Three straight Sundays, the Indy Fuel have played their third game in as many days. And three straight Sundays, the Fuel have come away with two points.
Indy rallied from an early deficit to score twice in the third period and beat the Fort Wayne Komets 3-1 Sunday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Adam Lapsansky scored twice off assists by Daniel Ciampini and Rhett Bly scored the game-winner, deflecting Nick Petrecki’s point shot into the net 19 seconds into the third. Shane Owen contributed a 34-save effort for his second win in as many days.
The victory gave the Fuel a 21-20-2 record for the season, a four-game winning streak and a sweep of the three-game weekend.
“Coming in, we have that hope of getting six points, but for the guys to come through and play three really solid games, especially here this afternoon, is great,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “It was great to see some offensive execution – we could’ve had more for sure, their goalie played really well.”
Sean Bonar – who began his pro career with the Fuel in 2014 – stopped 32 shots for the Komets, but Indy was able to break through for three goals. The Fuel’s speed-and-skill trio of Lapsansky, Ciampini and Alex Lavoie produced two goals, both on similar passes from Ciampini to Lapsansky for one-timers in the goalmouth.
“Adam likes to go to the net and he’s a shooter,” Hillman said. “Danny’s a good playmaker, so is Lavvy. They seem to have early success here. We need that. We need a line we can depend on to score. They didn’t get one last night, but they got a couple tonight.”
The Fuel trailed 1-0 after an end-to-end first period which saw Fort Wayne outshoot the hosts 19-10, and score on a point shot by defenseman Randy Cure off a faceoff.
After generating a number of chances against Fort Wayne goaltender Sean Bonar, the Fuel broke through with 6:42 left in the second. Lavoie won a faceoff to the boards, where Ciampini forced the puck away from a Komet defenseman’s stick in the corner, turned and zipped a pass right to Lapsansky in the low slot for the tying goal.
Going into the third period tied was big for the Fuel, who surrendered the first goal for the first time in four games, as they had finally solved Bonar. The Komet netminder – who had been signed prior to the weekend and was making his first start for Fort Wayne – had made several tough saves, especially in the second period.
“That’s one of the things we talked about was getting the first goal, but today, we were behind a little bit,” Ciampini said. “The older group did a good job of keeping the locker room in check and making sure we weren’t getting away from our gameplan.”
The Fuel broke through quickly in the third. Cody Sharib carried the puck through center and zipped a cross-ice pass to Petrecki at the left point. With two players in front, Petrecki fired as shot that grazed off Bly and above Bonar’s glove into the top corner.
“I just got a shot off quick from the point, coming in the fourth man’s ice, and Bly got his pants on it,” Petrecki said. “That’s what we need. We need traffic in front, and that’s what we need. It was big to get one early.”
Three and a half minutes later, Ciampini and Lapsansky hooked up again, with Ciampini rushing the puck up the left side to the goal line, then hitting Lapsansky for a one-timer to make it 3-1.
“The other, I saw both D slide over, so I was trying to be as patient as possible. I looked to shoot, but the goalie was pretty far out,” Ciampini said. “I thought ‘if I can find a high guy, I can have a lane.’ Adam was coming in high, and I was able to find him.”
After taking the lead, the Fuel were able to limit Fort Wayne’s chances. The Komets had no shots in the first 6:30 of the third period, and just two shots in the first 12:30, as the Fuel kept the play to the outside and and solid puck support in the defensive zone, allowing them to prevent pressure.
“Three games in three days, I don’t care how many years you’ve been in the league, it’s still a hard thing to do,” Petrecki said. “To be able to focus on that, have guys come underneath and have that second wave of support is huge. In a Sunday game at 3 o’clock, that’s the stuff that sets you apart from winning and losing.”
The one big Fort Wayne surge, coming with about six minutes left, involved an extended entry with top scorers Brett Perlini and Mike Embach on the ice. Sharib made a diving block and sweep check to clear the zone, and the Fuel responded with a rush that led to a dangerous chance by Ciampini and Lapsansky, and snuffed out the Komets’ last big push.
Owen had 34 saves, allowing one goal for the second game in as many days. As a team, the Fuel allowed just three goals in the three weekend games.
