With stellar goaltending coming almost every night, it was a matter of time before the Indy Fuel’s offense broke out.
It did so in a big way Friday night, as Indy routed the Wheeling Nailers 6-1 Friday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Marek Tvrdon led the Fuel attack with two goals and an assist. Reigning ECHL Goaltender of the Week Jake Hildebrand turned in another outstanding performance with 29 saves.
The Fuel did much their damage with the skating game, turning rushes into several of their six goals. Five different players found the net, including the first pro goal for Chris Williams and the first of the year for Evan Mosey. Patrick D’Amico added three assists.
“That’s one thing we preached in Alaska – quick transitions,” John said. “Forwards get to openings, come back a little and D get the puck going north as quickly as we can, and then be part of the rush. Hopefully, we can keep it going tomorrow.”
The Fuel continued their momentum from winning the last two of their three-game road trip to Alaska last week, extending their streak to three. Indy (5-6-1) continues a three-game home weekend with games against the Atlanta Gladiators at 7:35 p.m. Saturday and 3:05 p.m. Sunday.
Hildebrand turned in another 29-save performance, including several flurries of spectacular goaltending. He has stopped 93 of the last 96 shots he has faced over the last three games, all Fuel victories.
“He’s just been really good,” John said. “He finds the puck, he sees it. He just competes for the puck. He makes the save and he competes and looks for it, whereas some goalies hope the puck hits them the second time, he’s really looking to compete for the puck. Kudos to him, he’s been playing great, but the guys have been helping him out by keeping guys out on the perimeter and letting him see the puck, but he makes big saves when needed.”
With the Fuel using their speed to push the attack, Hildebrand’s cage was often a catalyst. One of the game’s biggest sequences came midway through the third with Indy leading 3-1 and the game still in the balance. He made an arm save on a partial breakaway, D’Amico pounced on the rebound and sprung Tvrdon with a stretch pass for a power play breakaway goal seconds later, giving Indy a 4-1 led with 8:57 remaining.
“That was big for us, that we didn’t lose that goal and we scored right after that,” Tvrdon said.
“He let me know he was open,” D’Amico added. “I headmanned it up and just got it to him. He had a nice finish.”
Tvrdon would score again on a 4-on-4 rush three minutes later, and Alex Wideman would add another with 3:40 left to add the exclamation point.
The sequence all started with a big save on one end.
“Those are the things we need from our goaltenders,” John said. “They make the one key save and allow us an opportunity to come back. It was great.”
After the teams felt each other out for the opening few minutes, Williams lit a spark in multiple ways. His first pro goal came at 7:44, as D’Amico won a draw cleanly back to him. He fired a shot through a lot of traffic that deflected over Wheeling goaltender Doug Carr’s leg pad and into the net for his first pro goal.
“(My job was) win the draw, and after that, my job was to go to the net,” D’Amico said of the first goal – and the first of his three assists. “I don’t know how much of a screen I got, but I was trying to box out. It took a fortunate bounce off the D-man and that’s the break we needed. It was good to get that first goal.”
Immediately off the ensuing face-off, he fought Wheeling’s 6-5, 215-pounder Kyle Flemington, continuing the momentum gained by the goal.
“He’s been working hard, in and out of the lineup. He set the tone (in Alaska) the second game where he got into a fight and beat up their guy. Tonight, he scores and fights,” John said. “He’s earned his time on the ice and he’s playing well. We keep working with him to keep it simple. It’s gratifying for him. He’s earned it.”
Hildebrand kept the Fuel ahead – especially in a late-period flurry where Wheeling had more than a minute of zone time, where he made three saves on high-quality chances, two on Kevin Schulze. Once came on a jam in front, the other on a point shot through traffic.
In the second period, Anthony Beauregard gave the Fuel a lead after Drew Schiestel intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and fed Beauregard up the right side. He cut in and roofed a short-side shot over Carr’s shoulder 1:15 into the frame. Mosey would jam in a rebound off the rush with five minutes left in the period to give the Fuel a 3-0 lead.
“At times, we were running around a bit defensively, but Hildy was up to the task as he usually is,” John said. “We got pucks to the net and got to dirty areas. When that happens, good things happened. We had good puck movement and puck control.”
Christian Hilbrich scored a power play goal late in the period to draw Wheeling within two, and the Nailers thought they were within one when Garrett Meurs buried a rebound on the next power play early in the third. The goal was disallowed due to contact with Hildebrand, and he and the Fuel killed the remainder of the man advantage.
“This was a good team effort,” John said. “We’re playing solid, we’re playing with confidence. We’ve got a high-scoring team coming in tomorrow night, but we can put the puck in the net, too.”
