The Indy Fuel built momentum with a man down Friday night.
They then seized it.
The Fuel used a perfect penalty kill to get control – including an extended 5-on-3 kill in the second period – and followed up with quick 1-2 punches that found the back of the net in a 5-1 victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones.
Five different players scored goals, and Daniel Ciampini tallied his second straight three-point game. Goaltender Keegan Asmundson stopped a career-high 47 shots to backstop his – and the team’s – third straight victory.
Ben Marshall and Matt White scored two goals 1:08 apart in the first period to give Indy a two-goal lead, Kevin Clare came out of the penalty box right after Ciampini blocked a shot to score another goal, and Ciampini and Peter Schneider tallied 1:07 apart late in the second to push the lead to 5-1.
“Tonight, we found a way where we could score some goals,” Fuel head coach Bernie John said. “We got outshot, we maybe got outplayed a little bit, but when we had some chances, we buried them. We didn’t have to dogfight them out to score some. They were pretty goals – they were nice goals.”
The Fuel’s penalty kill was 6-for-6 in the game, and the kills led to goals. The biggest came midway through the second. With the Fuel leading 2-0, Trevor Campbell and Rhett Bly were sent off 34 seconds apart, giving the Cyclones an extended 5-on-3. Asmundson made three saves in quick succession – two on one-timers off the stick of ECHL goal-scoring leader Jack Downing – and a subsequent penalty on the Cyclones’ Zach Budish wiped away the rest of the two-man advantage.
That kill gained momentum. After another penalty led to another kill, the Fuel seized control. Kevin Clare hopped out of the penalty box just as Ciampini blocked a shot at the blueline. The two rushed up-ice on a 2-on-0 and Clare finished to give Indy a 3-0 lead.
“A 5-on-3, guys have got to dig in a little more,” Asmundson said. “I had to do my job and make some saves. Guys were digging in a little more, blocking shots. We were able to get the kill and get some momentum.”
“The 5-on-3 was a huge kill,” John added. “(Anders Franzon) and (Nick Petrecki) were blocking shots like crazy.”
Cincinnati answered just over a minute later when Peter Quenneville was able to bury a rebound, but the Fuel again had a flurry come directly off a strong penalty kill. With 3:03 left in the period, the puck came to Ciampini at the right side of the net, and he roofed a shot over Cincinnati’s Andy Iles to give the Fuel a 4-1 lead.
“Not too many guys can score a goal like that – pick it up on the backhand and put it under the bar,” John said.
Just over a minute later, Ciampini fed Schneider for a breakaway. He deked and then beat Iles with the backhand to give the Fuel a 5-1 lead.
“Their D lost the puck on our blueline a little bit,” Schneider said. “Champs made a great play. I tried to beat him to the net, got a little breakaway and put it upstairs.”
Early on, Cincinnati came out flying – hitting two goalposts and forcing Asmundson to make several tough saves. But a mid-period penalty kill turned momentum in the Fuel’s direction, and it became a quick lead when the Cyclones’ Jonathan Diaby went off tripping.
On the ensuing power play, Ben Marshall blasted a shot from the point that eluded Iles – with Cody Sharib providing plenty of distraction in front – to give Indy the lead.
“We had some mixed units out there as we were in a change,” said Schneider, who had the primary assist. “The puck came to the wall, I heard Marshall at the blueline. He made a great fake, faked out their forward and the goalie and put it in the empty net.”
Sixty-eight seconds later, Matt White jammed a puck through Iles and barely over the line to give the Fuel a two-goal lead.
“Anytime you can grab a lead in the first period, especially at home, we feel like no one can beat us then,” said Anders Franzon, who had assists on both goals. “Those goals were nice. I got a few shots, the forwards took care of it and banged in some rebounds.”
The first period was an indicator of things to come – two quick goals coming after the defense seized momentum.
“We’ve been scoring the first goal quite a bit. we needed to find a way to get that second one early,” John said. “Keegan held us in on the back end and made some big saves. But when they made it 3-1, our guys didn’t shiver, just like last night. We came back hard and scored two quick goals right after that.”
Brandon Whitney replaced Iles in the Cincinnati net for the third period and stopped all 12 shots he saw.
Asmundson had a career-high in saves, stopping 12 shots in the first, 18 in the second and 17 in the third, only allowing a rebound midway through the second.
His best work came early, when he stuffed Christiaan Minella and Nick Huard in tight in the opening two minutes. In the closing minutes, he made a sprawling save on Downing and Brandon Gracel on a 2-on-1.
“The credit, is a lot of guys blocked shots,” Asmundson said. “(Franzon) had a bunch on the PK, (Petrecki) had a bunch on the PK. Guys are blocking a lot of shots, guys are getting into lanes. It was just a great team game. … We’re playing the systems well on our back end, that leads to good offense. Tonight, we had a lot of good offense from good defense.”
