Forty-one seconds into Friday night’s game, the Indy Fuel found themselves playing catch-up against the Tulsa Oilers.
A tough break in the second period – a goal coming directly after Alex Wideman went down after taking an apparent high stick – made the deficit a big mountain to climb.
But the Fuel nearly scaled it with a solid third period before falling 3-2 to Tulsa at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Marek Tvrdon and Patrick D’Amico scored third-period goals for the Fuel, who began to tilt the ice in the second half of the game after falling behind 3-0 in the early second period.
“That’s key – we didn’t fold the tent,” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “We came out and played hard. We played hard the last half of the second. We started getting on the body, getting chances and we started wearing them down, and we kept that in the third – getting on the body and wearing them down and getting opportunities. We just couldn’t find the back of the net enough.”
Indy is now 2-3-0 on the season, with a two-game home weekend set continuing Saturday as the Allen Americans visit the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Trailing by three goals Friday, Indy broke through in the third, as Paquette was sent off for cross checking, and Indy immediately began pressuring. Wideman hit Tvrdon with a cross-ice pass to the left circle. Tvrdon’s initial shot was blocked, but he followed up and scored his first goal of the season at 7:22.
“Wides gave me a good pass. It was a bobbling puck, but I shot it,” Tvrdon said. “It hit their guy and I shot it again. It was good for it to finally go in.”
Three minutes later, the forecheck produced another goal, as Martin Bellus won a battle down low and fed D’Amico at the side of the circle for a goal that closed the deficit to 3-2.
“What caused the goal was we were playing fast and with speed,” D’Amico said. “We took the body on the forecheck, forced a turnover and the puck bounced out to me. That’s the way we’ve got to play – we’ve got to play fast, play physical and we’ll have success.”
Indy continued to pressure, but a late penalty slowed the momentum, and the Fuel were unable to solve Phillips and the Oilers. The Fuel were buzzing the net most of the period, outshooting Tulsa 14-9 for the frame and 36-32 for the game.
“That’s exactly the way we need to play,” D’Amico said of the third period. “If we play like that for three periods, I’m sure we’d be on the other side of this result. We need to come back tomorrow, have a short memory and start fresh.”
Tulsa’s lead came early, as Christophe Lalancette scored on the first shot of the game – a rush up the right side that was sniped under the crossbar for an unassisted goal 41 seconds into the game.
The Oilers kept the pressure on – they had eight shots in the first 10 minutes and controlled puck possession and had a number of chances on Fuel goaltender Jake Hildebrand. While the Fuel were able to turn momentum after earning a power play when Jacob Poe held Indy’s Marek Tvrdon to slow a partial breakaway chance, Tulsa headed to the intermission with a one-goal lead.
Tulsa extended the lead in a 1:57 stretch of the second period. Danick Paquette scored by roofing a backhand into the top shelf on a partial break. Less than two minutes later, the Fuel’s Wideman was carrying the puck out of his own zone when he went down in a reaction to an apparent high stick. Tulsa’s Phil Brewer corralled the loose puck and scored to extend the lead to 3-0.
“They’re a team that capitalizes off chances,” John said. “They’re very disciplined on their assignments, so it’s tough for you to make plays. We were trying to force some things. Our (third forward) a lot of times was taking chances, and we were giving up odd-man rushes. They keep it simple, keep it easy, they feed off odd-man rushes because of turnovers, and then they put them in the back of the net. That’s what’s led to their success.”
Indy’s push began in the late second period, with the best chance coming on a rush when Matt Rupert ripped a shot off a cross-ice pass that appeared destined for the open side, but Tulsa’s Jamie Phillips went post-to-post and snared it with the glove. He also smothered an early bid in the third by Wideman from the left circle.
Phillips has backstopped all of Tulsa’s games as the Oilers have started the season 6-0-0. He had 34 saves Friday.
“He made a few huge saves. He stopped Rupert a bunch of times,” John said. “He’s a good goaltender. He’s 6-0, he’s playing well, he’s seeing the puck really big right now and he’s playing with a lot of confidence. When a goaltender is playing like that, it’s tough for them to get through.”
- Jamie Phillips (TUL) 34 saves
- Marek Tvrdon (Fuel) G
- Matt Stanisz (Fuel)
- One big takeaway is the Fuel power play found the back of the net. The Fuel scored on the team’s second power play of the night, setting Tvrdon up for his goal, which also broke the ice in the game. It was Indy’s first PPG of the season in 12 chances “We go 1-for-2 tonight and we got some looks the first time,” John said. “It was bound to go in. We’ve got too much skill for it not to happen. We can build off that.”
- The Fuel PK was tested only once – a late third-period too many men on the ice penalty when the puck hit a player’s skate as he was heading to the bench – but it was a solid kill with Jake Hildebrand going post-to-post to shut down Paquette and give the Fuel an opportunity in the final minute. Indy is now 15-for-17 on the kill this season.
- Tvrdon and D’Amico both scored their first goals as members of the Fuel in the third period. D’Amico’s goal marked the first tally of the season for his line, which includes wingers Brady Ramsay and Martin Bellus. Tvrdon also tallied his first goal and second point of the season. Wideman, who had an assist on Tvrdon’s goal, has three goals and an assist to, along with Tyler Currier, lead the team in scoring.
- Prior to the game, the Fuel tweaked the forward lines, putting Tvrdon with Lynch and Currier and moving Wideman with Matt Rupert and Anthony Beauregard. Those two lines then flipped left wings during the game, as Tvrdon and Rupert switched places. John said before the season he sees the forward lines not as a first, second and third, but three first lines that can all be a key piece.
- Raphael Corriveau dropped the gloves with Tulsa’s Reid Halabi during the second period. They had a long fight that was a Corriveau victory and helped spark the Fuel midway through the second.
- Hildebrand made 26 saves, but his play kept the Fuel in the game. All three goals allowed were on partial breaks. “Our goaltending has been fine the first five games,” John said. “Jake played well tonight. You ask your goaltender to make the first save, and sometimes tonight, he made the second and the third. You want your goaltender to give us a chance, and he did that tonight. He allowed us to come back in the second and third and get back into it.”
Marek Tvrdon-Kevin Lynch-Tyler Currier
Matt Rupert-Anthony Beauregard-Alex Wideman
Brady Ramsay-Patrick D’Amico-Martin Bellus
Drew Schiestel-Jonathan Carlson
Randy Cure-Matt Stanisz
Nick Mattson-Dillon Fournier
BU: Eric Levine
Scratches: Paxton Leroux, Chris Williams, Cody Sharib (res), Kyle Shapiro (res), Zach Miskovic (IR)
Next up: The Fuel host the Allen Americans at 7:35 p.m. Saturday.