2015 finished much like it started for the Indy Fuel.
When 2015 started, the first-year Fuel were sitting on six wins and fell by seven goals in the first game of the year, but they were only a couple of days away from constructing the best record in the ECHL for the second half of the season, and mounting a huge charge to a playoff push.
And as 2015 ends, the Fuel dropped a 7-0 decision to Fort Wayne in the Komets’ traditional New Year’s Eve game Thursday night.
Yet, the Fuel are in a really strong position as the calendar turns to 2016 than they were 365 days ago, a much more veteran team solidly in contention for a playoff spot with a favorable schedule headed into the new year.
In a 72-game season, a game like this happens. But in the big picture, it’s a chance to regroup a bit and hit the ground running again as the two teams open 2016 in the Indiana Farmers Coliseum with a 7:35 p.m. puck drop.
Thursday’s loss snapped a three-game win streak for the Fuel, and also snapped a three-game road winning streak.
Indy had significant shifts in the lineup prior to the game with several roster moves, including red-hot goaltender Mac Carruth being called up to Rockford, causing some juggling of the lineup.
Mike Embach, a familiar face to Indy hockey fans as a former sniper with the Ice, had a goal and four assists for Fort Wayne. Garrett Meurs added two goals and an assist and Pat Nagle had the shutout.
Things started well for the Fuel, who drew three first-period power plays and were buzzing the Komets’ net. But Fort Wayne defenseman Drew Daniels went top-shelf with 6:13 left in the period, and Jamie Schaafsma scored just ahead of the first-period horn to give the Komets a 2-0 lead. Meanwhile, Nagle made 12 saves, including a highlight-reel snag on the Fuel’s third power play. Ben Marshall took a cross-ice feed from Kyle Stroh and ripped a shot labeled for the top right corner. Nagle went post-to-post and snagged it with the trapper – although replays show the glove might have been inside the net when he grabbed the puck.
Trailing 2-0 after one, the Fuel saw the Komets find the net five times in the second period, with Garett Thompson scoring 3:37 in, and a turnover at center ice leading to Embach’s 12th goal of the year at 10:44 of the second period, chasing Fuel starter Shane Owen. He was replaced by Jordan Ruby, who was acquired in a trade with Cincinnati earlier Thursday and got his first ECHL action of the year a few hours later. Ruby had been playing in the Southern Professional Hockey League, and saw Garrett Meurs score twice and Dean Ouellet once, with Embach getting the primary assist on all three.
In the third, Ruby made nine saves, and he finished with 14 saves on 17 shots in 29:16, but he was matched by Nagle, who was able to record his second shutout of the year with a 37-save effort.
Indy is now 14-16-2, sitting three points out of first place in the very tight Midwest Division. They’ll face Fort Wayne in the rematch Friday night at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, with the puck dropping at 7:35 p.m.
- Pat Nagle (FW) 37 saves, SHO
- Mike Embach (FW) G, 4A, +4
- Kyle Thomas (FW) A, +1, 4 shots
- The 2015 portion of the season was largely spent away from the Indiana Farmers Coliseum – this was the team’s 32nd game, but its 19th road game. The Fuel have 40 games left in the season, and 23 of those will be at home, including 12 of their 14 January games and all of their next four.
- Indy had been playing well on the road, having won three straight games, and had been playing well period, having won four of its last five.
- The Fuel are now 2-3-1 against Fort Wayne, including 1-2-1 at the Allen County Coliseum. Of the five games remaining, two are in January – Jan. 1 and 24 – both in Indy – and three are in April.
- Ruby was making his first ECHL action of the year. The rookie played one game for Toledo last spring – allowing three goals in a win – after finishing his college career at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he was 11-8-4 with a 2.10 GAA and .924 save percentage last year. He’s had very solid numbers this year. Ruby is 4-3-1 with a .933 save percentage and 1.87 GAA for the SPHL’s Huntsville Havoc this season. He becomes the third player to join the Fuel after starting the year in the SPHL, joining Walker Wintoneak and Tim Hall, who had played at Peoria.
- One real positive was Patrick Koudys, the rookie defenseman who went toe-to-toe with towering Komets enforcer Cody Sol, and fought him to a draw in an engaging, intense bout midway through the second period. Koudys and partner Zach Miskovic also finished with an even +/-
- Shane Owen started the game – making his first start since Dec. 20 – and had an uncharacteristic game. This marked the third time he had allowed four goals in a game this season in 17 starts. He has allowed two or less in 11 of those 17 starts.
- The 7-0 loss were the most allowed by the Fuel this season, and also snapped a 28-game scoring string for Indy. Fort Wayne has the only other shutout of the Fuel this year – a 3-0 decision Oct. 23. The seven-goal margin ties the Fuel’s biggest loss margin, set in an 8-1 loss to Toledo on Jan. 2. The seven goals allowed matched the total of the Fuel’s last four games.
Two roster moves prior to the game – Jordan Ruby was acquired in a trade from Cincinnati and Daniel Ciampini was assigned from AHL Rockford. On Wednesday, defenseman Nick Mattson and goaltender Mac Carruth were called up to Rockford and Josh Brittain was placed on 21-day IR.
Alex Lavoie-Kyle Stroh-Rhett Bly
Derek Roehl-Matt White-Peter Schneider
Daniel Ciampini-Cody Sharib-Garett Bembridge
Patrick Koudys-Zach Miskovic
Ben Marshall-Kevin Quick
Sam Jardine-Anders Franzon
Scratches: Dylan Clarke (res), Josh Brittain (IR), Dillon Fournier (IR)
Next up: The Fuel host Fort Wayne at 7:35 p.m. Friday, then host Wichita at 7:35 p.m. Saturday, kicking off a January where the Fuel will play 12 of their 14 games at home.