With the two-game sweep, the Fuel are now five points out of a playoff spot with five games to play. Four of the last five will be on the road, including a three-game swing next weekend starting March 31 in Cincinnati.
“It was life or death for us,” Franzon said. “It was a really emotional win. It brought us together as a team. To be able to stay in it for the playoffs, it means everything right now.”
- Keegan Asmundson (Fuel) 47 saves
- Daniel Ciampini (Fuel) G, 2A, +3
- Anders Franzon (Fuel) 2A, +3
- The game was physical throughout, but especially in the third period. Sam Jardine dropped the gloves with Cincinnati’s Cody Carlson early, then Dylan Clarke and Nick Petrecki both tangled with 6-4, 225-pound Cyclone Jonathan Diaby – the latter coming after a scrum in front of Asmundson’s net. Diaby got some big punches in early, but Petrecki ended up taking the Cyclone down in their second bout in as many nights. “It shows you how tough Petro is, he took about four bombs to the head and he comes back and beats that guy. That shows you his toughness,” John said. “Those are character wins. When one steps in, they all step in. It’s been key for our guys. We have the mentality, one in all.”
- Anders Franzon had one of his biggest games, with two assists, a +3 night and a strong night checking one of the league’s highest-scoring lines alongside Petrecki. Franzon also got some power play time, taking Zach Miskovic’s spot after he was loaned to the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers earlier in the day. Franzon had his first two-point game. “We like to pair him with Petrecki and play them against the top line if we can,” John said. “At home, you can do that. He’s just so poised back there. Nothing seems to faze him back there – he’s smart with the puck, makes smart plays. Those two guys are really clicking together. At the end of the day, it was a great win by everyone.”
- Daniel Ciampini had his second straight three-point game and now has 12 goals and 21 assists in just 44 ECHL games – Ciampini has also seen a lot of time in the AHL this season. He has two goals and five assists in his last three games.
- The line of Ciampini, Alex Lavoie and Peter Schneider had another big game. In addition to Ciampini’s three points, Lavoie had an assist and Schneider tallied a goal and an assist. “I love playing with those two,” Schneider said. “We’ve had some good chemistry the last couple of games.”
- Ciampini isn’t the only player on a streak. Lavoie extended his scoring streak to three games, and Ben Marshall extended his to five games.
- Marshall and Cody Sharib each generated a lot of offense, combining for 11 shots.
- Last Saturday, after a game in which the Fuel had a number of opportunities but scored just one goal, John said the goals would come. Since, they’ve tallied 12 goals in three wins. “It’s a confidence thing. We’re starting to realize that doing the little things and the hard work, it’s going to pay off,” John said. “That’s what we’re doing.”
- While the Cyclones got 48 shots on goal – and Asmundson stopped 47 of them – it came down to quality over quantity. The Fuel took advantage of their chances – they had 31 shots but buried their dangerous opportunities – while keeping Cincinnati largely to the outside. “Guys kept them to the outside, cleared the front of the net,” John said. “When we needed a big save, (Asmundson) made it. Credit to our guys at the back end, the guys blocking shots and credit to our penalty kill.”
- The Fuel are now 7-3-0 against Cincinnati this season with one game to play. The Fuel are also 23-11-3 against Midwest Division foes – by far the best division record among the five Midwest teams. “It’s a little bit of familiarity. We know how those teams play, we know their guys,” Schneider said. “As a team, we played a lot better this weekend.”
- Friday’s game marked the pro debut of Malcom Gould, a two-time All-WCHA player from Michigan Tech who recently finished his college career. He had a shot on goal in his first game.
- In head-to-head meetings against the Cyclones, Daniel Ciampini (11 points) and Peter Schneider (9 points) have led the way, and they combined for five points on Friday night.
- Keegan Asmundson loves playing against the Cyclones. In five games against Cincy with the Fuel, Asmundson is 4-0-0 with a 1.69 GAA and .948 save percentage.
Daniel Ciampini-Alex Lavoie-Peter Schneider
Dylan Clarke-Brandon Wong-Malcom Gould
Cody Sharib-Matt White-Rhett Bly
Sam Jardine-Trevor Campbell
Nick Petrecki-Anders Franzon
Kevin Clare-Ben Marshall
BU: Terry Shafer
Scratches: Patrick Koudys, Casey Thrush, Mike Seidel (IR)
Playoff watch: Quad City re-took the eighth-place spot in the standings with a 3-1 win over Evansville. Tulsa dropped to ninth with a 4-3 loss to Utah. The Fuel (31-33-3, 65 points) are now five points back of Quad City – which holds the final playoff spot – and four back of Tulsa. They’re also seven back of seventh-place Colorado, which has 72 points after beating Idaho 5-4 in OT Friday night.
Next up: The Fuel travel to Cincinnati for a March 31 contest, the final game against the Cyclones this season and the first of a three-game weekend.