The Indy Fuel came into Saturday’s game hoping to generate pressure against an offensively-minded Orlando Solar Bears team.
They did, but Solar Bears goaltender Ryan Massa was a wall, stopping 38 shots – including 18 in the third period – to blank the Fuel 2-0 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Orlando leading scorer T.J. Foster scored on a breakaway in the first period and Johnny McInnis on a counter-rush in the waning seconds of the middle frame to provide the visitors’ scoring.
But Massa was the story, as he secured his second shutout of the year, with a number of saves as the Fuel were buzzing his net often.
“You’ve got to all credit to their goalie,” Fuel forward and alternate captain Garett Bembridge said. “He played unbelievable tonight. He made some big saves tonight, and Mac (Carruth) played awesome. It was just two bad breaks and they both ended up in the net. But, we’ve got a big game tomorrow. We’ve got to focus on that right now.”
Massa had a big hand in one of the game’s turning points. With the Fuel trailing 1-0 lat in the second, the Bembridge-Alex Lavoie-Adam Lapsansky trio created Grade A chances in two waves. Massa stuffed Lavoie in front, and then made a one-on-one stop in tight on Bembridge. The Solar Bears corralled the rebound and spun it up-ice in a 3-on-2. McInnis came in as the trailer. Earlier in the period, he had hit the goalpost in a similar play. This time, he roofed a shot under the crossbar from the low slot with 37 seconds left in the second.
“We were really close on that one,” Fuel assistant coach Jan Jas said. “We had a rush – the whole line driving to the net. There ended up being a pileup in front of their goal. They just came up up with the puck and they had an extra guy on the rush, and that was the extra guy who ended up getting a shot on.”
A fortunate bounce led to the Solar Bears’ first goal, as the Fuel were cycling the puck in the offensive zone, but it bounced over a stick at the point, where Foster jumped on it. Anders Franzon skated back with Foster and tried to sweep the puck away, but Foster was able to trickle the puck through Carruth at 7:34 of the first period.
“We made couple of great plays just before that, and right close to the blueline in our offensive zone, the puck bounced over a couple of sticks and they ended up getting a breakaway out of it,” Jas said. “Mac had a great game, but that one was able to sneak through.”
Carruth stopped 22 shots against one of the ECHL’s highest-scoring teams, including making nine saves in each of the first two periods. His best work came in the second period, when he stuffed Brady Vail on a breakwaay, and then made a tough save on Erik Bradford after an attacking zone steal a minute later.
Meanwhile, the Fuel had a ton of chances on the Orlando net. Bembridge’s line, with Alex Lavoie and Adam Lapsansky, created good pressure early, and had an extended shift that generated three in-tight shots with the puck loose in the crease, but Massa was able to get a pad on all three.
Early in the second period, with the Fuel on the first of their five power plays, Lapsansky was set up on the weak side with a great chance, but Massa got across to stop it and the Solar Bears cleared the rebound. Massa also made a big save on a partial breakaway by Rhett Bly late in the second, sticking with a deke and making a pad stop.
“We were able to create a lot of scoring opportunities and shots on. At one point, it seemed that last second, we couldn’t put it in the right spot and either raise it up, or the puck wasn’t bouncing our way,” Jas said.
In the third, the Fuel had three power plays and outshot the Solar Bears 18-4, starting with newcomer Nick Petrecki generating two good chances in the first minute. Midway through the period, Bembridge and Lapsansky both had digs after Massa stopped Ben Marshall’s shot from the point, but the goaltender was able to fall on the puck.
“The third period, you look at the ice, one side’s incredibly cut up and nothing on the other side,” Bembridge said. “We’ve got to find a way to put the puck in the net right now.”
The Fuel are looking to bounce back Sunday against Wheeling, which will also be playing its third game in three days after busing in from Toledo. In a similar situation last Sunday, the Fuel beat the Nailers 3-2.
“Everybody’s frustrated with two games at home and no wins,” Bembridge said. “It’s a new day tomorrow. We just have to take it to Wheeling right from the drop of the puck, like we did tonight, but we’ve just got to capitalize early. Once you get a couple of those, things start going your way offensively.”
- Ryan Massa (ORL) 38 saves, shutout
- Johnny McInnis (ORL) goal, 3 shots
- T.J. Foster (ORL) GWG
- Massa joined Rapid City’s Danny Battochio in posting a shutout in the Indiana Farmers Coliseum this weekend. It’s the first time the Fuel have been shut out in back-to-back games. “Hockey’s a game of inches. We played really hard right to the end. We had a ton of chances,” Bembridge said. “We just couldn’t capitalize. We’ve got to get that mentality where you want to put the puck through the back of the net.”
- Carruth continues to be solid in net. He had his 12th start allowing two or fewer goals, making his 17th start of the season. He has allowed two or less in seven straight starts, with a .949 save percentage and 1.43 GAA in those seven starts, with a 5-2-0 record. He and teammate Shane Owen came into the weekend with identical .920 save percentages.
- For a game between two teams who haven’t played each other, it had a lot of snarl from the opening whistle. In the game’s first seven minutes, Sam Jardine squared off with Orlando’s Zach Bell, and Patrick Koudys and the Bears’ Mark Louis had a bout at center ice. It was Jardine’s first fighting major of the season, and Koudys continues to go toe-to-toe with some of the league’s biggest heavyweights. Louis added 11 minutes to his Orlando-leading total of 57.
- The Lapsansky-Lavoie-Bembridge line generated seven shots, but nearly all of them came on high-danger chances. After a high-scoring weekend in last week’s three-game sweep, it continues to provide a lot of offense.
- The line of Cody Sharib, Michael Colantone and Rhett Bly made a lot happen. The trio had 12 shots between them on Saturday night, and Bly had a breakaway. “They’re all smart players, and they’re really energetic out on the ice,” Jas said. “They’re able to win a lot of battles and create some scoring opportunities for them.”
- The Fuel defensemen were also creating a lot of offense. Captain Zach Miskovic had six shots on goal – a team high – and his defense partner, Nick Petrecki, had four, as did Ben Marshall.
- Old friend Nicklas Lindberg was in the Orlando lineup, making his fifth appearance in the ECHL this season with the Solar Bears. He had one shot and a penalty in his return to Indy.
- The night had a great start, as a few other old friends came back to Indy, with Indiana University graduate Jim Cornelison singing a rousing national anthem, and Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets legend Bobby Hull dropping the first puck, celebrating the Fuel’s affiliation with the parent Chicago Blackhawks.
Adam Lapsansky-Alex Lavoie-Garett Bembridge
Cody Sharib-Michael Colantone-Rhett Bly
Derek Roehl-Andrew Johnston/Matt White-Peter Schneider
Nick Petrecki-Zach Miskovic
Patrick Koudys-Anders Franzon
Sam Jardine-Ben Marshall
BU: Shane Owen
Scratches: Kyle Stroh (IR), Josh Brittain (IR), Dillon Fournier (IR), Dylan Clarke (IR)
Next up: The weekend concludes Sunday against Wheeling, but the Fuel will have another three-in-three homestand next weekend with Quad City (twice) and Fort Wayne coming to the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.