It’s only a matter of time for the Indy Fuel.
A solid defensive effort, a rebound goal off a face-off and an offense that launched 40 shots at the Quad City net gave the Fuel one of their stronger performances of the young season Saturday night.
But, with the game tied in the third period, the Fuel fell victim to a couple of unfortunate breaks, which the visiting Mallards cashed in en route to a 4-1 victory over Indy at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Midway through the third, with the Fuel pressuring the Mallards’ net, Nick Mattson was loading up to take a shot from the point, but his stick exploded as he wound up, leading to a breakaway the other way. It was soon followed up with the game-winner – a point shot from Alex Gudbranson that found its way through traffic exactly halfway trough the third period. Later in the period, a puck pinballed off Alex Petan’s leg and in to give the Mallards a 3-1 edge, a goal that was granted after a long discussion by the officials, as the Fuel contended the puck was kicked into the net.
“When things aren’t going the right way, you tend to not get the bounces. Tonight’s an example of that. We’ve got pressure, we have a broken stick, a couple plays later, it’s in the net,” Fuel forward Kevin Lynch said. “If those don’t count, we still have momentum. I thought we were getting better chances than they were. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Indy is now 2-5-1 on the season, and will head north next week for three games against the Alaska Aces.
Indy outshot Quad City 40-32, including launching 18 shots in the third period and carrying much of the play, but the Mallards’ C.J. Motte stopped 39 shots.
“We liked our first two periods,” Lynch said. “In the third, we wanted to continue that momentum. I think we were doing a great job of that – we put 40 shots on net. Anytime you’re doing that, you’re playing good hockey. We had some costly turnovers. Every team goes through this – the little rut in the season – whether it’s the beginning, middle or end. Unfortunately, we’re going through it now. We’ve got the guys in the locker room to pull us out of it. We just need to stay focused, continue the good, eliminate the bad and go into next week.”
The contest was physical and featured strong defensive play by both teams, who were largely successful at keeping the net-front area clear, keeping play to the outside and preventing odd-man rushes and rebound chances. With opportunities at a premium, a break – such as a shattered stick – can be the difference.
“We’ve been preaching the back check, back pressure, really preaching keeping your sticks on the ice at all times, sticks on pucks,” said Fuel coach Bernie John, who called Friday’s effort one of the Fuel’s better defensive games. “That’s been our focus the last week. Guys bought in. We’ve had a really good (third forward). Defensively, we’re getting a lot better.”
The game-winner came as the Fuel had been buzzing and had multiple long zone entries. Sam Warning corralled the puck and went on a breakaway, but Fuel netminder Eric Levine stopped it and made a diving save on a rebound, but Quad City was able to keep the pressure on and cycle the puck back to Gudbranson at the center point for the goal.
On the next shift, Mattson and Lynch nearly knotted the game – with the Fuel blueliner firing a point shot right to Lynch’s stick in front of the net, who deflected it upward. Motte made a positional stop, but the Fuel pounced on the rebound and forced the Mallards’ netminder to stop a spinning shot from the low slot.
Petan’s late insurance goal gave the Mallards a cushion, and Chris Francis sealed it with an empty-netter.
Chances were few in the opening period, but Indy came out flying in the second and forced Motte to make his two best saves of the night. The first came 80 seconds into the period, when Patrick D’Amico pulled the puck off the end boards and tried to stuff it. It did trickle through Motte, but was swept off the line. Thirty seconds later, Motte made a diving save on Bryn Chyzyk alone in front, and then smothered the rebound. Indy had another chance with Tyler Currier jamming at a rebound on the doorstep midway through the second, but the Mallards’ netminder covered it.
Quad City finally broke the ice with 4:07 left in the second. After a strong pad save by Levine on Petan cutting in front, Petan got his own rebound and one-timed it into the net while falling down.
But the Fuel tied things up by the end of the period, drawing a penalty with 15.3 seconds left. Lynch won the draw and the puck came to Matt Stanisz at the left point. His shot deflected to Lynch at the far post, and he jammed it into the open side.
“We were trying to get the puck to their goalie, get guys to the front and get rebounds,” Lynch said, noting that happened on his goal, as he scored on a rebounded point shot. “I don’t think we got as many guys to the front of the net as we would’ve liked, but that’s something to keep building on. The more we do that, hopefully, we score a lot of goals.”
It marked the third time in four games the Fuel have scored on the power play, and was Lynch’s second goal of the season.
While the Fuel are looking to snap a six-game winless streak, they’re pleased with the continued growth of a newly-put-together team, and anticipate the improvement on defense and more chemistry will turn close losses into close victories.
