When two solid defensive teams play each other, it often takes a fortunate play to swing the game one way or another.
After nearly a period and a half of scoreless hockey, the Rapid City Rush got that fortunate play – a seemingly-harmless shot from the point deflecting into the air, and eventually landing in the back of the net, giving the Rush a lead in what would become a 4-0 victory Friday over the Indy Fuel at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
The Fuel return to their home ice Saturday night to face the Orlando Solar Bears.
Rapid City goaltender Danny Battochio made 26 saves for his first shutout of the season, including several early as the Fuel had a number of chances prior to a three-goal second period that was jump-started by the odd bounce.
The deadlock-breaking goal game at 7:41 of the second period off an offensive-zone faceoff for Rapid City. The Fuel defense eliminated an early chance, but Rapid City’s forecheck kept possession and cycled the puck to the point, where defenseman Taylor Doherty sent a wrist shot to the net. It deflected way into the air, goaltender Shane Owen took a swipe at it, and landed in the net to give the Rush a 1-0 lead.
“That first goal, the way it looped – it was a basketball shot more than a hockey shot,” Hillman said. “That’s the breaks – you’ve got to react quickly.”
But the Rush pounced from there.
Four minutes later, Taylor Scofield skated in on a rush and was able to slip a puck past Owen’s stick side from the low slot to give the Rush a two-goal lead, and Scofield cashed in again 17 seconds into their second power play of the game with 3:34 left in the second, giving the Rush a 3-0 lead.
“Their power play goal we gave up was an odd one, too – we had the puck on our stick – that’s hockey – we were going to fire it out, and it rolls off our stick and right into the slot,” Hillman said.
The first goal gave the visitors momentum they were able to sustain.
“Obviously with the weird bounce there and the quick follow-up goal, it led us to start pressing a bit,” Fuel captain Zach Miskovic said. “It was an odd game. I thought we played pretty well overall, but if you take away a couple of chances there and we bury a couple of ours, it’s a completely different game.”
Doherty added an empty-netter in the third period to give both he and Scofield two-goal games.
The Fuel carried the play in the opening 20 minutes, but Battochio and his quick glove hand were their equal. He had to make his first big save eight minutes in, when Derek Roehl dangled past a defenseman to get loose in the slot, but Battochio got a pad on it. That pressure drew a power play, and Lavoie got two solid chances in the slot. Shortly after it ended, so did Roehl, who found one 2-on-1 stopped, and another broken up with a strong back check. Battochio’s best work came late in the period, when Fuel newcomer Andrew Johnston had him down, but he was able to snare a shot in the crease.
Johnston was one of two new faces in the Fuel lineup, joining defenseman Nick Petrecki.
“I thought we played with really good pace in the first,” Hillman said. “We were really moving the puck. They’re a pretty good defensive team. We allowed ourselves to fall into the trap of trying to beat them one-on-one and stopped moving the puck.”
The Fuel started out the second with a successful penalty kill, but Rapid City continued to pressure – Fuel goaltender Shane Owen made a pad save on Daniel Barczuk cutting in on goal early, and Mikhail Stefanovich followed up by hitting the post on the next rush.
“I thought we did OK on that first session of the penalty kill, but it seemed to take about seven minutes to get over the hump and get moving a little bit,” Hillman said.
The Rush outshot the Fuel 6-1 over the first 10 minutes of the second period, and 14-6 in the middle frame, as the Fuel struggled to mount offensive zone time. Rapid City, like the Fuel a team that plays with a solid defensive structure, was able to keep Indy on the perimeter in the third period.
“All night, we just didn’t have enough puck support, not enough partner support. It was frustrating. We couldn’t get things going.”
Shane Owen stopped 27 shots in the Fuel net, stuffing high-scoring Danick Gauthier on a clear breakaway in the third period, and keeping the puck out in a wild scramble in the closing seconds of the first period his two most notable saves.
