Game 14: Fuel vs. Atlanta

Tyler Barnes arrived at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum late during Saturday night’s game and watched the Indy Fuel hold on for a victory over Atlanta.

Tyler Barnes carries the puck up the ice during Sunday's 6-5 Fuel win over Atlanta. Barnes had a franchise-record five points in his Fuel debut. Photo by Whiteshark Photography

Tyler Barnes carries the puck up the ice during Sunday’s 6-5 Fuel win over Atlanta. Barnes had a franchise-record five points in his Fuel debut. Photo by Whiteshark Photography

Less than 24 hours later, he was on the ice setting team records in another victory over the Gladiators in his debut with the team.

Barnes scored on his first shift just 94 seconds into Sunday afternoon’s contest, then assisted on the Fuel’s next four goals in a 6-5 come-from-behind victory over the Atlanta Gladiators. The five points and four assists marked Fuel franchise records.

“I’ve played here quite a few times over the last two years,” Barnes said. “It’s a good feeling skating through the fire rather than having to stare down it. It’s fun – there’s a great group of guys here. They made me feel welcome right away. It was kind of I didn’t even lose a step – I went right into it. It was like I’d been here the whole year. You’ve got to credit the guys and the leadership. It was a good transition.”

The victory gave the Fuel a clean sweep of the three-game weekend and a five-game win streak. Indy is now 7-6-1 on the season.

Barnes, who had scored 58 goals the past two seasons with Toledo and Missouri, signed an AHL deal with the Rockford IceHogs in the offseason. He had played five games in Rockford before being assigned to Indy over the weekend.

“(Barnes) is such a creative player,” said forward Kevin Lynch, who scored the game-winning goal, and also centered Barnes and Alex Wideman in the contest. “He’s one of the top players in this league and you understood why tonight. He has such good hockey sense and vision. You don’t even think he’ll see you and next thing you know, it’s on your tape and you’ve got an open net. It’s huge to have a guy who’s creative and adds a little bit of offense.”

Indy rallied repeatedly – wiping out a 4-2 deficit with two goals in 50 seconds of the second period, and then erasing a 5-4 deficit with Alex Wideman’s second goal of the day early in the third. That goal came 19 seconds after Shane Bakker scored on a rebound to give Atlanta the lead. Beauregard and Barnes had the assists on the snipe. It marked the second time in as many games the Fuel answered an Atlanta goal within seconds.

“At the beginning of the season when we were losing, we had a tendency to hang our heads a little bit when they scored. We were saying in the locker room, ‘the shift after they score is the most important shift to try to get the momentum back,'” Lynch said. “When we get a goal like that right after they score, it kills all of their momentum and turns it in our favor. It’s really helped us out in the last five victories.”

With 3:45 left, Lynch broke the 5-all tie with the eventual game-winner. Lynch’s goal was unassisted, carrying the puck up the left side on an odd-man rush and sniping a shot to the far side past Atlanta’s Matt Ginn.

“It was a 3-on-2, and their defensemen took the other two forwards and that gave me a lane to the net,” Lynch said. “I was trying to go far side, and the goalie was playing near side. Luckily, it went in.”

Indy got stronger as the game went on, after it fell behind 3-1 in the opening period. After Barnes’ early goal, Thomas Frazee tied the game up midway through the first, and Derek Nesbitt scored twice – the latter coming five seconds into a power play.

A strong cycle by the Fuel set up Wideman for the first of his two goals, as the forecheck hemmed Atlanta in and the puck came free to Wideman on the right side, who hammered it into the open side to cut the deficit to 3-2 2:08 into the second period, assisted by Nick Mattson and Barnes. Atlanta’s Justin Buzzeo scored on an odd-man rush to restore the Gladiators’ two-goal lead just over two minutes later, but two mid-period events sparked the Fuel. A fight between Raphael Corriveau and Atlanta’s Dalton Reum, followed by a strong penalty kill for, turned momentum.

“They came at us a little bit in the first and (Levine) was good. We stuck with it. We said ‘we’re not going to panic. They’re going to play the same – they’re still going to be run-and-gun. We’re going to get opportunities,'” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “We fought back and kept going. Raph went out and got the bench uplifted when he got in that fight and did a good job. That does a lot. The character of that kind of stuff. The way our penalty kill has been going, that lifts the bench up as well.”

And, in less than a minute, the two-goal deficit was erased. It started with Johnathan Carlsson hammering a shot from the point through a lot of traffic for his first of the year, with Matt Rupert and Barnes getting the assist. Shortly thereafter, the Fuel earned a power play and Rupert converted a cross-crease back-door feed from Barnes to tie the game.

