Evan Mosey saw a puck trickling into the neutral zone right as he had turned on the jets to head up-ice.
Like a sprinter, he pulled away from the chasing Atlanta Gladiators defensemen, then deked to the backhand and flipped the puck over Steve Racine’s pad and into the net.
The quick change gave the Indy Fuel a lead Saturday night, but it sparked a three-goal first period that keyed a 4-3 victory over the Gladiators at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Mosey scored goals on back-to-back shifts, Matt Stanisz hammered a power play tally and Alex Wideman scored the eventual game-winner in the third period as Indy held off a furious Atlanta rally.
“The D-man mishandled it and he pushed it to the center of the ice where I was going full speed,” Mosey said of the first goal. “It was one of those plays where it doesn’t happen often, but you’ve got to jump on the opportunity and capitalize.”
The victory was the fourth straight for Indy, which is now 6-6-1 on the season. The two teams will play again at 3:05 p.m. Sunday. That first goal was indicative of what has helped propel the streak – team speed. Of the 10 goals scored in the last two nights, most have come off the rush.
“Their D get up the ice and take chances, so we’re going to be able to create and do some things with the puck if we make plays,” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “That’s what we did. With Mosey’s first goal, you can see why he was one of the fastest skaters at the Blackhawks’ camp. He has blazing speed.”
“Speed, around hockey now, is one of the biggest things,” Mosey said. “It’s hard for guys to judge and adapt to. The team is filled with speed, that’s one of the biggest things we have.”
Mosey scored twice in 1:44 of the first period, staking the Fuel to a quick two-goal lead and giving him three goals in the last two nights. The first, his breakaway goal, came 5:17 into the game. The second came on the ensuing shift, when Alex Wideman came up the left side and put what Mosey called an “unbelievable” goalmouth pass right past netminder Steve Racine and onto Mosey’s stick for a redirection into the net.
“It doesn’t happen often, but it’s such a relief when you can go out there two shifts in a row and get goals an help the team get a good lead off the start,” Mosey said.
“Whenever you can get two goals right off the bat and put a team on their heels where they have to score, or they’ll make mistakes trying to score and you can capitalize. That’s where getting a lead is one of the biggest parts of the game.”
Mosey nearly had a hat trick – he again pulled away from the pack to get a partial breakaway, but Racine stuffed his backhander with the pad midway through the third.
Indy then extended the lead to 3-0 on its only power play of the night, as Stanisz hammered a blast from the point that beat Racine cleanly with 3:30 left in the opening period. It was the Fuel’s fifth goal in 11 power play chances at home.
“You play at home, you practice on this rink more than you do on the road,” John said. “We get comfortable with situations and spots on the ice. We talked about we were trying to force things too much on the last few power plays. Just get it back to the points, get some shots and that opens things up. Fortunately, we got it back to the point, we had two guys with good screens in front of their goalie and it goes in the net.”
While the three-goal first period established the tone for the game, a late response turned out to be the game-winner. Atlanta carried play in the second period, outshooting Indy 14-6 and getting a mid-period goal from Thomas Frazee, although the Fuel had multiple odd-man rushes and high-quality chances. The Gladiators pulled within one on a rebound goal with 3:08 left in the third, but Indy responded quickly. Off the draw, Drew Schiestel found space and Wideman driving to the back door. A tape-to-tape pass led to Wideman tapping the puck into the net, restoring a two-goal lead nine seconds after it was cut.
“Whether you score or get scored on, that next shift is the most important of the game,” Wideman said. “Our team responded very well. Scheisty made a great play – he basically did it all himself. All I did was go to the back door for a tap-in, but you’ve got to give him the credit. He was moving his feet and gave me a great pass going to the net.”
It turned out to be the game-winner, as Atlanta’s Blake Kessel scored again with 1:41 left and Racine pulled for an extra attacker, but Fuel netminder Jake Hildebrand stopped the last two shots and his teammates cleared the zone multiple times to prevent the Gladiators from setting up shop.
