The Indy Fuel came out with a strong push to start the weekend Friday night.
Two goals in a 52-second span in the opening minutes of the game gave the Fuel all the offense they needed in a 2-1 victory over the Quad City Mallards at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Daniel Ciampini scored on a breakaway 2:22 into the game, and Cody Sharib buried a rebound at 3:14 for the Fuel, while Mac Carruth continued his stellar play in the Indy net, stopping 29 shots in the victory, the first of a three-games-in-three-days stretch for the Fuel.
“Especially in these three-in-threes, you want to get momentum,” Ciampini said. “Especially to get the first goal is huge, and we were lucky enough to get the first goal tonight. We were able to build on that.”
The victory was a big one in the opening salvo of a two-game set between the Fuel and Mallards – and the first of nine consecutive games against division foes. The two teams will play again Saturday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
“It’s always important to start the weekend off with a win and get your confidence going for the next night, especially when you’re playing guys in your own division. It’s a big four-point swing for the weekend. That’s what we’re looking for,” Sharib said, noting the upcoming stretch of division games is something that had been emphasized multiple times leading up to Friday’s faceoff.
“These are the biggest games to us right now,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “I thought the guys came out with a great focus to get started.”
It started quickly, as the Fuel scored on two of their first three shots. A steal at the offensive blueline sprung Ciampini on a breakaway. He skated in and beat Quad City netminder Brody Hoffman over the blocker to give Indy a quick lead 2:22 into the game.
“I made a turn and I think it hit someone’s stick,” Ciampini said. “Someone cut in front of me and the puck was laying there. I picked it up and when I looked up, (Hoffman) was real deep in his net, I saw a little bit of net, I buried my head and I shot it there.”
On the next shift, it was quickly a two-goal lead, as the Fuel’s forecheck led to another goal. Sharib lost the puck in the corner, but Michael Colantone forced the puck to be played in Ben Marshall’s area. His shot hit Hoffman’s pad, and the rebound came right to Sharib on the weak side, who buried it.
“I turn around and saw Mike was right on their D. He turned the puck over right to our defenseman,” Sharib said. “We’ve been working on softer shots off the pads, Marshy had a perfect shot that came to me on the back door.”
That turned out to be the winner, as Carruth made those two goals stand up by making 29 saves. His best work came in the first period, as he stuffed Ryan Tesink on a tip in front, then with the Fuel killing a penalty late in the period, he made two close-in saves, getting pads on a shot in front and a rebound. Midway tough the second, he did the same by stuffing Vladimir Nikiforov in front, and then again grabbing the rebound.
The lone puck that got past him was an aggressive play by the Fuel netminder, as he came out to play a dump-in that was on goal. As he fired it down-ice, Quad City’s Jared Knight – a former second-round pick who was playing his first game after being reassigned from the AHL – intercepted it and was able to score over the shoulder at 9:34 of the second period.
Carruth made 11 saves in the third, again getting the pads on jams in front from Ryan Tesink midway through the third being the tops, keeping the game 2-1 and preserving the win.
“Mac stood on his head,” Ciampini said.
It was aided also by strong defensive play, as the Fuel D allowed their goalie to see the puck. Indy was also 4-for-4 on the penalty kill, allowing two power plays in the opening period, but just two since, one of which was an abbreviated power play in the second, and the third saw the Mallards chasing the puck for most of the two minutes.
“I thought we were off and rolling, it got pretty sloppy pretty quickly,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said of the play after the early start. “I thought the second period settled down, there was a lot of good hockey in the second period. We killed some good penalties in the first, had some chances on the power play but couldn’t bury one. All in all, we got the job done. It was a pretty clean game defensively when we needed it.”
The Fuel were 0-for-4 on the power play, but nearly had a goal in the second when Hoffman was sprawling and Garett Bembridge appeared to put one that may have slipped over the line before the prone goaltender could swat it back with his arm. But the referee ruled interference prevented Hoffman from making the save, and he waived off the goal.
Having the early lead was a good start, but the Fuel didn’t sit back and let the game come to them, as they had 12 shots in the second and 14 more in the third, tallying 37 for the game.
