan Clarke) says, it’s an easy goal in a hard area. If you get to those hard areas and get a whack at it, for the most part, it’ll go in.”
Clarke had a couple of chances in tight, and Schneider was robbed by Redmann in front, keeping the score 1-1 going int the second.
Indy had an early power play in the second, but Alaska had a great chance, when Carruth stuffed Stephen Perfetto on a shorthanded break, which coach Scott Hillman said was the biggest play of the game besides the Fuel’s two goals.
(photo by Whiteshark Photography)
The Aces killed off the PP, but it generated momentum and the Fuel set up shop in the Alaska zone. Ben Marshall ripped a shot from the center point that Sharib deflected into the net 6:43 into the second to give Indy a 2-1 edge.
“We got a nice dump-in from (Seckel). (Brittain) came and supported me down low,” Sharib said. “We got it up high, and moved the puck high-low a couple of times. I was just standing out front and got the tip.”
It was an example of what the Fuel were looking to accomplish with their attack – getting traffic in front of the net.
“We preach that,” Hillman said. “We had some opportunities last game, but their goalie was able to see the puck coming through. Cody did exactly what we asked – get in front of the goalie’s eyes and then he made a tremendous weak-side tip, which is a very difficult thing to do.”
The Fuel weren’t able to score on their three power plays, but they generated offense and momentum. The first PP led to a goal in the “dangerous minute,” after a power play expires, and the second saw some solid chances.
Indy also had to kill three penalties, two coming back-to-back in the third. On Alaska’s first PP in the second, captain Zach Miskovic wiped out Perfetto on a drive to the net to thwart the Aces’ first chance. The latter two came midway through the third. Alaska had tied the game at 2-2 on an unassisted goal from in front by Maxwell 64 seconds into the third, and got a pair of power plays on slashing penalties.
The overlap gave the Aces 12 seconds of 5-on-3, which began by winning the draw. Rhett Bly made a diving block and then cleared the puck to kill the 5-on-3, and the Fuel then killed the remainder of the man advantage. As soon as Clarke stepped out of the box, he and Josh Brittain followed with a 2-on-1 that didn’t materialize into a goal, but provided momentum.
“I thought we really gained a lot of energy from that and carried the play for a bit,” Hillman said. “They got a couple of shots through and Mac was really solid to battle through those sightlines and finding the puck.”
Carruth made a pair of huge back-to-back pad saves on a counterattack, and then was tested in the final three minutes when a turnover at the offensive line led to a 2-on-1 for the Aaces, but Carruth made a blocker save on Joe Perry’s go-ahead bid.
Carruth made nine saves in the third period and 27 for the game.
In the 3-on-3 OT, both teams had four shots. Indy’s gets chance came from Marshall, who had a clean look and ripped it just wide. Carruth stuffed Felix-Antoine Poulin on an early 2-on-1 to thwart Alaska’s best opportunity. The first three shooters for each team were stopped, but Ciampini finished the game with a tremendous deke that opened up the side of the net for him to slip the puck into and seal the two points.
“It was huge,” Sharib said of the win. “We’re right in the middle of the standings. It’s the beginning of the season and we’re trying to work on things, but four points are huge, especially now.”
- Daniel Ciampini (Fuel) SO winner
- Tyler Maxwell (Aces) 2G
- Cody Sharib (Fuel) G
- You can’t argue with the results at home this year – the Fuel are 5-0-0, but a big reason why is they’ve been very consistent on the back end. They’ve allowed just two goals in all five home games, and have allowed two or fewer goals in seven of the 11 games this season. They’re 7-0-0 in games where they allow two or less.
- Special teams have been solid, but the Fuel PK has been especially so of late. Indy was a perfect 3-for-3 – including :12 of 5-on-3 – Saturday. The Fuel have now killed off 13 straight power plays dating back to Oct. 24.
- The ECHL is always going to be a haven for talented young players breaking into pro hockey, and the Fuel have a number of rookies who are looking to make their mark. Cody Sharib, Nick Mattson, Ben Marshall and Peter Schneider – all classified as rookies and all players who were finishing their final college seasons last spring – tallied points and Daniel Ciampini, another rookie, had the shootout winner. Hillman is pleased with the development of the rookies, and as a result, the team’s depth. “Some of them that aren’t in the lineup, every time they step back in or you give them a slightly bigger role, they respond to that,” Hillman said. “It truly is an 18-player game for us. Everyone else has to contribute and share the ice time. Those young guys are doing a good job.”
- Marshall continued his strong start with an assist. He now has a point in five of the last six games, with a pair of two-point games in that stretch. He has seven assists on the year, six coming in that six-game stretch.
- Josh Brittain had three goals on the year, but not yet an assist until tonight, as his play along the wall helped set up the second goal and garnered him the second assist.
- Carruth was solid in making his fifth start of the season. In his three wins, he has allowed 1, 0 and now 2 goals. He saw the puck well through a lot of traffic.
- Kevin Quick (4 games), Dylan Clarke (4 games) and Daniel Ciampini (3 games) all had their point scoring strings snapped, but all had solid chances. Quick had a pair of great looks in OT that Redmann saved. He and Ciampini led the Fuel with four shots each.
- As one might expect with two teams playing the second half of a back-to-back, the game did see some feistiness. Josh Brittain and Garet Hunt had a long battle that saw each earn 17 minutes – a minor penalty, a major and a misconduct. Patrick Koudys later fought Hunt, who earned an instigating minor, a fighting major and a game misconduct for his efforts. Hunt finished the night with 34 PIM, more than doubling his total for the year (23). Brittain entered the night with 17 PIM, and also doubled his season total with the scrap. The 70 PIM between the teams (40 for Alaska, 30 for the Fuel) were a season-high in a Fuel game this season.
- The Fuel have played three 3-on-3 overtimes this season, and two – both of the home OT games – have gone the distance to a shootout. The open ice creates lots of scoring chances, 2-on-1s and opportunities for players trailing the play to load up into a shot. “It’s fun,” Stroh said. “It opens up a lot of ice, makes a lot of room for guys to make plays. It’s kind of nerve-wracking for the fans and coaches, but it’s fun for us.”
- Indy is now 2-0 in shootouts this season. Both Shane Owen & Mac Carruth have blanked opponents in the shootout.
- The weekend sweep moved the Fuel to within a point of the Midwest Division lead. Indy trails leader Cincinnati – the next foe on the schedule – by a single point, as both teams have seven wins, but Cincinnati has one more OTL than the Fuel.
- Dylan Clarke played his 250th career professional game Friday night. Clarke has played for the Tulsa Oilers in the CHL, and for the South Carolina Stingrays, Evansville IceMen, Rapid City Rush and now the Fuel in the ECHL in a career that began in 2011.
A couple of changes from last night, with Reed Seckel and Patrick Koudys coming into the lineup.
Dylan Clarke-Kyle Stroh-Peter Schneider
Daniel Ciampini-Alex Lavoie-Garett Bembridge
Reed Seckel-Josh Brittain-Rhett Bly
Kevin Quick-Ben Marshall
Nick Mattson-Anders Franzon
Patrick Koudys-Zach Miskovic
BU: Shane Owen
Scratches: Matt White, Dillon Fournier (res), Walker Wintoneak (res)
Next up: The Fuel head down I-74 for the first meeting this season with Cincinnati Friday in the Queen City’s U.S. Bank Arena. They return home Saturday to begin a home-and-home series with Quad City at 7:35 p.m. at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, before continuing the following afternoon in Moline.