It didn’t take long for the Indy Fuel to send thousands of stuffed animals raining to the ice at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum Saturday night.
Alex Lavoie scored 5:20 in to activate the Fuel’s first-ever Teddy Bear toss, but Fort Wayne scored the next three goals and beat the Fuel 3-2 Saturday night to split their weekend home-and-home. The visiting Komets carried the play for the first 20 minutes, but Indy responded with two of its best periods of the season. Fort Wayne goaltender Spencer Martin was able to stop 25 of the shots he faced in those final 40 minutes to steal the game.
“You couldn’t ask for two worse bounces than those last two goals,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “On the last two, follow the bouncing puck. The guys were awesome for 40 minutes. I think they were a little sluggish the first period, but Shane held us in, gave us a chance to win and we were there. We poured it on for 40 minutes.”
The Fuel were outshot 19-5 in the opening period as Fort Wayne controlled possession and outscored Indy 2-1. The Fuel came back in the second and had three first-rate scoring chances in the first three minutes, and continued that for the remainder of the game – outshooting the Komets 26-12 over the final two periods, including 12-4 in the third – but a deflection by Dylan Clarke in the final five minutes was their only tally.
“Sometimes, the bounces just don’t go our way,” Clarke said. “We’re struggling to find the net right now. It’s a half-inch this way, a half-inch that way and the game could be a completely different story. Our goalies have been playing well, but it seems we’ve been running into a lot of hot goalies right now.”
One night before, Clarke’s overtime goal snapped a nine-game winless streak, and the Fuel built on that with an energetic game, despite playing their third contest in three nights. They’d played well in defeat the two games prior, finally were rewarded with a win on Friday. Saturday didn’t bring a similar reward, but a strong effort.
“There was a lot of adversity last night,” Hillman said, noting that a potential game-winner had been waived off and some other difficult breaks. “The guys, to get that win on the road in a tough building, we felt real good coming home. We thought we’d have a big, big night. Unfortunately, we had a big 40 minutes. We had chances to tie it up, chances to win it.”
Trailing 2-1 after a period in which they’d been outshot 19-7, the Fuel came out flying in the second. In the first three minutes alone, Lavoie set up Josh Brittain in front, but Martin was able to get a pad as Brittain was trying to tuck the puck inside the post; Cody Sharib’s rip to the top corner was gloved by Martin; Ben Marshall’s shot from the point handcuffed Martin and left a rebound that was cleared; and Sam Jardine was stopped from the right circle on a rush with Martin also barely getting a pad on Garett Bembridge’s rebound try.
The remainder of the period was more of the same, including four Fuel power plays – three of which were abbreviated man advantages due to Indy penalties on either the front or back end. On an extended 4-on-4 midway through the period, Kyle Stroh had a solid one-timer look from the left circle, and Lavoie was robbed on the backhand on a 2-on-1 feed from Rhett Bly. Bembridge had two solid opportunities on two different power plays using his quick release to get shots off, but the score stayed 2-1.
In the third, Indy continued to skate – making plays out of the defensive zone, flying through the neutral zone with speed and getting chances on goal. The best opportunities came in the opening 90 seconds off Lavoie’s stick. Fort Wayne’s first entry led to its first shot nearly nine minutes into the period. However, after Owen snagged the puck, the Komets won the offensive-zone draw and Brett Perlini was able to score on the ensuing play to give his team a 3-1 lead with 11:04 left.
Indy kept pouring it on – the best opportunity coming off Bembridge’s stick all alone in front, but Martin deflected it over the net.
With 4:15 left, Lavoie skated into the zone and fed Kevin Quick at the right point, who fired a shot through traffic into the net – Clarke was given credit for the goal with a deflection in front – to cut the Fort Wayne lead to 3-2.
“(Quick) just threw it on net. When we’ve got bodies in front of the net, pucks go in,” Clarke said. “That’s what we’ve got to do right now.”
The play was set up with speed through the neutral zone, a good entry, a feed to the point and lots of traffic in front of Martin, something that will lead to goals.
“We had that 25 times over the course of the game and one went in, but you’ve got to keep at it,” Hillman said. “We scored four last night, three counted, we scored a couple more tonight. Offensively, we’re getting over the hump.”
Clarke and Bembridge had a rush in the final minute with goaltender Shane Owen pulled to generate one more chance, but the Komets were able to hold on.
Indy weathered the storm early, as goaltender Shane Owen made big saves on Alex Belize and Shawn Szydlowski in the first four minutes, and drew first blood with a counterattack. After a long cycle by the Komets, Reed Seckel won a loose puck and fed Clarke on the tape with a stretch pass to the neutral zone for a 2-on-1. Clarke fed Lavoie at the front of the net for the goal to give Indy a lead and send the teddy bears flying.