Hildebrand stopped 28 shots in the victory, as he has backstopped all four wins in the Fuel’s streak. The Fuel kept things simple in the third period – short shifts and making simple plays – but still generated a number of scoring chances and a big goal.
“You don’t want to sit back on a lead and let a team come at you, but with a team like that who likes to take chances, if you’re patient, get guys in good defensive areas and chip the pucks out, you’re still going to get opportunities to score,” John said. “We got the fourth one – that was huge.”
- Evan Mosey (Fuel) 2G, +2
- Alex Wideman (Fuel) G, A, +3
- Drew Schiestel (Fuel) 2A
- The four-game winning streak is the Fuel’s first since Jan. 17-24 of this year, when the team beat Wheeling, Quad City (twice) and Fort Wayne, all at home. The Fuel had two win streaks of at least four games last season, and now have seven in franchise history. The longest win streak is seven games, from Jan. 18-28, 2015. The streak started with a week-long trip to Alaska, but has continued with two solid performances at home against two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, and a team that has three of the league’s top four scorers. “Alaska as a good tipping point for the team,” Mosey said. “We went to Alaska, bonded a little bit as a team. That trip was the tipping point of how we needed to play, what we needed to do to get wins. From there, we’ve simulated it in every game and we’ve been successful.”
- The Fuel’s special teams continues to be strong. Not only is the PP 5-for-11 at home, but the penalty kill was a perfect 3-for-3. That included a 38-second 5-on-3 late in the first period. “That PK has been unbelievable all year,” John said. “Guys are just buying into what we’re trying to do as far as being in the shooting lanes, having good sticks, and when there are shots, letting (Hildebrand) or (Eric Levine) see them. We’d like to have more power plays, but when you go 1-for-1, that brings up your percentage.”
- The Fuel’s team speed turned out to be important again, as they scored on a breakaway and two back-door goals off the rush. The line of Evan Mosey, Alex Wideman and Kevin Lynch produced all three even strength goals. The trio now has 11 goals and 11 assists between them. In the last two games, Mosey has three goals and Wideman has two goals and two assists. Lynch was on the ice for all four goals – with an assist on the PPG and a +3 on the day. “We’re working hard in practice,” Wideman said of the trio. “We’re trying new things in practice, being creative, coming together in games. We started off pretty hot in the beginning of the year. Then, things weren’t going our way, but when that happens, you’ve got to keep working hard and things will eventually start going in. Right now, they’re going in. We’ve got to keep our foot on the gas.”
- Matt Stanisz provided a hammer of a goal for his third of the season, leading the Fuel blueliners. He has two goals and three points in the last four games.
- Another reason the Fuel are scoring? They’re getting to the front of the net. Two of the goals were back-door plays, and Stansiz’s power play goal came from the point through a big screen. “You’ve got to go to dirty areas – you look at all our goals, they’re coming from the front of the net,” John said. “There’s a few from the point, but we’re getting traffic and things are happening.”
- Sunday’s game will mark the third time the Fuel have played the same team twice on back-to-back days. Indy is 2-0-0 so far when doing so, but will be doing so against an Atlanta team that has been good – 6-3-2 – on the road, and entered the weekend the ECHL’s highest-scoring team. “We know how good they are,” John said. “We know we came out and played a good first, but we know what they can do. Maybe that was good for us to realize we’ve got to play our A game to beat anybody and everybody in the league, because they’re all good hockey teams. We’re going to come in tomorrow and try to get that first one. We’re a completely different team when we get the first one. If we can play with the lead again and go from there, we’ll have a good night.”
- Hildebrand has been solid during the win streak, stopping 121 of the 127 shots he’s faced in the four victories.
Alex Wideman-Kevin Lynch-Evan Mosey
Matt Rupert-Raphael Corriveau-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)
Next up: The Fuel host Atlanta at 3:05 p.m. Sunday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, then return home Wednesday to face Kalamazoo to begin a four games in five days stretch.