Game 15: Fuel vs. Kalamazoo

During the Indy Fuel’s winning streak, several players have stepped up to carry Indy to a victory.

Wednesday night, it was Marek Tvrdon’s turn.

Marek Tvrdon is congratulated by his teammates after a goal during the Fuel's 5-3 victory.

Marek Tvrdon is congratulated by his teammates after a goal during the Fuel’s 5-3 victory. Photo by Whiteshark Photography

The winger moved lines and scored two key goals, including the game-winner, in a 5-3 Fuel over the Kalamazoo Wings at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The victory extended Indy’s winning streak to six games and improved the team’s record to 8-6-1.

Tvrdon’s first goal came late in the second and tied the contest, as he cashed in a centering pass from Alex Wideman. Midway through the third, Wideman sprung him for a 4-on-4 breakaway, which he buried to put the Fuel up 4-2.

“That’s what we brought him in for, the high-end skill,” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “Tonight, he was real good. He was moving his feet. When he’s moving his feet, he’s great at protecting the puck and feeling pressure.”

Wideman, the reigning ECHL Player of the Week, tallied his fourth straight multi-point game with a goal and two assists.

The Fuel survived a slew of lineup changes due to injuries and callups, inserted two players in the lineup who had yet to practice with the team, had a long stretch in the second period where Kalamazoo had them hemmed into the zone, and again rallied from a second-period deficit, and again, battled through it all to extend the streak. It’s been indicative of the Fuel’s last two weeks.

“We had two guys who hadn’t practiced with us in our lineup, and they did well,” John said. “Guys played more minutes than they thought they would have when they got here, and maybe more than they’re used to, and they’re contributing. It’s been a great team run here.”

Tvrdon’s two goals both turned out to be critical. With the Fuel trailing 2-1  in the second, Indy’s forecheck led to sustained pressure. Wideman got the puck in the corner and fed Tvrdon from below the goal line into the goalmouth to tie the game at 2-2 at 15:10 of the period.

“Lynch used his big body really well,” Wideman said. “There were two guys on him and he poked it between their guy’s legs. I was able to get it and saw Tvrdon breaking into the zone, nobody was on him, I threw it back door and it went in.”

The Fuel came out flying in the third, and nearly broke through a couple of times – as Tyler Currier blew through the defense for a partial breakaway that was stuffed by the Wings’ Nick Riopel three minutes in, and new acquisition Ryan Keller pounced on a turnover in the low slot and forced Riopel to make a tough save, as Indy’s forecheck was forcing multiple Wings miscues. Kalamazoo cleared after that near-miss, but Indy regrouped in the neutral zone, drew a tripping penalty as it began the rush, and set up Matt Rupert for a one-timer from the right circle on the delayed penalty. Rupert hammered it in to give the Fuel a 3-2 lead 6:06 into the period.

Defenseman Brandon Carlson battles for the puck during his professional debut Wednesday vs. Kalamazoo.

Defenseman Brandon Carlson battles for the puck during his professional debut Wednesday vs. Kalamazoo. Photo by Whiteshark Photography

“They had a turnover in the neutral zone,” Rupert said. “Mattson gave me a nice pass and I managed to get a good whack on the puck.”

Indy extended the lead with 7:54 left on Tvrdon’s second goal, as Wideman sprung him with a long pass to the offensive line with a clear breakaway. It initially skittered ahead of Tvrdon, but he skated onto it and beat Riopel through the 5-hole for what turned out to be the game-winner, as Kalamazoo’s Anthony Camara scored three minutes later to cut the lead to 4-3.

“That was the big momentum shift right there. It was 4-on-4, and Coach trusted me and Tvrdon out there, and we got the job done,” Wideman said. “It was awesome.”

Kalamazoo wasn’t able to generate a high-end chance – the Fuel got to loose pucks and delayed Riopel’s ability to leave the bench for the extra attacker. When he did, both Currier and Lynch laid out for shot blocks, and Lynch took advantage of one for an empty-netter in the final second.

“The details, those are what makes you win a hockey game,” John said. “Guys blocking shots, that’s what adds character, what builds camaraderie and team unity. The guys are buying into that – the team success comes first, and with that, they’ll get individual success and continue to go from there.”

After a closely-played, tight-checking first period, Wideman gave the Fuel a lead 3:49 into the second off a face-off. Lynch won the draw back to Wideman, whose initial shot was stopped by Riopel. Lynch dove for the rebound and dug it out to Wideman in the slot, who fired it into the net on the stick side. It was Wideman’s team-high eighth goal of the year.

“That was all Lynch,” Wideman said. “He made a tremendous play. I had a little bit of an opening top blocker, threw it on net and it went in.”

Kalamazoo answered, as Tanner Sorenson ripped a blistering shot under the crossbar to cap an end-to-end rush to tie the game just over a minute later. Midway through the period, Kalamazoo had a zone entry that yielded four shots – all tough saves for the Fuel’s Jake Hildebrand – and one of which grazed the goalpost. Kalamazoo’s forecheck hemmed the Fuel in, and it eventually led to the first of Camara’s two goals, as he scored shortly after the face-off on an icing.

