After a whirlwind eight-day, five-game road swing, the Indy Fuel found themselves back in friendly confines Thursday night looking to reverse their fortunes from the road against the ECHL’s biggest road warriors so far – the Toledo Walleye.
The Fuel found themselves in a tie game late, but Toledo’s Austin Wuthrich wired a short-side shot from the boards off the rush with 2:22 left to give the Walleye the lead, and they added two empty-netters to beat the Fuel 4-2 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
The loss was Indy’s first in seven games at home, and extended the team’s winless streak to six games.
The two teams play again Friday at 7:35 p.m. at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Toledo had long stretches where it controlled possession, but the third period saw the two teams trading chances, especially late, before a spate of scoring in the final three minutes.
“It’s getting down to the Xs and Os don’t matter now,” said Fuel forward Garett Bembridge, who had a goal and an assist Thursday. “We’ve just got to outwork them the entire game. We had a lot of spurts where we played really well, but we had some mental mistakes and it cost us again. The good thing is, it’s still early in the season. We’ve got to come back tomorrow and outwork them every single shift and all of that is going to fall into place.”
Wuthrich’s go-ahead goal came after the Fuel had begun to have some pressure and won an offensive zone draw. Toledo won the draw and broke out quickly, getting the puck to Wuthrich on the right boards, who was able to perfectly place the puck in the top corner of the net with 2:22 left.
Sixteen seconds later, the Fuel found themselves on a power play when Toledo’s Beau Schmitz flipped the puck over the glass from the defensive zone. With goaltender Shane Owen out of the net to create a 6-on-4, Toledo won the draw and Alden Hirschfeld was able to roll the puck into the empty net to make it 3-1.
Indy did capitalize on the power play, with Zach Miskovic getting the puck from the point to Bembridge down low, who tapped the puck across the top of the crease to Bly for the goal to cut it to 3-2 with 1:18 left. Indy tried to get one more push 6-on-5, but Wuthrich made a diving play to sweep the puck into the empty net late to set the final margin at 4-2.
“We’ve got the extra attacker, you just get everything on net. I missed the net originally by about 10 feet and it went around and Miskovic made a good play,” Bembridge said of Bly’s goal. “I knew Bly was going to be in the front of the net – he works hard, he’s always there – I put it in an area and he was able to tap it in.
“We tried to get back at it again, but we got outworked for the puck there. It’s a team loss – there’s no individual pointing fingers in this dressing room right now. We’ve got to have a good sleep tonight and get back to work tomorrow morning. ”
Toledo controlled possession in the first two periods, but the teams came out of the first 40 minutes tied 1-1 – where the score stayed until the final 2:22.
“A lot of pucks were bouncing. We just weren’t crisp. We couldn’t get a handle on the puck couldn’t get two or three passes strung together early on. We settled down and had a tremendous third period,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said.
Toledo had six of the first seven shots, but the Fuel took the lead midway through the first when Bembridge went into the corner on the forecheck, and forced the play up the middle, where Alex Lavoie swooped in and forced a turnover. Lavoie then tapped to Bembridge at the weak-side post for the goal.
“Our strength is our speed and our forecheck,” Bembridge said. “We got in there and turned the puck over. Lavoie made a heck of a play, a good read. He put it in front of the net. I wanted to make sure it went into the net.”
Hillman hoped that goal would get the team going.
“Great read,” the Fuel coach said. “A little bit of a net-front turnover and together they were able to put that behind them. I thought we were going to loosen up from there.”
Indy had three power plays in the game, capitalizing on the last one. In the first period, an offensive-zone penalty to Max Gaede led to both Josh Brittain and Matt White having tips in front that just missed. In the second, shortly after Bly and Ben Marshall hustled back to break up a developing shorthanded 2-on-1, Toledo’s Jake Paterson robbed Marshall on a cross-ice one-timer from the right circle.
The Fuel, who are one of the ECHL’s least-penalized teams, did not commit a penalty in the game.
