The little things often produce big results.
Coaches preach it, players hear it. They may not show up in the scoresheet, but they make a big impression.
A clean faceoff win. A player practically doing the splits to stay onside. Hustling back to prevent an odd-man rush. All of those things led directly to Indy Fuel goals Saturday night as they beat the Quad City Mallards 3-2 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
The victory was the fifth straight overall win for the Fuel, and the sixth win in six home games. The two teams meet again at 5 p.m. Sunday at Quad City.
Peter Schneider had a goal and an assist, Kyle Stroh tallied the go-ahead goal in the second period and captain Zach Miskovic buried his first goal of the year to lead the Fuel. Mac Carruth was stellar in net, stopping 30 of 32 shots.
“The two teams we’ve played the last two nights are two of the hardest-working teams, so if you’re not doing the little things right, they’re going to come back and bite you,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “We got lucky a few times, but tonight was a step forward from last night, and we need to make one more step if we want to get more points this weekend.”
The victory gave the Fuel (9-3-1) a two-point lead over Quad City for second place in the ECHL’s Midwest Division. Cincinnati – who the Fuel beat 2-1 Friday night on the road – remained a point ahead of Indy.
“Every win is huge – like we found out last year, when we missed the playoffs by a point,” Carruth said. “But it’s only November. We’ve got to keep plugging away.”
Those little things were big for Indy. After scoring twice directly off faceoffs in Cincinnati on Friday, the Fuel drew first blood again off a faceoff win, as Alex Lavoie won a draw, Garett Bembridge came into the circle to corral the loose puck and scoop it to Miskovic, who blasted a shot through traffic and past goaltender Brody Hoffman for the game’s first goal and the captain’s first tally as a member of the Fuel.
Later in the period, as the Fuel were working through the neutral zone with the game tied 1-1, Dylan Clarke was tripped up at the line with the puck still in the neutral zone, but practically did the splits to keep his toe on the blueline and stay onside as Schneider carried the puck in.
A few seconds later, Schneider won a puck battle and tipped it to Stroh, who skated to the low slot and found an opening past Hoffman to make it 2-1 with 1:46 left in the second.
“I got the puck in front of the blueline,” Schneider said. “Clarke tried to slash through and I saw him too late. He made a great play not going offside, I tried to get the puck on net one-on-three. Stroh came in took the puck and he did what Strohzy does – he took on two guys and got the puck through and scored a goal. That was awesome.”
Schneider made it 3-1 with 8:19 left in the game, again as part of a “little thing” play. Quad City was turning a turnover into a 3-on-2, but Stroh hustled back into the play to negate the odd-man rush. The Mallards did set up in the zone, but Clarke forced a turnover and chipped the puck into the offensive zone.
There, Schneider won a race to the puck – largely to prevent Quad City from getting a quick transition with the Fuel changing – curled off the boards to the left circle and ripped a perfectly-placed shot over Hoffman’s glove and just inside the top corner.
“Clarky made a great play in the zone denying a pass to their D and chipped it off the wall,” Schneider said. “We had a long shift and I was a little bit tired, but I just tried to get to the puck before their D so they couldn’t fire it up on us. I turned around, just tried to get the puck on net and it went in.”
Quad City’s Olivier Archambault scored a late extra-attacker goal with five seconds left to make that the game-winner, but the Fuel had sealed a sixth consecutive home victory this season.
Carruth was solid, especially early when the Mallards outshot the Fuel 12-6 in a scoreless opening period. Indy killed off two power plays in the period. He finished the night with 30 saves on 32 shots. Several of the Fuel goaltender’s saves came in traffic, but the defenders were there to clear rebounds.
“They got a lot of shots through from the point,” Carruth said. “Their defense did a good job getting pucks through, and their forwards did a good job getting sticks on it. We weathered the storm early like we knew they were going to do.”
Indy took early command in the second period – Miskovic’s goal at 2:40 of the period was a key moment. Cody Sharib nearly had another goal two minutes later when his tip in front eluded Hoffman and quickly ricocheted out of the goalmouth. The red light briefly went on, but the puck was ruled to not have crossed the line.
