The Indy Fuel came out of the dressing room Friday with more jump, more physicality more offensive push than from the night before against Toledo, and were rewarded with an early lead.
Despite a strong game, Toledo was able to capitalize on a handful of turnovers and tally two power play goals to beat the Fuel 5-2 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Toledo’s win gave the Walleye a sweep of the two-game set at the Coliseum. After a rare Saturday off, the Fuel will return home Sunday to face South Carolina for a 3:05 p.m. matinee.
A.J. Jenks and Tyler Sikura each scored twice for the Walleye, who tallied only one five-on-five goal, but had three on special teams and added a late empty-netter.
“I thought it was one of our bet hockey games all year,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “We controlled the play most of the night, we limited a good offensive team to 24 shots. We made some big mistakes mixed in there. You get a shorthanded breakaway and they score, a turnover at the blueline for a breakaway and they score.”
A couple of key turnovers led to Toledo taking the lead after Indy had scored first.
Jenks scored on the power play with 5:56 left in the first, but a turnover at the blueline led to a stretch pass from Marek Tverdon to Beau Schmitz, who had a breakaway from the blueline in and buried the shot with 1:02 left in the first period to give Toledo a 2-1 lead after one.
Nine seconds into a Fuel power play in the opening seconds of the second, Sikura stole the puck at the Toledo blueline and scored on a breakaway to put the Walleye up 3-1.
Fuel captain Zach Miskovic responded less than a minute later, holding the puck into the low circle, and rifling his second shot on goal after the first was blocked to cut the deficit to 3-2 just 2:19 into the second period.
“For me, I was disappointed in myself that I bobbled that puck, so I knew I wanted to respond quickly,” Miskovic said. “I’m out there with some great players, (Alex Lavoie) and (Garett Bembridge) and (Josh Brittain) and (Matt White), and they worked hard to get that puck. I stuck with it. I had a shot blocked, it stayed in my lane and I just stuck with it.”
Indy continued to develop chances to get back in, earning a power play when Rhett Bly had a steal at the defensive blueline and was hooked by Toledo’s Josh Shalla to prevent a 2-on-1 from developing. On the ensuing power play, White had a solid chance in front – one of several he had, as he spent much of the evening camped out in front of Toledo goaltender Jake Paterson’s net.
In the third, the line of White, Stroh and Bembridge produced two outstanding chances four minutes in, one in which Bembridge whizzed a diagonal far-post pass that just eluded White’s stick on an open side, and Bembridge getting set up for a one-timer from the left circle that Paterson stopped later in the shift.
Toledo then took advantage of an early-period power play as Jenks buried a shot out of a scramble 5:28 into the third.
Toledo was 2-for-3 against one of the top penalty killing units in the league.
“We missed an assignment on the first one. The second one was just a scrum that got pushed out into the net, where we had 12 scrums and couldn’t get one to go,” Hillman said. “That’s hockey. Hockey is a game of opportunity and chances, it’s unlike any other sport where there’s so much unpredictable in our sport. The guys worked their tails off tonight and deserved better.”
Indy had a late power play, but was unable to generate a shot before Sikura scored a late empty-netter.
“The guys came out good out of the gates,” Miskovic said. “We were moving the puck, moving our feet, getting the puck deep, playing the right way. And then I had a bad turnover on the power play, we had a couple of bad turnovers, they capitalized. We started to chase after that, press a bit, and it just wasn’t going our way. It hasn’t been going our way. We’ve got to figure out how to right this ship quickly.”
The Fuel had a good start, outshooting Toledo 11-6 in the opening period, carrying the play and controlling possession for much of the first two frames – a significant reversal of Thursday’s game.
That start was rewarded with an early power play. On the shift after it expired, en Cody Sharib pulled the puck off the boards and rifled a shot from the point through traffic for his sixth goal of the year 8:42 into the period. Lavoie, Clarke, Brittain, Bembridge and White all had first-rate scoring chances as well.
The Fuel are now 9-9-2 on the year and are looking to stop a seven-game slide, but were able to gain a lot to build on from Friday’s performance.
“If you’re not on a skid, you leave tonight and you’re ready to get right back at it, you’re happy with the performance and saying you can’t win them all,” Hillman said. “It hurts a lot when you’re having trouble finding that next win. Play that way the next game and you’re going to get the next win.”
- A.J. Jenks (TOL) 2G, 4 shots
- Tyler Sikura (TOL) 2G, +3, 3 shots, GWG
- Shane Berschbach (TOL) 2A, 1 shot
- The Fuel controlled much of the play, but two things that have carried them so far this season – puck management and the penalty kill – ended up being the difference. Toledo was able to turn two turnovers into breakaway goals, and scored on two power plays. The Fuel were 1-4 on the PP and Hillman said the power play was generating chances, but he was very pleased with the 5-on-5 play. “Five-on-five, that’s as good as we’ve been all year, against a super-good team five-on-five.”
- When you’re searching for a win, leaders step up. Captain Zach Miskovic did that – after having a turnover at the blueline, he came back and scored a power play goal, giving him points in two straight games.
- Sharib wired in a goal from the point on a strong individual effort, with the Fuel cycling the puck after a power play generated momentum. He, Josh Brittain and Walker Wintoneak combined on the goal, but Sharib carried the puck off the boards, peeled in and let go a rocket. He now has six goals, tied with Alex Lavoie for second on the team behind Bembridge (8). “He’s definitely overachieving offensively, but he’s playing a whole game, playing like a power forward should,” Hillman said of Sharib. “He’s owning the pucks down the walls, getting pucks deep and getting on the forecheck. He’s been a real pleasant surprise throughout the first 20 games for sure.”
- Brittain had the second assist on Sharib’s goal, his first point since Nov. 14 against Alaska, before he missed six games with a callup to the AHL.
- Lots of balance to the offense – Bembridge had five shots, Dylan Clarke and Ben Marshall had four each.
- Goaltender Mac Carruth stopped 19 of 23 shots in the loss.
- Toledo made a handful of roster moves before the game, but most notably, goaltender Jeff Lerg – who was the backup last night – was loaned to AHL San Diego, necessitating Dustin Carlson dressing as the Walleye backup, and Paterson starting for the second straight night.
Based on warmups
Cody Sharib-Josh Brittain-Rhett Bly
Matt White-Kyle Stroh-Garett Bembridge
Dylan Clarke-Alex Lavoie-Reed Seckel
Nick Mattson-Zach Miskovic
Kevin Quick-Patrick Koudys
Sam Jardine-Ben Marshall
BU: Shane Owen
Scratches: Peter Schneider (res), Anders Franzon (res), Dillon Fournier (IR)
Next up: The Fuel return home Sunday afternoon to face South Carolina at 3:05 p.m., then are off until a Thursday night home game against Wheeling, starting a 3-games-in-3-nights stretch.