“They’re doing a great job boxing out and making my job a lot easier seeing that puck,” Owen said. “I was making that first save, they were clearing the rebounds. It worked out.”
“He really settled in,” Hillman said. “He was busy in the first, he had a lot of bodies, a lot of traffic. He kept competing, controlling a lot of rebounds and getting a lot of covers for us.”
It added up to the third straight Sunday victory. And a fourth straight victory for the Fuel.
“We’re learning to win those tougher games,” Hillman said. “The guys do work really hard during the week. This week we tried to give them a little more rest mid-week. I thought we looked fresh in that third period. We had a lot of the play.”
- Adam Lapsansky (Fuel) 2G, +2
- Daniel Ciampini (Fuel) 2A, +2
- Zach Miskovic (Fuel) strong defensive play
- Prior to the weekend, the Fuel targeted this eight-game stretch of games against division opponents as key, and so far, they’re 3-0 on it. The next five games include three tilts with Cincinnati and two against Evansville over the next two weeks. “It’s big, especially for the standings,” Ciampini said. “A lot of division rival games. These points are going to matter in the long run, so it’s good to get them now. The sweep on the weekend is huge for momentum for us.”
- The weekend sweep moved the Fuel to second place in the division with 44 points, just four back of leader Fort Wayne, and up to fifth place in the Western Conference standings.
- Since the calendar turned to 2016, the Fuel have had tremendous goaltending – they’re 7-4-0 in the month, and have allowed more than two goals just once. In his last five starts, Owen is 4-2-0 in January with a .954 save percentage and 1.51 GAA. He had a .968 save percentage in the weekend games.
- Owen’s 18 saves in the first period were a season high for a Fuel netminder in a period.
- The victory marked the Fuel’s longest win streak since taking five straight between Nov. 7-21.
- The key? Sticking to the gameplan – and making some adjustments as Fort Wayne took away the middle of the neutral zone. “You want to keep it very simple. You don’t want to force pucks,” Ciampini said. “The first period, we were a bit sloppy, but we were able to push back. The key for us was finishing our checks. That wore them down in the defensive zone. It was important for us to make sure we stuck to our gameplan.”
- The Komets did have a familiar face between the posts, as Bonar started his pro career with the Fuel in the 2014-15 season. He made 32 saves in the loss, but was very solid. After leaving the Fuel, he has played for Orlando, Brampton and now Fort Wayne in the ECHL, as well as Fayetteville in the SPHL, for whom he has a .936 save percentage this season. “He’s a great individual,” Hillman said. “He works hard. He’s persevered. He’s bounced around a little bit. It’s always good to see former teammates.”
- Bonar’s start gave Fort Wayne starter Pat Nagle a bit of a breather. Nagle had played in 17 consecutive games prior to Sunday.
- Lapsansky had his first two-goal game as a member of the Fuel, and his first two-point game since his ECHL debut on Jan. 8, when he had two assists. His linemate Ciampini had his first two-point game since he had a goal and an assist Nov. 13 against Alaska – a span of 12 games that has included three AHL callups.
- Cody Sharib and Rhett Bly continue to provide offense. Sharib tallied his sixth point of the last four games with the second assist on Bly’s goal. Bly scored for the second straight game, and has five points in the last four games. Petrecki’s assist was his first point in six games with the Fuel.
- The Fuel PK only was on the ice once, and was successful for the 11th straight opposing power play, doing so facing the league’s top power play unit. Indy had two power plays in a relatively penalty-free game.
- Indy improved to 3-4-1 against Fort Wayne this season. The teams will next meet April 2 in Fort Wayne, and they’ll see each other in three of the Fuel’s final four games of the year.
Adam Lapsansky-Alex Lavoie-Daniel Ciampini
Cody Sharib-Michael Colantone-Rhett Bly
Dylan Clarke-Andrew Johnston-Peter Schneider
Nick Petrecki-Zach Miskovic
Nick Mattson-Anders Franzon
Patrick Koudys-Ben Marshall
BU: Brent Hollerud
Scratches: Garett Bembridge, Matt White, Kyle Stroh (IR), Josh Brittain (IR), Dillon Fournier (IR)
Next up: The Fuel travel to Cincinnati for a Wednesday game, then return home to play Evansville both Friday and Saturday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.