The Indy Fuel kept coming in waves as the Toledo Walleye net Thursday night.
But Jeff Lerg – the diminutive Toledo goaltender who has established himself as one of the ECHL’s elite between the pipes – stymied an aggressive Fuel attak.
Lerg stopped 45 shots, and the Walleye used quick transition and a counterattack to beat the Fuel 6-2 Thursday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Josh Shalla and Kyle Bonis scored twice each for the Walleye.
Toledo had a 3-0 lead in the second, but Indy battled back with a goal by Ben Marshall to cut the deficit to two, and kept flying in the second half of the period. But the Walleye started the third with goals by Bonis and Dominic Zombo in the first 5:45 to build their lead back to four.
“You’ve got to give (Lerg) credit. He stood on his head tonight,” Fuel captain Zach Miskovic said. “We had over 45 shots. We were trying to funnel everything to the net. A couple bad bounces here and there. We definitely have to play better defensively. That’s the biggest part of the game today, and when you give up five, six, it’s tough to win. You’ve got to give up one, maybe two.”
Toledo led 2-0 after a period on goals by Michael Leone and Shalla, both coming on counterattacks and shots from the circle. Bonis made it a 3-0 Walleye lead 3:52 into the second with an unassisted goal on Toledo’s first shot of the period.
From there, the Fuel dominated much of the second period, launching 22 shots, and having a pair of 2-on-1s on their lone penalty kill of the night. Lerg stuffed Matt White and Cody Sharib both with shorthanded chance, and then robbed Sharib twice with pad saves in tight midway through the period. Dylan Clarke appeared to break the ice with 7:48 left, but it was ruled to be played in with a high stick.
Finally, the Fuel broke through with a goal by Ben Marshall with 6:47 left in the second, taking a feed from Peter Schneider on the rush, skating into the middle slot and ripping a shot stick-side into the net to make it a 3-1 game.
The Fuel had Toledo on the run at that point, but the Walleye again scored twice early in the third, one on a long stretch pass from Shane Berschbach to Bonis for a breakaway, and a second on a goal by Dominic Zombo off a turnover in front.
“They were a team that was just holding on there for a while and we let them get out of their zone,” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “Two of the goals at the start were turnovers – we had the puck on our stick, we don’t manage it well, we lose it and it’s in the back of our net.”
The power play was a big bright spot for the Fuel. In the first period, the Fuel had 90 consecutive seconds in the offensive zone leading to sustained pressure, with Nick Mattson at the blueline and Daniel Ciampini along the wall quarterbacking the power play. Their next power play came in the third and netted a goal, as Miskovic rifled a shot from the point that banked off the post and in.
“Mattson, Marshall and Ciampini have been moving the puck very well on their unit, obviously sustaining a lot of pressure and zone time. Tonight, we were able to get pucks through,” Miskovic said of the power play. “(Rhett) Bly and Clarke in front of the net, screening Lerg, anytime you get a couple of guys in front of the net screening the goalie, it makes it difficult for him. They did a great job. They played a big role in why that puck went in.”
Indy held a 13-5 shot edge in the first period and a 22-9 edge in the second period. The Fuel created a lot of opportunities and carried the play for much of the night.
“We’d had sustained pressure, we couldn’t find that second one,” John said. “We’ve got to get traffic. At the end of the day, they don’t ask how you scored, they just ask how many you’ve got. Saturday night, we’ve got to find a way to get traffic, get some ugly goals and find a way to win.”
The Fuel will take a day off and meet the Brampton Beast on Saturday night, with a 7;35 p.m. puck drop.
“Time to refocus,” Miskovic said. “We can’t dwell on the past. We’ve got to refocus and be ready to go on Saturday.”
- Jeff Lerg (TOL) 45 saves
- Kyle Bonis (TOL) 2G
- Dylan Clarke (Fuel) A, 5 shots
- The 47 shots were the second-most for the Fuel this season. They had a season-high 50 in a 4-3 loss at Kalamazoo on Oct. 27. The 22 shots in the second period were the second-most in a period this year. The high was 23 against Orlando on Feb. 18 in a 3-2 loss.
- Both of the Fuel’s goals came from defensemen. Both Miskovic and Marshall scored their ninth goals of the season, tying for the team lead among blueliners. “Offensively, it’s great,” Miskovic said. “It’s great when we can help out the offense, but we’ve got to keep stressing defense, too. It’s great to have some freedom once you pass the offensive blueline, but we’ve got to really clamp down in the defensive zone.”
- Another defenseman got on the scoresheet. Kevin Clare had the second assist on Marshall’s goal, making a steal at his own line to start the play by headlining to Peter Schneider. It was Clare’s first Fuel point.
- Goaltender Keegan Asmundson has had four very good starts for the Fuel – allowing two or fewer goals in each of his first four. Thursday was his first Indy start allowing more than two goals. He stopped 17 of the 22 shots he faced, with Toledo also adding a late empty-netter.
- The Fuel have now killed off 15 straight opponent power plays – they were 1-1 Thursday – in a five-game stretch dating back to March 5.
- Alex Lavoie had an assist for the second straight game, extending his team lead to 33. Dylan Clarke, who had the other assist on Miskovic’s goal, has tallied points in three of his last four games. He again had a big night with five shots on goal.
- Matt White (7) led the Fuel in shots, with Miskovic adding six. Clarke, Marshall and Schneider had five each.
Dylan Clarke-Michael Colantone-Matt White
Daniel Ciampini-Alex Lavoie-Peter Schneider
Cody Sharib-Brandon Wong-Rhett Bly
Nick Mattson-Zach Miskovic
Nick Petrecki-Anders Franzon
Sam Jardine-Ben Marshall
BU: Chris Lamb (EBUG)
Scratches: Patrick Koudys, Casey Thrush, Trevor Campbell, Mike Seidel (IR), Dillon Fournier (IR)
Roster move: Goaltender Mac Carruth was called up to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs earlier Thursday. Chris Lamb dressed as the emergency backup.
Next up: The Fuel return home Saturday to face the Brampton Beast, then hit the road Sunday for a game at Quad City.