The Fuel regrouped and tied the game just over three minutes later, then took control.

“That’s a good team over there. Their record doesn’t show it, but they’re a good team with good goaltending,” Wideman said. “We stayed with our gameplan. We bent a little bit but we didn’t break. That’s what good hockey teams do.”

Boxscore

Three stars

  1. Marek Tvrdon (Fuel) 2G
  2. Alex Wideman (Fuel) G, 2A
  3. Kevin Lynch (Fuel) G, A

Takeaways

  1. How do you follow up an ECHL Player of the Week performance? With a three-point game. Alex Wideman had a goal, two assists, six shots and was +3. He now has eight goals and eight assists on the year, leading the team in scoring. Nine of those points have come in the last four games, as he has five goals and four assists in four straight multi-point contests. He has six multi-point games this year. “It was cool,” Wideman said of the ECHL award, which was announced Tuesday. “It’s my first time getting honored with something like that. I definitely couldn’t have done it without my teammates, my linemates, great coaching and great goaltending. I’m excited, and I’m happy to keep winning.”
  2. The Tvrdon-Lynch-Wideman line combined for four goals, three assists, 12 shots and a +10 rating – Lynch was +4 and Tvrdon +3. Lynch is now +10 on the season, the Fuel’s first player to hit double-digits in +/-. He also tallied his second straight multi-point game – he had three points in Sunday’s win over Atlanta.
  3. Tvrdon tallied his third two-goal game of the season, and now has seven goals on the season, second-most on the Fuel behind Wideman. He has really liked the home ice – he has seven goals and two assists in eight home games – tallying nine of his 10 points at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
  4. The lineup had several new faces from the three weekend games – Bryn Chyzyk returned to the lineup after a four-game absence, and newcomers Ryan Keller and Brandon Carlson stepped in. Keller played the 10th forward and nearly scored in the second period, just missing after a turnover in the low slot. Keller, who was a teammate of Jake Hildebrand’s at Michigan State, had been playing in the SPHL with Peoria. Carlson was paired with Matt Stanisz and was +2. “When Jan (Jas, assistant coach) and I talk to guys in recruiting, the first thing we ask is can they make smart plays,” John said. “Look at Carlson tonight – he made simple plays, kept the puck going north.  And Keller, he was on top of the puck. He almost scored a goal. He created those things by moving his feet and doing the little things.”
  5. Rupert tallied his third goal of the season, which broke the tie and gave the Fuel the lead for good in the third period. “He works his tail off,” John said. “He blocks shots, plays the (penalty) kill, plays the power play, does a lot of creating. He’s a smart hockey player. He comes from the London Knights, which is a heck of an OHL program, with a lot of NHL guys teaching them how to play the right way. We’ve got a lot of guys contributing and we’re on a fun run right now. We can enjoy it, but we can’t be satisfied.”
  6. Again, a day where there were few power plays – the Fuel killed off two Kalamazoo penalties – one of which was an abbreviated power play – and had only one shortened PP.
  7. The Fuel will take a day off before heading out to another three-game weekend, starting Friday at Quad City before returning home. Friday’s game will feature the two teams tied for fourth place in the ECHL’s Central Division. Both are one point behind third-place Fort Wayne. The way they’re playing, they’re looking forward to getting back on the ice. “This time of year, you just want to play hockey,” Rupert said. “It’s a good schedule for us.”
  8. Jake Hildebrand had a solid game, with 27 saves. His best work came in the second-period flurry when Kalamazoo had four shots in one zone entry, and he held them all out. He has now won five straight starts and is 7-2-1 on the year between the pipes.

Lineup

Marek Tvrdon-Kevin Lynch-Alex Wideman
Matt Rupert-Anthony Beauregard-Tyler Currier
Bryn Chyzyk-Brady Ramsay-Raphael Corriveau
Ryan Keller

Nick Mattson-Jonathan Carlsson
Randy Cure-Chris Williams
Brandon Carlson-Matt Stanisz

Jake Hildebrand
BU: Eric Levine

Scratches: Patrick D’Amico (res), Evan Mosey (res), Zach Miskovic (IR), Paxton Leroux (IR), Cody Sharib (IR)

Roster moves: Between Sunday’s game and Wednesday’s, there was a slew of roster moves. Forward Tyler Barnes was recalled to AHL Rockford, defenseman Drew Schiestel signed with a team in Hungary and the Fuel placed him on team suspension to retain his ECHL rights. Patrick D’Amico and Evan Mosey were placed on reserve, and Cody Sharib placed on 21-day IR retroactive to Nov. 10. The Fuel signed forward Ryan Keller from the Peoria Rivermen, and former University of Alabama-Huntsville defenseman Brandon Carlson, and both were in the lineup. Defenseman Keevin Cutting also signed earlier in the week, but has not yet arrived and been placed on the roster.

Next up: The Fuel travel to Quad City for a Friday tilt, then return home for two weekend games against Missouri, at 7:35 p.m. Saturday and 3:05 p.m. Sunday.