Playing just hours after returning home from a hard-fought win Saturday night, the Indy Fuel had a lot of jump right off the opening whistle.
The Fuel scored twice in the first 6:07 and used those two goals to beat the Quad City Mallards 2-1 Sunday afternoon, giving Indy a sweep of the weekend home-and-home with the Midwest Division leaders.
Matt White scored his second goal of the season and Ben Marshall added a blast from the point to give the Fuel a 2-0 lead. Mac Carruth stopped 27 shots to win his third consecutive start.
“We built off the big road victory last night,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “We came out with a lot of energy and had that confidence to get a few past their goaltender.”
Those two early goals proved to be enough, as Indy won for the third time in its last four outings, and improved to 13-15-2 on the season. Indy outscored Quad City 6-2 over the home-and-home to get the sweep, and the Fuel are now 4-1-1 against the Mallards this season.
“The front office challenged us, our coaching staff challenged us before break, to come back here and be ready to win hockey games,” Carruth said. “We weren’t happy with the way things ended before the holidays, the guys have come out and responded well.”
Off the drop, the Fuel were buzzing, and cashed in when Peter Schneider worked the puck down from the right point to the goal line, then zipped a pass to White at the far-post for a deflection into the net just 3:04 into the game.
“It was a hard-working play all over,” White said of his second goal this season. “Schneids did all the work, I was fortunate to put it in.”
On their next shift, Schneider generated another solid chance with a wraparound attempt, but it didn’t take long for Indy to get that second goal, as the Fuel cycled the puck in the offensive zone. Rhett Bly saucered a pass to Marshall at the right point, who wired a shot through traffic that beat goaltender Steve Michalek on the stick side to give Indy a quick 2-0 lead.
“It was a little luck,” but a great pass,” Marshall said.
The Fuel’s two goals came on their first four shots. There were still nearly 54 minutes to play, and Indy looked to extend the lead.
“There’s so much time and a team like that can come back,” White said. “The thing was, ‘don’t be satisfied. We want more, two goals won’t be enough.’ Today, thankfully, it was.”
It was, largely to the play of the Indy defense and Carruth, who allowed one goal for his third consecutive start.
That came 8:43 into the game, when Quad City’s Olivier Archambault cut in and roofed a shot from the low slot, but that would be it.
Quad City had a surge in the later part of the second period, getting off nine shots in the final 6:01 of the period – including six in a 100-second span – and a number of quality changes. Carruth stuffed Archambault in tight, then got a pad on a point shot from Darren McMillan and snagged the rebound shortly thereafter. He also stuffed Archambault again on a partial breakaway in the final two minutes of the period, and got some help from the iron, when new Mallard Tyler Gjurich hit the post with two minutes to go in the second.
“We’ve been dealing with the one mistakes lead to another waterfall situation, and sometimes, they don’t go your way and sometimes they do,” Marshall said of the latter part of the second period. “Tonight, fortunately, they did.”
In the third, the Fuel entered the period needing to kill a 59-second carryover penalty, and had another kill six and a half minutes into the period. On both, Quad City spent most of the power play chasing the puck, and generated just one shot on goal total on each man-advantage situation. The Fuel PK was a perfect 3-for-3.
“The penalty kill let us down the last couple of games,” Hillman said. We had a good opportunity between periods to review what we needed to do on the penalty kill to stop this club. The guys reacted and put those points into play very quickly.”
Carruth had to make a couple more big saves in the third, using the trapper to snare a number of point shots through traffic. With four minutes left, he smothered a turnaround shot from Quad City’s leading goal scorer Matt Neal in the low slot, and the Fuel defense thwarted a rush that set up Miles Koules down low in the final three minutes.
Quad City’s Steve Michalek stopped 18 shots. Indy was outshot 10-7 in the second and 11-7 in the third, but Michalek snared some big chances, his biggest coming when he kicked his leg up and got a skate on Kyle Stroh’s shot into the open half of the net out of a goalmouth scramble midway through the second.
The Fuel are at the start of a busy stretch that will see them play six games in eight days – five against division foes – between Dec. 26 and Jan. 2.
“We’ve got to be focused on these division games,” Hillman said. “That’s a good start against the first-place team in the division, to take four points. All these teams that have inched ahead of us, we’ve got to scratch our way back.”
- Mac Carruth (Fuel) 27 saves
- Ben Marshall (Fuel) GWG
- Matt White (Fuel) G
- The Fuel posted the win in front of a crowd of 5,256 – one of their largest crowds this season and an outstanding matinee audience. “We had a great crowd here on a Sunday,” Carruth said. “That’s unbelievable – you don’t see that a lot around the league. To play in front of those fans and win in front of them is big.”
