The Indy Fuel entered the weekend looking to keep the Evansville IceMen right where they were in the standings – looking up at their in-state rivals.
The Fuel did so Saturday with performance in a 3-0 victory over the IceMen at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Two players who began their seasons in Europe – Adam Lapsansky and Derek Roehl – each scored their first North American professional goals – and Shane Owen stopped 32 shots for his first shutout of the year.
The victory gave the Fuel a sweep of the two-game weekend series against the IceMen. Indy has now won five of its last eight games.
“We’re getting the confidence,” Owen said. “All the boys are playing with that confidence. Everyone’s building off each other. We’re putting the puck in the net now, our defense and forwards, everyone’s playing good defense, its contributing to the offense. We’ve got that confidence now.”
The Fuel did so hitting for the cycle. They won each period, and scored both on the power play and shorthanded – with Roehl getting both special teams goals.
“I’ve been getting a lot of chances, a lot of shots each night, and it just hadn’t been going in,” said Roehl, who joined the team midseason after starting the year in Italy. “Tonight, it did. I was glad I was able to contribute and help out. It felt good.”
Indy had a lot of jump early, but broke the ice late in the opening period, when the trio of Lapsansky, Alex Lavoie and Garett Bembridge struck again. The three combined for five points in Friday’s 3-2 victory over the IceMen. This time, Lavoie won a draw back to Ben Marshall to the point for a blast that went from Lapsansky’s stick and in.
“It was a nice clean draw win by Lavoie and a great feed by Marshall, Lapsansky getting to the net and getting a stick on it,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “It was a huge goal. It really got us going.”
The Fuel special teams units were solid early, as they had to kill the first three penalties of the game over the opening two periods. Late in the last of those three penalty kills, Peter Schneider carried the puck through center and crossed the blueline with two defenders. He dropped the puck to Roehl, who skated into the slot, and as both defenders backed off, picked his corner to give Indy a big 2-0 lead with 5:56 left in the second.
“Anytime you can get a shorthanded goal, it’s huge,” Roehl said. “I had some time and was able to find the back of the net. I saw (Schneider) going in (the attacking zone), he had good speed, he dropped it and took the D with him. Him drawing the D to the net, it opened up space and I had some extra time.”
Meanwhile, Indy also had its first power play goal in several games when Roehl was able to get the puck through Evansville netminder Christoffer Bengtsberg from close-in with 6:11 left in the game, giving the Fuel a clincher.
“A little bit of relief as that goes in,” Hillman said of the boost the goal gives the Fuel’s power play unit. “The PK did a huge job in the first two periods as well. A lot of things went well for us tonight.”
Meanwhile, Owen had a 32-save effort for his first shutout, including 16 saves in the second period. His best of many moments came with the game tied 1-1, with a scramble in the crease and Owen prone on the ice, he reached across and gloved the puck before it went over the line with a couple of IceMen raising their sticks in premature celebration.
Earlier in the period, he stuffed Matthew Zay on a 2-on-1, then made a diving stop to get the rebound as the IceMen had a big surge midway through the period. He had a little less work in the third, needing to make just five saves in the final 20 minutes.
The win was Owen’s first in 12 starts, despite a number of strong efforts in that span – in seven of the 12 games, he allowed two or fewer goals. Hillman said he was “consistently” the Fuel’s best player all night.
“He found ways to find a lot of those pucks,” Hillman said. “I go back to the first period when he had to scramble right to left and he just kept moving and was able to snag one, the one on his back in the second, those are game-changing saves. He’s been through a lot lately, and we’ve had some not very good play in front of him, he’s been battling through it and he got rewarded for the hard work.”
Owen put the exclamation mark on the game in the closing minutes, as Daulton Levielle came in on a partial breakaway and tried to fire top-shelf, and Owen confidently flashed the trapper to snag it.
“It helps so much when those guys are boxing out,” Owen said. “I was seeing the puck well all night. When I’m in that zone, I want to see the puck, and when I do, I feel like I have a pretty good chance of stopping it.”
After playing four straight home games, the Fuel left the Indiana Farmers Coliseum shortly after the final buzzer to hit the road for a 4 p.m. Sunday game in Wheeling. The Fuel are looking to build on the momentum from the two weekend wins.
“Every night is crucial, every two points is crucial,” Roehl said. “It was a big win last night. We enjoyed it in the room a little bit, and then we knew we had to go back to work today and the same mentality, now going into tomorrow. It’s two big points again.”
“It’s all determination tomorrow,” Hillman said.