“Whenever you get scored on, you want to rebound right away,” Barnes said. “The mentality of the team, especially right now, is ‘we got scored on again. No one was worried. We got right back out there again. We knew we’d score a few more. That one was irrelevant, we just had to get out there and do our job.”

Eric Levine stopped 35 shots for his first victory as Fuel netminder. Photo by Whiteshark Photography

Eric Levine stopped 35 shots for his first victory as Fuel netminder. Photo by Whiteshark Photography

Indy nearly took the lead earlier in the third, as Brady Ramsay forced Ginn to make a shoulder save on a shorthanded breakaway early in the third, and Barnes got loose off a turnover in front and tried to go top shelf, but Ginn made a strong save. With the game tied in the third, shortly before Lynch’s game-winner, Levine snared on a top-corner bid by Atlanta’s Jake Bolton from the mid slot through heavy traffic.

And it continued a Fuel winning streak, with the last three victories coming against teams near the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

“It’s the character of the guys in that room,” John said. “They’re playing with a lot of confidence. they have a lot of faith in each other and a lot of team unity. They believe everybody can do it. They have a lot of balance right now – it’s not just one guy scoring. Everybody is contributing, from the back end to the front end. It’s nice to see guys doing that. Hopefully, we can keep going.”

Boxscore

3 stars

  1. Tyler Barnes (Fuel) G/4A, +4
  2. Alex Wideman (Fuel) 2G/A, +3
  3. Kevin Lynch (Fuel) GWG/A

Takeaways

  1. The line of Wideman, Lynch and Barnes combined for four goals, six assists and 10 points. The trio was a combined +7 on the day. All three had multi-point games, with Wideman tallying two goals and an assist, Lynch a goal and an assist and Barnes a goal and four assists. Matt Rupert also had a multi-point game with a goal and an assist.
  2. Barnes has been one of the ECHL’s top scorers in his two years in the league – he had 58 goals and 135 points in 140 games over the last two seasons, and was the league’s Rookie of the Year in 2014-15. But he had never posted a four-assist or a five-point game as a pro. His one four-point game came on the Indiana Farmers Coliseum ice as a rookie for Toledo against the Fuel on Dec. 19, 2014. He had a goal and three assists that night. “It’s great,” Fuel coach Bernie John said of Barnes’ five-point game. “He’s known a few of the guys playing with and against them. It’s great to see a guy play with that kind of confidence. Talking to (general manager) Marc Bernard in Rockford, they wanted to get him down, get him some confidence, let him show what his skill set is. He did that tonight. He was great, that line was great.”
  3. Wideman had three multi-point games over the weekend, with four goals and three assists. He now has five multi-point games this season, and lead the Fuel with seven goals, six assists and 13 points.  “He’s so slippery out there,” John said. “He’s shifty, all over the place, he’s a hard guy to play one-on-one against. No matter where he is – in the corners, down low, in front of the net – he always figures out a way to get a shot off.”
  4. Indy’s five-game winning streak is the team’s first since winning five straight from Nov. 7-21 last season. It’s the fifth five-plus game streak in team history – the Fuel had three such streaks in the 2014-15 season and one in 2015-16. The franchise record is seven straight, from Jan. 16-28, 2015.
  5. Familiarity breeds success – the Fuel are now 3-0 when playing the same team for the second straight day.
  6. Eric Levine made his first start in five games and made it count, stopping 35 shots in the victory. He stopped 15 of the 16 shots he faced in the third to get his first win with the Fuel. He’d put up solid numbers in his first four starts, but was a hard-luck loser  Fuel scored three goals in the four games he’d started.
  7. The Fuel have hit the six-goal mark three times this season, and have done so twice in three games, outscoring foes 16-9 over the three games.
  8. Rupert’s two points in the 50-second second-period rally gave him his fourth career two-point game. He had three last season while playing for the Orlando Solar Bears.
  9. Not only did Jonathan Carlsson score his first goal of the season, he and defense partner Nick Mattson were each +3.

Lineup

Alex Wideman-Kevin Lynch-Tyler Barnes
Matt Rupert-Anthony Beauregard-Tyler Currier
Marek Tvrdon-Patrick D’Amico-Brady Ramsay
Raphael Corriveau

Nick Mattson-Jonathan Carlsson
Drew Schiestel-Chris Williams
Randy Cure-Matt Stanisz

Eric Levine
BU: Jake Hildebrand

Scratches: Evan Mosey, Bryn Chyzyk, Cody Sharib, Zach Miskovic (IR), Paxton Leroux (IR)

Next up: Indy begins a four games in five nights stretch Wednesday at home against Kalamazoo, with a 7:05 p.m. face-off. After a Friday trip to Quad City, the Fuel will host Missouri Saturday night and Sunday.