Quad City drew even with 8:06 left in the second when Darren McMillan’s shot from the point had eyes to get through traffic and in, but the Fuel responded later in the period, with another chance from Sharib on an odd-man rush, and later the go-ahead goal by Stroh. The Mallards’ goal also provides a teaching point for the young Fuel defense.
“We made some mistakes late in shifts, which is one of our key learning points,” Hillman said. “You’ve got to get pucks deep when you’re getting tired. The one goal they got was off an extended cycle when we had a chance to get the puck out, we missed that opportunity and we ended up with guys on the ice for nearly two minutes.”
The tone for the game was set early with a lot of physicality and play in the cycle, which Hillman said was “one of the most physical games thus far.” While there were stretches of end-to-end play, the amount of board play and play in the cycle made defensive positioning critical.
“In general, they are a more physical team, a grinding type of team that tries to chip pucks low,” Schneider said. “We tried to respond to that. We’ll have to do a good job of that tomorrow as well.”
“That’s a real hard-working team and they gave us everything we could handle,” Hillman added. “It’s a real gutsy win, and it gets us going on a pretty good weekend so far.”
- Peter Schneider (Fuel) GWG, A, +1
- Mac Carruth (Fuel) 30 saves
- Kyle Stroh (Fuel) G, 4 shots
- It seems like a broken record – the Fuel’s goaltending was again top-notch, as Carruth made 30 saves. In the Fuel’s five-game winning streak, they have allowed two or fewer goals in each game. Carruth is now 4-1-1, and has surrendered 5 goals total in the four wins. “He’s been playing great games for us,” Schneider said. “He’s making huge saves – both of our goalies have been awesome for us this year. It’s time for us to pay them back and play better defensively down the stretch.”
- Not only are the Fuel 6-0 at home, they’ve been extremely consistent in their own building on the defensive side. They’ve allowed exactly two goals in every home game thus far. Indy is 9-1-0 when a goaltender surrenders two or more goals, 0-2-1 when allowing more than two.
- The third period was another solid one for Indy as it came in with a one-goal lead and extended it – Quad City’s final goal came with five seconds remaining and after the outcome had been essentially decided. ” I think we’ve been doing a good job in tight games of finishing out the games. That’s going to be huge down the stretch at the end of the season,” Schneider said.
- Indy killed off two first-period Quad City power plays, seeing the Mallards seven of their 12 first-period shots with the PP. The Fuel have now killed off 16 consecutive penalties dating to Oct. 24.
- With a goal and an assist, Schneider had his first multi-point game of the year. He has now tallied a point in four of his last six games.
- D Ben Marshall had his three-game scoring streak snapped, but the rookie nearly had one – after Garett Bembridge put the puck on net, he pounced on the rebound, but the net had been knocked off its moorings before the play could happen.
- The Fuel are used to back-to-backs against the same team, as they’ve done it often this year. A five-game, eight-day roadtrip begins Sunday with a trip to Quad City. After stops in Wichita and Missouri – the latter for two games – the trip will conclude in Quad City next Sunday. After dropping their home opener, the Mallards have gone 6-0-1 at home “They’re on an incredible streak at home,” Hillman said. “We’ll have our hands full, no question.”
- Bembridge (5 shots) and Stroh (4 shots) led the Fuel offensive attack. Indy was outshot 32-22, and the Fuel had 10 of their 22 shots in the third period playing with a lead.
Dylan Clarke-Kyle Stroh-Peter Schneider
Cody Sharib-Alex Lavoie-Garett Bembridge
Rhett Bly-Matt White-Walker Wintoneak
Kevin Quick-Anders Franzon
Nick Mattson-Zach Miskovic
Sam Jardine-Ben Marshall
BU: Shane Owen
Scratches: Patrick Koudys, Dillon Fournier (res)
Next up: The Fuel kick off a five-game road trip Sunday at Quad City, with a 5 p.m. puck drop.