The Indy Fuel got an early lead, got great goaltending from Shane Owen and spent the third period peppering the net with tremendous opportunities Friday night.
But those opportunities were snuffed out by Evansville goaltender Scott Greenham, and the host IceMen were able to score twice in the third to rally and beat Indy 2-1 at the Ford Center.
The two teams will play again Saturday night in Evansville.
Again, it was Indy that had a good start. Kyle Stroh skated up to the right circle on a rush, toe-dragged the puck past the defender and then ripped a wrist shot over Greenham’s blocker to give the Fuel a 1-0 lead. The Fuel outshot Evansville 13-7 in the opening period, but Owen came up big on an 83-second 5-on-3 power play for the hosts to keep it 1-0.
Things stayed that way until the third, with each team killing off a penalty and getting six shots on goal in the second period.
In the opening minutes of the period, Evansville’s forecheck forced a turnover deep in the Fuel zone, which quickly was converted into the tying goal from old friend Alex Wideman. It was the fourth goal of the season for the rookie and former Indiana Ice player. With 8:32 to go, Jordan Sims provided the IceMen their first lead and the winning margin. Off an extended cycle, the IceMen were able to thwart a couple of opportunities to clear the zone, and eventually worked the puck down low. Owen stopped the initial shot, but Sims got to the rebound.
The Fuel had two power plays and a number of good chances late – hitting a goalpost shortly before Sims’ goal, and seeing Greenham dive to deflect a puck away at the last moment to keep the game tied in the closing moments. Rhett Bly also had a strong shorthanded chance in the final two minutes.
Indy outshot Evansville 29-22, with Greenham stopping 28 shots and Owen stopping 20.
- Scott Greenham (EVV) 28 saves, 1 GA
- Jordan Sims (EVV) GWG
- Alex Wideman (EVV) G
- Look at the scoresheet, and it’s the sixth time in the last 13 games the Fuel have scored one goal – they’re 1-11-1 in those contests. But they hit three posts, and were robbed by a sensational save in the third period. The Fuel are one of the ECHL’s top defensive teams and have been generating good offensive opportunities. Nine of the 13 games in that stretch have been decided by one goal, discounting empty-net goals.
- Another really strong first period, and a strong third – after the initial goal off a turnover. Essentially, Evansville buried its one strong chance in the period, and Greenham (with help from the pipes) was able to keep out a similar chance. That’s hockey.
- Stroh scored his first goal in 13 games and his sixth of the year.
- The Lavoie-Stroh-Bembridge combination was a new one, and it provided a goal early. Combining a strong passer like Lavoie with a sniper like Bembridge and a player who can make things happen around the net like Stroh should make for a good combination. Lavoie had an assist for his 11th game with a point in his last 13 (he’s 6-8-14 in that stretch).
- Bembridge snapped a four-game scoreless streak – tying his longest such streak with the Fuel – with an assist on Stroh’s goal. He had a good opportunity late in the game stopped by Greenham.
- New signee Derek Roehl is on the reserve list and was not in uniform on Friday night, but he was a 26-goal scorer two years ago in Britain, and tallied 15 goals last year, giving Indy another offensive weapon.
- One familiar face back from Europe was in uniform – former Fuel captain Mike Duco made his Evansville debut after starting the season in Britain. Duco was -1 with one shot.
- Indy’s PP was 0-for-5. The PK was a perfect 4-for-4, including an extended 5-on-3.
- Owen’s 5-10-0 record is a great misnomer, as he stood on his head again tonight, especially during the Evansville 5-on-3. In his 15 starts, he has allowed two or fewer goals 11 times – all five wins and six of the 10 losses. He has allowed three or fewer goals in 13 of 15 starts. His 2.28 GAA and .921 save percentage both rank among the league leaders.
- The metrics are there – the Fuel’s puck possession is solid, the goaltending is excellent and the chances have been there. It’s all a matter of finishing some of those chances – and sometimes, a little bit of luck.
Alex Lavoie-Kyle Stroh-Garett Bembridge
Daniel Ciampini/Cody Sharib/Tim Hall, Josh Brittain/Dylan Clarke, Rhett Bly/Peter Schneider
Nick Mattson-Zach Miskovic
Patrick Koudys-Anders Franzon
Kevin Quick-Ben Marshall
BU: Mac Carruth
Scratches: Sam Jardine, Matt White (res), Derek Roehl (res), Dillon Fournier (IR)
Next up: A Saturday-night rematch in Evansville at 8:15 p.m., before a Sunday matinee against Toledo at 3:05 p.m.