With one game finished in their three-game weekend, the Fuel look ahead to two more games – another Saturday evening against a new opponent in Orlando, before welcoming Wheeling to the Indiana Farmers Coliseum on Sunday.
Miskovic said it was important to build momentum off the Fuel’s strong first period and their ability to generate chances. “We’ve just got to regroup, come out hard, come out fast, just like our team can do,” the captain said. “Finish our opportunities and I think we’ll have a different outcome.”
- Tyler Scofield (RC) 2G, 3 shots, +1
- Danny Battochio (RC) 26 saves, SHO
- Taylor Doherty (RC) 2G, 3 shots, +2
- Friday was the first game for two new faces, Andrew Johnston and Nick Petrecki, who were acquired in trades from South Carolina and Elmira, respectively. Johnston had two shots and a solid scoring chance in the first period. Petrecki had a shot and also showed his size and strength. “Petrecki did what he does – he’s physical, he keeps it simple, he moves the puck sharply, he’s got a great shot from the point and he get sit off quickly. He did a lot of positive things out there. With (Kyle) Stroh going to the IR, that’s another center down, so to get Johnston in there is good. With travel, to get with a new team with just a morning skate under his belt is a bit difficult. I thought he did OK. He played well. He had a few chances in the first period. We didn’t capitalize, but he was getting to the net, and starting to learn his linemates a bit.”
- The injury bug has hit the Fuel’s forward group, as Kyle Stroh has joined Josh Brittain and Dylan Clarke on the 21-day IR list. Johnston gives the Fuel more depth at center, and Petrecki’s acquisition and the return of Zach Miskovic to the lineup gives them a full complement of defensemen. “We’ve got some good guys that came in and will help our team,” Miskovic said.
- When two very strong defensive teams play each other, the first goal is often key, because it allows one team to clamp down in its own end and forces the other to start extending. The Fuel carried play in the first period, the Rush for the first part of the second before Doherty’s goal. Had Indy been able to bury one or two of its early chances, it’s likely a different game. Once the Rush were able to score, they were able to play conservatively and keep the Fuel to the perimeter.
- Indy was 0-for-3 with the man advantage, gaining two PPs in the first period and one in the third. Rapid City was 1-for-2, with both power plays coming in the second period.
- Friday marked the third time the Fuel have been held scoreless this season, but it was the first home shutout since Dec. 19, 2014, snapping a 39-game scoring streak for the Fuel in home games.
- This was the first meeting between the Fuel and Rush. It’s their only scheduled meeting this season, but the two teams are vying for postseason position in the Western Conference.
- Scofield, who was the first star, has provided Rapid City the same spark that Adam Lapsansky gave the Fuel when he suited up. He now has three goals in two games for the Rush.
- Tomorrow, the Fuel are back at it against an Orlando team that will give them a different look. The Solar Bears, led by former Youngstown Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen, will likely look to play a more end-to-end game. It’s again the first time the two teams have met. “In our sport, we’re glad to get right back to it. I don’t know if it matters who we’re playing. Sometimes, you’re glad to get a team roll out of town and start fresh tomorrow. The added variety is a challenge in some ways, but it can be exciting for the guys,” Hillman said.
Adam Lapsansky-Alex Lavoie-Garett Bembridge
Cody Sharib-Michael Colantone-Rhett Bly
Derek Roehl-Andrew Johnston/Matt White-Peter Schneider
Sam Jardine-Zach Miskovic
Nick Petrecki-Ben Marshall
Patrick Koudys-Anders Franzon
BU: Mac Carruth
Scratches: Kyle Stroh (IR), Josh Brittain (IR), Dylan Clarke (IR), Dillon Fournier (IR)
Next up: A Saturday tilt against the Orlando Solar Bears. It’ll be the Bears’ one trip to Indy this season, but the first of four meetings between the two teams. Sunday features the third meeting between the Fuel and Wheeling Nailers, a team Indy beat 3-2 last week in Wheeling.