- Jake Hildebrand (Fuel) 29 saves
- Marek Tvrdon (Fuel) 2G/A, +3
- Patrick D’Amico (Fuel) 3A
- This victory was the Fuel’s most complete performance of the year. Every line contributed and the defense was strong. Not surprisingly, it came on the heels of a week-long trip to Alaska where the team not only won two games, but grew closer as a team. They spent a day at Anchorage native Tyler Currier’s cabin, and spent a lot of off-ice time together. “TC got us over in his cabin, we had a lot of fun things to do there,” D’Amico said. “We definitely had a lot of team bonding. Whenever you’re together for a week on the road in a hotel with the guys, you’re together, it’s good for everyone.”
- The 6-1 margin tied a team record for victory margin, which had been set in a 6-1 victory at Greenville March 21, 2015.
- Anthony Beauregard has a hot stick, having scored in three straight games. His second-period goal was a highlight-reel effort, as Carr had him squared up as Beauregard skated up the right side. There was very little room over the shoulder, but the Fuel rookie found it, showing the touch that potted 59 goals in the last two seasons in the QMJHL. “He’s been playing great,” John said. “He’s been getting compliments from everyone else – keeping things simple, throwing pucks on net. He’s got a heck of a shot and he showed it when he scored tonight. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. That’s what these young guys need.”
- Marek Tvrdon had his second two-goal game of the season, tallying two in 3:07 of the third period to break the game open. He also had the second assist on Mosey’s goal late in the second, and now leads the team with five goals. “It was good for him to get that confidence,” John said. “He’s a guy we need, if not scoring, setting up goals. He’s so dangerous offensively.”
- He wasn’t the only player with a three-point game. Patrick D’Amico didn’t have an assist going into the contest. Now, he has three. It was his first career three-assist game, and the second three-point game for the second-year pro. “It’s a good feeling, whenever you can help out in a team win,” D’Amico said. “It’s not always going to be like (having three assists) – you can help out in different ways – but it’s definitely a good feeling.”
- Alex Wideman had a goal and an assist, snapping a nine-game streak without a goal, and giving him his third two-point game of the year. He nearly had a handful more, as his activity on the forecheck was forcing turnovers and leading to several scoring chances. Wideman now has four goals on the season, and his eight points tie Tvrdon for the team lead.
- John had high praise for forward Raphael Corriveau. The forward nearly found the net – he hit the goalpost on a late rush – but his energy was key playing as the 10th forward. “That was his best game of the year,” John said. “He doesn’t get a lot of ice time, but he was a factor every time he was on the ice.”
- The Fuel PP was 1-for-2 in the contest. The penalty kill was 4-for-5, including killing three of four consecutive Wheeling power plays in the second and early third periods.
- Indy has now played both of last year’s Kelly Cup finalists, and has garnered three of a possible four points out of those games. The Fuel have scored six goals in each of them – a 7-6 OT loss to Allen came Oct. 29. “We know they’re a good team,” D’Amico said. “We may raise our level of play, but we need to stay at a consistent level all the way through. It’s nice to get wins against those guys.”
- Wheeling’s tally was a significant one from an old friend. Christian Hilbrich played two seasons of junior hockey at the Coliseum for the Indiana Ice – where he was a teammate of current Fuel players Nick Mattson and Alex Wideman. It was his first career pro goal.
- Speaking of old friends, another will be coming to Indy the remainder of the weekend when Atlanta comes calling. The Gladiators’ roster features former Fuel defenseman Ben Marshall – who signed with Atlanta’s AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins. Indy received D’Amico in the trade for Marshall’s rights, and the current Fuel forward is looking forward to facing several familiar faces. “I’m definitely excited, looking forward to that one. We definitely want to come out as hard as we can and get the win from them.”
While these were the lines in warmups, the coaches juggled the lines during the game
Alex Wideman-Kevin Lynch-Evan Mosey
Matt Rupert-Anthony Beauregard-Tyler Currier
Marek Tvrdon-Patrick D’Amico-Brady Ramsay
Nick Mattson-Jonathan Carlsson
Drew Schiestel-Chris Williams
Randy Cure-Matt Stanisz
BU: Eric Levine
Scratches: Cody Sharib, Bryn Chyzyk, Zach Miskovic (IR), Paxton Leroux (IR)
Roster move: Thursday, the Fuel waived forward Martin Bellus.
Next up: The Fuel continue their four-game homestand with two more weekend games against the Atlanta Gladiators. The puck drops at 7:35 p.m. Saturday and 3:05 p.m. Sunday.