- Shane Owen (Fuel) 32 saves, shutout
- Derek Roehl (Fuel) 2G, PPG, SHG
- Adam Lapsansky (Fuel) GWG
- Not much more can be said of Shane Owen’s performance. He had his second shutout as a member of the Fuel – his first was the first in team history on Jan. 11, 2015. This was the 13th time this season in 19 starts that Owen has allowed two or fewer goals. A tandem of Shane Owen and Mac Carruth both playing at the top of their games can make Indy a very dangerous team – and a difficult one to score on.
- Owen’s shutout was the Fuel’s second of the season – and both have come against Evansville. Carruth blanked the IceMen 3-0 on Nov. 4 in the Pocket City.
- The penalty kill was again strong, as the Fuel have now killed off 13 consecutive opponent power plays over the last three games. “It’s unbelievable. They’re blocking shots, they’re doing what it takes, they’re boxing guys out so I can see the puck, and they’re clearing the rebound if I don’t cover,” Owen said. “That’s making my job that much easier.”
- Roehl’s power play goal was the Fuel’s first PPG in a span of 19 attempts over six games and was a big boost. That meant the Fuel scored on both special teams, a point assistant coach Jan Jas made to the team in the locker room after the game, noting the Fuel won each period, but also had a power play, even strength and shorthanded goal. “All the special teams, the 5-on-5 was clicking tonight,” Roehl said. “It was good to see.”
- In hockey, every play can be the play that decides a game. The game happens quickly and is a combination of individual battles, races, creativity and team play, but one play can make a big difference. Early in the second, Michael Colantone thwarted an Evansville breakout by catching an airborne pass at center with his stick, knocking it down and zipping the puck right to Peter Schneider for a scoring chance. That led to a surge that saw the Fuel spend much of the next three minutes in the IceMen zone and get solid scoring chances, the best coming when Bengtsberg stuffed Ben Marshall in front, then robbed Colantone with the blocker going post-to-post. While that singular play didn’t lead to a goal, it turned momentum for a time.
- Roehl, who produced his first and second goals as a member of the Fuel, had played three full seasons in Europe before coming to Indy this year. With 11 available forwards Friday night, he was the scratch, but he came back into the lineup and made a big impact, not just with two goals, but also a team-high four shots. Hillman said he’s interested in seeing how players respond when re-entering the lineup. “Do they have the pouty lip or do they go out there to earn that full-time spot,” the Fuel coach said. “(Roehl) did a good job for us tonight.”
- While it was his first two-goal game, Roehl also had a two-point game Dec. 29 in Cincinnati in a 5-1 victory, when he had two assists.
- Defenseman Ben Marshall also had two assists in the game. It was his first multi-point game since Nov. 4 in Evansville – also a 3-0 Fuel win. Marshall now has five goals and 16 assists on the year.
- Michael Colantone had the second assist on Roehl’s PPG. He now has points in four of his seven professional games. Peter Schneider and Kevin Quick, who had the assists on Roehl’s shorthanded goal, both snapped four-game scoreless streaks.
- Roehl’s shorthanded goal was the Fuel’s third this year. Josh Brittain had one in a 3-1 win over the IceMen on Dec. 19, and Peter Schneider scored one on Oct. 30 in a 4-2 win over Fort Wayne.
- Saturday marked the official midpoint of the Fuel’s season, as they have now played 36 of their 72 games, and are 16-18-2. But the two wins this weekend moved them six points ahead of Evansville in the Midwest Division, and just one point back of both third and second place – spots held by Cincinnati and Quad City. The Fuel are also just six points out of the second spot in the conference, currently held by Utah, which has 40 points.
- The Fuel are now 5-2-0 against Evansville this season. The IceMen will return to the Indiana Farmers Coliseum this month for games Jan. 29-30.
With Nick Mattson and Daniel Ciampini called up to Rockford earlier in the day, the Fuel made a couple of changes from Friday’s contest.
Adam Lapsansky-Alex Lavoie-Garett Bembridge
Michael Colantone-Cody Sharib-Peter Schneider
Derek Roehl-Kyle Stroh-Rhett Bly
Patrick Koudys-Anders Franzon
Kevin Quick-Ben Marshall
BU: Mac Carruth
Scratches: Zach Miskovic (personal leave), Josh Brittain (IR), Dylan Clarke (IR), Dillon Fournier (IR)
Next up: A 4:05 p.m. game Sunday in Wheeling before a return home for three games in three days against Rapid City, Orlando and Wheeling Jan. 15-17.