- The line of Derek Roehl-Matt White-Peter Schneider was outstanding on Saturday night – producing two goals – and was outstanding again today. The trio combined for eight of the Fuel’s 20 shots – Roehl had four – and White’s goal. They also had a number of solid scoring chances. Schneider was around the puck all night, making plays in all three zones, and the other two also had high-energy games. Hillman said the trio was put together Saturday night and they were buzzing in that game, and followed it up. “Whitey has put probably his best two games together, that’s a couple of Schneider’s best games, Roehl hasn’t been here long, so it’s good to see him contributing and getting regular ice.”
- White’s goal was his first since Oct. 27 against Kalamazoo, a stretch of 20 games.
- One big play that doesn’t show up in the scoresheet but was noticeable. With the Fuel holding a 2-1 lead in the final four minutes, it appeared they had iced the puck, but White turned on the jets and beat out three Mallards to negate the icing, then won the puck below the goal line and began a cycle that led to two high-quality scoring chances. While neither went in, it was key in holding possession in the closing minutes and denying Quad City the opportunity to get a favorable matchup on an icing. “Playing last night, both teams traveling, it’s going to be hard-working game,” White said. “That was a play where it was all hustle. You can control that as a player.”
- Carruth was also excellent positionally and not allowing Quad City many rebound chances. He smothered several shots in the third period with a lot of traffic. He has a 1.21 GAA and .961 save percentage in his last four games, including three winning starts. “Confidence is rising and guys are getting to know his play,” Hillman said. “We’re just looking for both of our goalies to get hot. We’re going to try to ride the hot hand a little bit here.”
- Sunday was Carruth’s fifth start of allowing one or fewer goals and his third straight – all wins. The Fuel have allowed one or fewer goals six times this season.
- That also goes on the Fuel’s defense, with veterans Zach Miskovic and Kevin Quick on the back end, as well as third-year pro Anders Franzon and rookies Marshall, Nick Mattson, Sam Jardine and Patrick Koudys. “Misko has to be up there with most blocked shots every night. Franny’s solid back there. All six, seven of our guys are pretty solid, making simple plays,” Carruth said of the Fuel’s blueliners.
- Ben Marshall is one of the Fuel’s top scorers, but he broke a 17-game streak without a goal with his game-winning tally. Marshall has three goals this season, but is second on the team with 13 assists, and fourth with 16 points. He is the Fuel’s highest-scoring defenseman. “As a defender, defense is always first,” Marshall said. “My style and my game is jumping up and trying to be offensive and I think that’s a plus. When you play defense and you keep one on the board, you’re giving yourself a good chance all night.”
- Rhett Bly and Kyle Stroh each had assists on Marshall’s goal. Bly now has points in three straight games, Stroh has a two-game streak going. Schneider and White also have points in two straight games.
- Having two straight wins – and overcoming some Quad City surges tonight to do so – should be a good springboard into a busy stretch for the Fuel. “It’s good we’re getting that winning feeling back, winning those tight hockey games,” Hillman said. “Even if they’ve got us pressed a little bit against the ropes, the guys are maintaining their focus and getting the job done.”
- Another new face joined the Fuel in forward Michael Colantone. He played three and a half seasons at UMass-Lowell, with 13 goals, 26 points and a +7 rating in 78 career college games. He quickly made himself a presence, getting power play time and two shots on goal. The right-shot forward showed some speed and a quick release on his shot in his pro debut. “I thought Michael had a good game,” Hillman said. “He hasn’t played a ton of hockey in the recent few weeks, so for him to jump in and play in a pressure situation and to be spotted in infrequently is difficult on a player. Particularly in the third, he cycled the puck real well, he made some good heads-up play, and on the power play, he got his stick on the puck a couple of times and had a strong game. We’re excited. He’s a player we’ve watched last season. He decided to come out of school a little early, so hopefully he’ll be with us the remainder of the year.”
Alex Lavoie-Kyle Stroh-Rhett Bly
Josh Brittain-Cody Sharib-Garett Bembridge
Derek Roehl-Matt White-Peter Schneider
Kevin Quick-Ben Marshall
Nick Mattson-Zach Miskovic
Sam Jardine-Anders Franzon
BU: Shane Owen
Scratches: Patrick Koudys, Dylan Clarke (res), Dillon Fournier (IR)
Next up: The Fuel travel to Cincinnati for a Tuesday game, then begin a home-and-home with Fort Wayne in the Summit City on New Year’s Eve, with the return visit Friday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.