“It gives us confidence going into the rest of the game, but we’re still trying to press,” Sharib said of the early lead. “Even in the third, with three or four minutes left, we were still trying to forecheck and not sit back.”
- Cody Sharib (Fuel) GWG
- Daniel Ciampini (Fuel) G
- Ben Marshall (Fuel) A, +2, 7 shots
- Another strong game from Mac Carruth, who posted his ninth straight start of allowing two goals or fewer. He has a 1.45 GAA, 7-2-0 record and .942 save percentage in that nine-game stretch, which dates back to Dec. 19. “He’s working hard,” Hillman said. “Both goalies, they’re pushing each other. We believe in both of them. He’s a great goalie – they’re both great goalies – but the team is playing pretty well defensively in front of them.”
- Friday marked the return of Dylan Clarke to the lineup after missing 12 games due to injury. Clarke played limited minutes and had two shots. The returns of Nick Mattson and Daniel Ciampini, both of whom had played four games for the Fuel since Dec. 26 thanks to extended stays in the AHL, also bolstered the lineup, with Ciampini getting things started quickly. “Danny got us going. Great shot, great goal,” Hillman said. “Mattson played a ton of minutes. Danny’s valuable, plays on the power play, Clarky getting some shifts. He’s a good leader in the locker room, plays a physical game, he’s a big part of our team.”
- With Clarke working his way into the lineup, the Fuel opted for an 11-forward, 5-defenseman attack. Ben Marshall, Nick Petrecki and Zach Miskovic combined for 16 of the Fuel’s 37 shots. “I thought there was a pretty good rotation. Those guys worked hard, kept the game simple at times, we got into trouble at times but found our way out,” Hillman said. “Hopefully, we should have a better performance in us tomorrow.”
- This marks the fourth straight weekend the Fuel are playing games on three consecutive days. But thanks to those lineup additions, they are entering the weekend with a couple of extra skaters, who Hillman said will play at some point over the weekend. “That’s big and it will give us fresher legs over the course of the weekend. That also drives the competitive nature of the locker room,” the coach said.
- The Fuel are now 5-1-1 against Quad City this season, including 4-0-0 at home. Saturday’s game will mark the Mallards’ final visit to the Coliseum this regular season, although the two teams have a pair of meetings in the Mallards’ building late in the season. This game marked the third 2-1 game between the Fuel and Mallards – and the second straight. Indy won a 2-1 meeting on Dec. 27 to sweep a weekend series.
- Adam Lapsansky got onto the scoresheet with an assist, and has now scored in four of his seven ECHL games. Marshall had the assist on Sharib’s goal, snapping a four-game scoreless streak. Ciampini scored his first ECHL goal since Dec. 20 – but it was his fifth game in the league since then, as he has had two callups to Rockford in that span. Sharib had his first goal since Dec. 29 in Cincinnati, but he has scored a point in two straight games.
- Sharib’s goal gave him 10 for the year, making him the second Fuel player with double-digit goals. Garett Bembridge has 11.
- Friday’s game was the first game after the ECHL’s sweater reversal date – home teams wear dark sweaters for the second half of the season (after wearing white for the first half), so Fuel fans will get plenty of chances to see the team in its red sweaters at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Based on warmups, but with 11 F/5 D, there was a lot of mixing and matching.
Adam Lapsansky-Alex Lavoie-Daniel Ciampini
Cody Sharib-Michael Colantone-Rhett Bly
Matt White-Andrew Johnston-Peter Schneider
Dylan Clarke-Garett Bembridge
Nick Mattson-Anders Franzon
Nick Petrecki-Zach Miskovic
BU: Shane Owen
Scratches: Patrick Koudys (reserve), Derek Roehl (reserve), Josh Brittain (IR), Kyle Stroh (IR), Dillon Fournier (IR)
Transactions: Dylan Clarke was activated from IR, Patrick Koudys and Derek Roehl were placed on reserve, Nick Mattson and Daniel Ciampini were assigned from AHL Rockford earlier in the week and activated from reserve on Friday. D Sam Jardine was called up to Rockford earlier in the week.
Next up: The weekend continues with a Saturday rematch with Quad City at 7:35 p.m., then concludes Sunday with a 3:05 p.m. game against Fort Wayne.