“They were in our zone for quite a bit before that. We weathered the storm,” Clarke said. “Luckily, Seckel made a great play along the boards and got it up and we got a 2-on-1. The D went down, and Lavvy made a great play handling the pass I gave him – it was a bit of a grenade – and he made a nice play and tucked it in.”
But the Komets continued to press and came away from the first with a lead, tying the game just over two minutes after Lavoie’s goal on the game’s first power play, coming after a goaltender interference call. Fort Wayne defender Jordan Southorn intercepted a clearing attempt at the blueline, then quickly spun the puck to the left point, setting up Mike Embach in front for a goal.
With 5:06 to go in the first, a rush up-ice saw Garrett Meurs feed Drew Daniels with a cross-ice pass, and the Komet defenseman was able to roof a shot from in tight to give his team a lead.
“A whole lot more positives in the last 40 minutes,” Hillman said. “There were a lot of negatives in the first 20 but we got through it, and we would’ve hoped that would’ve given us the ability to win the game.”
- Garrett Thompson (FW) 2A, +2, 3 shots
- Dylan Clarke (Fuel) G, A
- Spencer Martin (FW) 30 saves
- The Fuel’s first Teddy Bear Toss was a success, as a spirited and noisy crowd of 5,097 pelted the rink with the stuffed animals after Lavoie’s goal broke the ice. It took well over 10 minutes to clear the ice of the stuffed animals, which are being donated to WRTV personality Kevin Gregory’s toy drive.
- The final two periods were some of the best hockey the Fuel have played all year. It started with good breakouts, lots of speed through the neutral zone and loads of scoring chances. “That was fun hockey,” Hillman said. “The fans had to enjoy it. The play was flowing, guys were getting chances, shots, rebounds, we finally got one to zip through.”
- It started by taking advantage of what Fort Wayne was making available on the breakout. “That led to a little more offense, a little more speed through the neutral zone, we started getting more pucks in deep and pucks to the net,” Clarke said. “When you get pucks to the net, good things happen.”
- Pretty good to see that jump in the second and third periods as the Fuel were playing their third game in three days – which they’ll do again next weekend – while Fort Wayne was largely rested. The Komets were playing just their third game since Thanksgiving weekend Saturday night.
- The key now, as Hillman pointed out, is eliminating small mistakes. It was a combination of a bad bounce and a missed coverage that allowed both of Fort Wayne’s last two goals. Their first came on the power play, but after an intercepted clearing pass at the line. The Fuel have been trending the right direction in recent games and minimizing those small miscues. That tends to lead to quick turnarounds.
- Alex Lavoie has been one of the Fuel’s top playmakers all season, and now he has a goal in back-to-back games for the first time this year. He has also tallied a point in nine of the last 12 games. It’s also his third two-point game as a member of the Fuel. Lavoie became the first Fuel player to hit 20 points this season with his two-point night, leading the team in both points and assists (12). He’s one behind Garett Bembridge (9) for the team goal-scoring lead.
- Assuming it holds up – while replays showed Kevin Quick’s shot may have changed direction as it passed Dylan Clarke’s stick en route to the net for the Fuel’s second goal, Clarke said he wasn’t 100 percent sure he got a piece of the shot – Clarke now has goals in back-to-back games for the fourth time this year. Quick now has points in back-to-back games, as well.
- Reed Seckel had the second assist on Lavoie’s goal for his first point as a member of the Fuel. It was his second pro point – he also had an assist in a brief stay with Toledo at the end of last season.
- Indy was 0-for-4 on the PP, but only had one full two-minute power play that generated a number of good looks. Fort Wayne was 1-for-5.
- Shane Owen continues his streak of strong play in net, and continues a streak of bad luck. He has dropped seven straight starts, but has allowed more than two goals only twice in that span, including tonight, and his play in net held the Fuel in the game in the opening period so they could have a chance in the second and third.
Tim Hall-Alex Lavoie-Garett Bembridge
Cody Sharib-Kyle Stroh-Rhett Bly
Matt White-Josh Brittain-Dylan Clarke
Kevin Quick-Anders Franzon
Nick Mattson-Zach Miskovic
Sam Jardine-Ben Marshall
BU: Mac Carruth
Scratches: Patrick Koudys (res), Peter Schneider (res), Dillon Fournier (IR)
Roster move: Prior to the game, the Fuel activated Reed Seckel and placed Patrick Koudys on reserve.
Next up: The Fuel begin a three-game roadtrip Wednesday with their first visit of the year to Toledo. It continues Friday and Saturday in Evansville, before Toledo visits the Indiana Farmers Coliseum at 3:05 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20. “Every night is a tough win,” Hillman said. “Evansville’s playing the best they have all year, we know how good Toledo is. We know what we have to do. We have to go up there and get back at it.”