“Other than Cody (Sharib) tonight, everybody’s new,” John said. “A lot of people don’t understand that. (Quad City) has got a lot of new guys, too, but the Fort Wayne team we played last night had nine guys back. It makes a big difference when you have that continuity, you know where guys are.”
“It’s early and we don’t want to lose points, it’s a matter of figuring yourselves out,” John added. “You want to play well, and we’re playing good hockey. It would be different if we were playing badly and not getting opportunities. It’s just a matter of time before we start getting the bounces.”
The next stop is with their three-game Alaska trip. It’ll be the Fuel’s first trip to Anchorage since playing two preseason games there in 2014.
“It’ll be good to get away, spend some time together,” John said. “We’ll get to play on Olympic-sized ice and we’ve got some guys that can fly. We’ll try to get the first one and build from there.”
- Alex Petan (QC) 2G, +3, 6 shots
- C.J. Motte (QC) 39 saves
- Kevin Lynch (Fuel) G, 6 shots
- Forward Cody Sharib made his return to the Fuel lineup – playing his first game since leaving the Oct. 14 season opener with an injury. He immediately made his presence felt – laying a big hit on the forecheck on his first shift. He skated in a number of situations as the 10th forward, killed penalties and had one shot. “It’s always good to have him,” John said. “He’s the type of player we don’t have a lot of – he’s your prototypical power forward. We’ve got a few guys who can do that, but not the way he does.”
- The line of Alex Wideman-Kevin Lynch-Evan Mosey was again strong, combining for 15 shots. Lynch had the goal – which came on the PP – but they were a solid combination of speed and size to generate a number of high-quality scoring chances. “As a line, we played well tonight, but we still want to do more for the team,” Lynch said. “We need to come back this week, work harder, stay focused and hopefully the bounces turn in our favor next week.”
- Mosey made his Fuel and ECHL debut Friday night. He signed with Rockford in the offseason after playing three years in Europe. “He’s got the speed, he’s got American (Hockey) League speed. He was playing really good (in Rockford), too, but it’s a numbers game. They thought, ‘let’s get him ice time.’ I thought that line was good – they created some chances. They’ll get more comfortable with each other.”
- The game saw some early choppiness, as Matt Stanisz and Garrett Arnold scrapped just 4:22 into the game. Stainsz recorded a takedown in that bout. Later, the Fuel’s Brady Ramsay went toe-to-toe with 6-foot-3 Mallards defenseman Mike Monfredo.
- The Fuel PP was 1-for-3, scoring a goal for the third time in four games. The PK was also a perfect 4-for-4. The Indy PK is now a perfect 9-for-9 at home.
- Next week’s trip to Alaska gives the Fuel a week to not just play three games, but have the opportunity to come closer as a team. After an early Tuesday practice, they plan to spend a day to themselves away from the ice. “Anytime you’re on the road for a week, you really get to gel as a team,” Lynch said. “You’re with each other for every meal, every team event. We’ll continue to make this team gel and come closer together. We need to find a way to get Ws.”
- Stanisz’s assist on Lynch’s goal was his first point of the season, while Schiestel had his second point of the year. Lynch now has two goals and four assists, his six points tying Alex Wideman for the team lead.
- The 40 shots marked the second time in three games the Fuel had launched that number. Against Allen last Saturday, Indy had a season-high 43 shots.
- Quad City’s victory was its first in the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The Fuel won 7 of the 10 meetings last season and swept all five home meetings. Quad City has now won five of its last six games.
- Levine continues to play well in net, despite being 0-3-0. He has a .924 save percentage and 2.71 goals against average in three starts. He had back-to-back starts this weekend.
Alex Wideman-Kevin Lynch-Evan Mosey
Marek Tvrdon-Bryn Chyzyk-Tyler Currier
Matt Rupert-Patrick D’Amico-Brady Ramsay
Nick Mattson-Jonathan Carlsson
Drew Schiette-Chris Williams
Randy Cure-Matt Stanisz
BU: Jake Hildebrand
Scratches: Anthony Beauregard, Raphael Corriveau, Martin Bellus, Dillon Fournier, Zach Miskovic (IR), Paxton Leroux (IR)
Roster move: The Fuel received forward Evan Mosey from Rockford earlier Saturday.
Next up: The Fuel travel to Alaska for games Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The games will all face-off at 7:15 p.m. Alaska Standard Time, which will be shortly after midnight in Indiana. Indy returns home Nov. 18 to face Wheeling, and then will host Atlanta the following two days.