Playing their first game under newly-minted head coach Bernie John, the Indy Fuel wanted to push the pace Friday night.
They did that, using a strong skating game to repeatedly put Evansville goaltender Christoffer Bengtsberg under duress. But Bengtsberg and the Fuel’s Mac Carruth were up to the challenge in an end-to-end game, each allowing just a goal in 60 minutes of hockey.
Evansville’s Nathan Moon made good on the last chance, scoring 31 seconds into overtime to give the visiting IceMen a 2-1 victory over the Fuel Friday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
The overtime loss came John’s debut as head coach, as he took over for Scott Hillman on Monday and became the second head coach in the team’s history.
The Fuel gained a crucial point in the standings and moved to four points back of eighth-place Tulsa for the final playoff spot in the ECHL’s Western Conference.
“We’re not going to hang our heads too low,” Sharib said. “The point was big. We need to start getting some Ws.”
The Fuel and IceMen play again Saturday in the Ford Center in what will be their final meeting of the season – the last in Evansville, as the IceMen are slated to move to Owensboro, Ky. next season. Sunday, the Fuel return home to face the Cincinnati Cyclones.
Evansville had a strong start, but Indy answered with a flurry of chances that continued throughout the game.
“We started a little slow in the first,” John said. “I thought in the second, we really dominated and we kept pushing the pace in the third. There are a few things we need to clean up here and there, but one point is a start. We’ll go battle there and see if we can get two and come back and get two on Sunday and get five out of six.”
Moon’s game-winner came early in the 3-on-3 overtime – the Fuel had the initial possession, but Moon forced a turnover at the Evansville blueline, creating a 2-on-1 the other way. Moon looked off the pass, shot and scored his 15th goal of the season.
Cody Sharib gave the Fuel a lead with his 13th goal of the season, coming in a series of end-to-end play. Evansville was able to turn a Fuel chance at one end into an odd-man rush the other way. The shot went wide, the rebound kicked off the boards to Peter Schneider, and Indy broke on a 3-on-2.
Schneider fed Sharib in the slot, who made no mistake on his shot to put the Fuel up 1-0 with 9:56 left in the second.
“There was a couple of rushes back and forth. Schneids was able to pick up a rebound around the boards,” Sharib said. “We had a 3-on-2 and he just saw me and made a great play in the slot.”
Evansville answered with 4:58 left in the period, as Ryan Penny one-timed Alex Wideman’s cross-crease feed into the net, coming off the cycle as Moon won a puck below the goal line.
Things stayed tied 1-1 thanks to the goaltenders – Bengtsberg stuffed Alex Lavoie in tight late in the period, and Fuel netminder Mac Carruth robbed Moon on a break in the closing seconds of the second.
In the third, the Fuel buzzed the net early and often – with 14 shots in the period – starting from the drop. In the first minute, Rhett Bly and Daniel Ciampini forced Bengtsberg to make tough in-tight saves. Evansville’s best chance came off Penny’s stick from the low slot, which Carruth flashed the pad out and stopped.
The opening minutes saw the IceMen carry the play, but the Fuel were able to respond quickly and generated a number of solid chances – many off the rush. Dylan Clarke had two solid chances on back-to-back shifts in the opening period – and one of the team’s bets chances of the opening period, cutting to the goal along the line and firing. Bengtsberg stopped the initial shot. Clarke’s rebound foray broke through the Evansville netminder, but was cleared off the line by the defense.
Bengtsberg had 38 saves for the game.
“He played solid tonight,” Sharib said.
Clarke had four shots in the opening period and seven for the game, as the Fuel pushed the transition game.
“That was one of his better games in a while,” John said of Clarke. “A lot of guys stepped up. (Clarke’s) effort was good, Lavoie had a good night. Overall, the whole team had a good night. We created a lot of chances. That’s the pace we want to play. If we can continue that, it will put a lot of pressure on other teams. If we can continue to get shots on net, they’re eventually going to find the back of the net.”
Indy’s emphasis on pushing the pace and getting defensemen involved in the play generated 39 shots and a solid offensive effort – everything but two points.
“We threw up 39 or 40 shots, on any other night, that’s three or four goals. The mindset was to get pucks to the net, and not even just the shots on net, we probably had 60 or 65 shot attempts,” John said. “Overall, a good night. We’ll take all the positives, go down there tomorrow, turn out the same effort and hopefully have a different outcome.”
- Cristoffer Bengtsberg (EVV) 38 saves
- Mac Carruth (Fuel) 29 saves
- Dylan Clarke (Fuel) 7 shots
- John made a stamp The Fuel had a different approach – a more wide-open game with defensemen being active in the offensive zone while trying also to limit opponent rushes. The Fuel were able to capitalize on end-to-end play for their goal, and had a lot of opportunities beyond that – many coming off the rush.
- A lot of opportunities came off rebounds, with Bengtsberg being forced to make multiple saves at a time. “Guys got their nose dirty,” John said. “They were in front of the net, they were looking for that stuff.”
- Mac Carruth had an outstanding game. Since returning to the Fuel, he’s made three starts and allowed one regulation goal in two of them, yet is 0-2-1.
- Sharib’s goal was his first since Feb. 20 at Orlando and was his 13th of the year – one shy of team leader Rhett Bly. The Fuel have five active players with at least 10 goals this year in an Indy uniform.
- With an assist, Schneider now has points in six of his last nine games.
- The trio of Cody Sharib, Alex Lavoie and Peter Schneider had 10 shots on goal. Dylan Clarke, Michael Colantone and Casey Thrush had 13 combined shots – with Clarke (7) and Colantone (5) leading the team in shots.
- Indy’s penalty kill was 3-for-3 – and didn’t allow the visitors a shot on two of the three power plays. The Fuel had one power play in the third period and were 0-for-1.
- The two teams directly ahead of the Fuel – Tulsa and Quad City – both lost in regulation Friday. Tulsa – which holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the West – is four points ahead of the Fuel – and is idle Saturday. Quad City is three points ahead and plays at Cincinnati Saturday.
- Indy is 7-2-1 against Evansville this season, and 20-10-3 against the Midwest Division. They finish 4-0-1 against the IceMen at home.
Daniel Ciampini-Brandon Wong-Rhett Bly
Cody Sharib-Alex Lavoie-Peter Schneider
Dylan Clarke-Michael Colantone-Casey Thrush
Nick Mattson-Zach Miskovic
Nick Petrecki-Sam Jardine
Ben Marshall-Anders Franzon
BU: Keegan Asmundson
Scratches: Patrick Koudys, Trevor Campbell, Kevin Clare, Mike Seidel (IR), Dillon Fournier (IR)
Next up: The teams are in Evansville for an 8:15 p.m. faceoff Saturday night.