“Our power play looked good each time,” Hillman said. “We need a little higher shot frequency, but chances were good. We had a couple off the back kickplate that could’ve went in the open net, but they just bounced over sticks. There were opportunities, but you’ve got to capitalize.”
Toledo tied the game at 1-1 6:24 into the second period when the puck bounced behind Owen in a scramble in front of the net. A Fuel defender swept it out of the crease, but Josh Shalla was able to corral it and tie the game.
Paterson stopped 17 Fuel shots. Owen made 24 saves on 26 shots, and was spectacular at times, stopping a lot of early shots through screens. His biggest save came when Toledo’s Joel Chouinard got alone in front of the net, and Owen smothered it with the pad. He also robbed Josh Nightingale three minutes earlier.
“He played awesome tonight,” Bembridge said of Owen. “He made a lot of big saves. Three, four minutes left dead in the slot, he made a big save. All year, our goalies have been giving us a chance to win. It’s time for us to start paying them back with some wins.”
- Austin Wuthrich (TOL) 2G, A, go-ahead goal
- Shane Owen (Fuel) 24 saves, 2GA
- Garett Bembridge (Fuel) G, A
- Bembridge said after the game the best thing about this game is that there’s another one against the same team tomorrow. “We’ve just got to be ready to execute,” coach Scott Hillman said of the adjustments for the next game.
- The Fuel really had a solid third period, generating shots and chances. Wuthrich’s goal was a laser into the top corner – a difficult-to-stop shot on the transition after a defensive-zone faceoff win for Toledo – but shortly before, Cody Sharib, Matt White and Reed Seckel had some extended zone time, with Patrick Koudys and Sam Jardine at the points, a lineup of four rookies. A couple of shifts before that, Lavoie had an end-to-end rush that led to a solid chance shortly after Owen made a great save.
- Owen was spectacular a couple of times, but solid throughout the game. Toledo had a lot of early shots through traffic and screens, and he was able to get in front of all of them. Owen allowed two goals or less for the seventh time in 11 starts. Indy is 5-2-0 when he does.
- Indy had nine shots in the opening two periods, but doubled that in the third. “We finally started doing what we intended to do in the first period,” Hillman said.
- The Fuel are looking to snap an 0-5-1 string that has included a lot of close, one-goal games. Hillman said an early break or an early play that works out is important – “you’ve got to put your nose to the grind.” Added Bembridge, the veteran alternate captain, “we’ve had a tough stretch. We’ve got to throw that out the window. We’ve got to come back on our toes. It comes down to hard work for us, from the drop of the puck tomorrow.”
- With an assist on the first goal, Lavoie tallied a point for the sixth time in seven games. He leads the Fuel with 16 points. He and Josh Brittain led the team with three shots each.
- Bembridge snapped a two-game personal scoreless streak with his two-point night. Tonight marked his second two-point game of the year – his other came with two goals Nov. 13 against Alaska. Zach Miskovic had an assist on the second goal, his first point in six games. Rhett Bly’s goal gives him points in back-to-back games.
- Tonight marked the Fuel’s first home regulation loss since a 3-2 loss to Reading on March 27. Indy had won nine straight and had garnered a point in 10 straight home games since, dating back to the 2014-15 season. The Fuel were 6-0-0 at home prior to tonight.
- Toledo is the league’s road warrior so far. Like Indy, this was Toledo’s 19th game. Fifteen have been on the road.
Alex Lavoie-Josh Brittain-Garett Bembridge
Dylan Clarke-Kyle Stroh-Rhett Bly
Cody Sharib-Matt White-Reed Seckel/Walker Wintoneak
Kevin Quick-Ben Marshall
Nick Mattson-Zach Miskovic
Patrick Koudys-Sam Jardine
BU: Mac Carruth
Scratches: Peter Schneider (res), Anders Franzon (res), Dillon Fournier (IR)
Next up: The two teams play a rematch at 7:35 p.m. Friday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. After a rare Saturday off, the Fuel return home Sunday to face South Carolina.