The Indy Fuel had an early goal and were buzzing Kenny Reiter’s net looking for more in the first period Saturday night at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
But the Brampton goaltender stood tall against the onslaught, and his team answered with three goals in the last half of the first period. That was all the Beast needed in a 3-1 victory over the Fuel in a physical game.
Tim Billingsley, Nick McParland and Luc-Olivier Blain all scored goals for Brampton, all coming in the first period after Cody Sharib gave the Fuel a lead 7:43 in with a deflection on the power play.
“Once we got going, the power play scores and you’re thinking ‘maybe this is the night when we start to turn it around,'” Fuel interim coach Bernie John said. “We get some more chances, we can’t find the back of the net and we struggle a little bit. We figure it out, try to clean up defensively – which I think in the second and third, we did very well. And then, it seems every goaltender we meet, somehow, has luck on their side and we just can’t find the net.
“Guys are working hard to get there,” John said. it’s just a matter of time before something breaks out.”
Sharib’s goal came with he and Brandon Wong camped out in an I-formation in the slot, where he could deflect Nick Mattson’s blast from the center point int the net.
“The power play goal, it was a lot of good movement and getting shots to the net,” Sharib said.
In the minutes prior to that goal, Michael Colantone had a strong weak-side rebound chance and Alex Lavoie got a stick on a puck and deflected it behind Reiter – and it skidded all the way through the crease and out the other side.
Brampton rid the game exactly three minutes after Sharib’s goal, as Billingslye scored on a 4-on-4 with 9:17 left in the first. Five minutes later, Luc-Olivier Blain forced a turnover behind the net and fed Nick McParland for a one-timer in front to give the Beast a 2-1 lead. In the final 90 seconds, Blain scored on a point shot through traffic for a power play goal to give his team a two-goal edge.
John said the team played much better defensively in the final two periods, but couldn’t find the equalizer.
“We figure it out, try to clean up defensively – which I think in the second and third, we did very well,” John said. “And then, it seems every goaltender we meet, somehow, has luck on their side and we just can’t find the net. Guys are working hard to get there. It’s just a matter of time before something breaks out.”
The Fuel also hit two posts in the game – one in the first, one in the third – and had a penalty shot by Daniel Ciampini in the second period that Reiter was able to smother. Alex Lavoie had a number of excellent chances, with Reiter stopped him five-hole on a breakaway in the second. Midway through the second on a power play, Reiter robbed Ciampini with a shoulder and then made an in-tight save on Matt White at the end of the power play.
The penalty shot came with 1:55 left in the second, when Ciampini and Lavoie had a 2-on-1 and the Brampton defenseman threw his stick at the puck, drawing the penalty shot. Ciampini tried to deke to the stick side, but Reiter stayed with him and smothered the puck. The Fuel continued to generate up to the closing seconds.
“Even when you look with the last four seconds, with the goaltender sprawled out and he somehow makes a glove save. When one of your top scorers coming into our team this year on a penalty shot can’t get a shot off, you know things are struggling,” John said. “Maybe we’re trying to work a little too hard, gripping our sticks a little too tight. We’re trying to relax that mood and get them to keep pushing through here. Eventually, we’re going to get four, five, six in a night. Hopefully, that’s tomorrow.”
The game featured a lot of snarl on both sides – starting midway through the first when the Fuel’s Nick Petrecki and Brampton’s Jeff Brown had a disagreement 10:23 into the game in the Fuel crease. Dylan Clarke and Peter Schneider both drew fighting majors later in the period. Those were the first three of six melees that saw either matching roughing minors or fighting majors. The Fuel were whistled for 33 penalty minutes, the Beast 31.
“The guys stood up for each other tonight,” John said. “That was key – that’s one thing we’ve got to do as a group is stick up for each other. We did that.”
The Fuel finish the weekend with a Sunday trip to Quad City, the team currently in the Western Conference’s final playoff position. They return home to face Cincinnati Thursday and Friday.
“We’re going to push through,” John said. “We still have to take care of our business. We’ve got to keep working hard. Hopefully tomorrow, we do. They’ve got the same kind of travel. We’ll go there and see if we can score some goals.”
- Luc-Olivier Blain (BRM) G, A
- Kenny Reiter (BRM) 38 saves
- Mike Hammond (BRM) A, +2
- The Fuel’s first power play was a good one, with good puck & player movement and yielding a goal by Sharib. Indy was 1-4 on the PP. Brampton was 1-5 – as the Fuel yielded a PPG for the first time since March 5. Our power play was decent. We’ve just got to keep building, keep pushing and keep playing,” John said.
- Sharib’s goal was his 14th, tying him with Rhett Bly, Peter Schneider and Alex Lavoie for the team lead.
- Brampton’s roster featured 41-year-old David Ling, who started the game and had one shot on goal. Ling is one of two active players who played in the former International Hockey League – the other is Daniel Cleary, who is in the AHL. Both played for the IHL’s Indianapolis Ice.
- The Fuel finished the season 5-11-0 against Eastern Conference teams – with 11 of those 16 games coming against Toledo and Orlando. The remainder of the schedule is against Cincinnati (3x), Fort Wayne (3x) and Quad City (2x).
- Saturday’s game was the first visit by a Canadian team to Indianapolis since the Manitoba Moose played the Indianapolis Ice in November 1998, also at the building now known as the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, in the IHL.
- Ciampini’s penalty shot was the third awarded to the Fuel this year, and the team is now 1-for-3 on them. Rhett Bly scored on Fort Wayne’s Pat Nagle on Oct. 24. Nagle stopped Ben Marshall on Jan. 1. ECHL scorers have connected on a 25-percent clip on penalty shots this year – 7-of-28.
- Patrick Koudys played his first game since Feb. 20. He had one shot, moved up from his defense position to play some left wing when the Fuel had forwards in the penalty box, and fought Mike Vernace in the third period. “A lot of guys had good games. I thought Koudys played well. He hasn’t played a lot for us recently, but he was very physical,” John said.
Cody Sharib-Alex Lavoie-Daniel Ciampini
Dylan Clarke-Brandon Wong-Peter Schneider
Matt White-Michael Colantone-Rhett Bly
Nick Mattson-Zach Miskovic
Nick Petrecki-Anders Franzon
Sam Jardine-Ben Marshall
EBUG: Tylor Semtner
Scratches: Casey Thrush, Trevor Campbell, Kevin Clare, Mike Seidel (IR)
Next up: The Fuel travel to division rival Quad City on Sunday for a 5:05 p.m. faceoff. They’ll head home to face Cincinnati on Thursday and Friday.