It took just a little over half a period for Alex Wideman to bring the teddy bears flying onto the rink Saturday night at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
That couldn’t have been more fitting – Wideman has paced the Indy Fuel’s offense throughout the year, and his 12th goal activated the Fuel’s second Teddy Bear Toss.
Unfortunately for the Fuel, a well-rested Quad City team answered shortly after the ice was cleared, using two goals in 29 seconds to seize momentum and pull away to a 6-2 victory over Indy at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
The loss stretched the Fuel’s winless streak to 10 games as they returned from a five-game roadtrip. It also showed a team in transition, as seven of the 18 Fuel players were making their first home appearance this season One – Josh Shalla, who was acquired earlier in the day in a trade with Wheeling – drove five hours from West Virginia, was so new to the team he arrived during the game and skated the final two periods.
That was part of the team in transition – Shalla was acquired in a deal for forward Tyler Currier, to give the Fuel another goal-scorer.
“When you’ve got to move a piece you really like to do a lot for your team to get a goal-scorer, you’ve got to make that move,” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “We’re not done tinkering. There’s a lot of hockey left. We can make one good run and getting the right pieces in. It’s about getting the guys who want to be here.”
The Fuel were playing their third game in three nights against a Quad City team that was playing its first game in a week.
Indy was also playing without several key players due to injuries – including top-line center Kevin Lynch and the team’s top goal-scoring defenseman, Matt Stanisz.
“Losing your key guy in (Kevin) Lynch, playing two SPHL guys in your third game in three nights, playing a team who hasn’t played in a week,” John said. “They all sound like excuses, but they’re facts, too. We had some energy, all of a sudden, they scored a goal and the energy seemed to be gone.”
One bright spot was the Fuel’s penalty kill, which was 4-for-4 on the night – although Quad City’s sixth goal came seconds after a power play ended. Brady Ramsay punctuated the last of those five kills with a shorthanded breakaway goal, finishing with a perfect deke to get the Mallards’ C.J. Motte out of position.
“It was a bit of a broken play. (Patrick) D’Amico made a nic pass and I was able to beat the goalie,” Ramsay said. “But we’ve got to be better 5-on-5.”
Indy started strong, earning two power plays in the opening 10 minutes, and using that momentum to take an early lead. Wideman and Tristan King skated up on the rush, and Wideman was able to jam the puck past Motte for the goal to bring out a storm of thousands of stuffed animals from the 4,641 in attendance.
After the delay, the visitors struck quickly. Brady Brassart hammered a slapshot from the right circle into the top shelf at 14:07 of the first – 1:29 after the Wideman goal. Twenty-nine seconds later, Michael Parks converted a centering pass for a goal. Sam Warning gave the visitors a two-goal edge on a 2-on-1 with 1:58 left in the period.
“The Teddy Bear Toss is fantastic. It’s for a great cause. But when you have that momentum, you don’t want to take a break,” John said. “It kind of slowed us down, and you can just see the ice tilt after their goal,” John said. “Our legs got heavy and it got hard to find it again. We had a few defensive mistakes again. We’ll have to watch the video and get those fixed.”
In the second period, Justin Kovacs scored from the mid-slot 49 seconds in, and Alex Petan gave the visitors a 5-1 edge with a shot from the point that broke through the goaltender and trickled across the line. Nolan LaPorte scored a goal in the opening minute of the third to extend Quad City’s lead further.
Eric Levine made 17 saves for the Fuel before yielding to Keegan Asmundson, who stopped nine of 10 shots in his return to Indiana Farmers Coliseum ice. He was signed during the roadtrip to replace Jake Hildebrand, who had been called up to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs.
The Fuel have two days to prepare for two more home games this week – Tuesday and Thursday tilts with the Brampton Beast. Both games will be at 7:05 p.m. It’ll also be an opportunity for the Fuel to develop chemistry with their new lineup, while also healing, not just in Indy, but throughout the organization.
“When you have this kind of turnover and guys who are in and out, we’ll get these guys acclimated together,” John said. “Rockford’s got some injuries, and they have all the (two-way) guys up there other than the D-men. Hopefully, we’ll get some other guys back and we’ll see what we can piece together and fix.”
- Sam Warning (QC) G/A
- Kevin Gibson (QC) 2A
- Alex Wideman (Fuel) G
- The Teddy Bear Toss was fantastic. Fuel fans show great support for the team, but they also showed great support for local children by filling the ice with stuffed animals after Wideman’s goal. It was a tremendous sight and one Fuel fans should be proud of.
- Hockey players will often do a lot for their teammates, and Josh Shalla did so without even having skated a warmup with them. The Fuel had only 15 players available due to injuries. Shalla – who was en route from Wheeling – was penciled into the lineup card. He was ready in time for the second period and immediately made an impact – firing a shot on goal seconds into his first shift. “We have a guy who drove five hours, got here and got dressed and played a second and third period,” John said. “He’s got hockey skill. He’s going to be a guy who can put the puck in the net.”
- Brady Ramsay gave the Fuel a lift in two different spots. In addition to the shorthanded goal in the third period, he dropped the gloves with Grant Arnold and won the bout. “We maybe needed a spark, and I thought that was maybe a time to do it,” Ramsay said.
- Patrick D’Amico had the assist on Ramsay’s goal. He now has assists in three of the five games he has played since returning from injury. Ramsay scored his first goal since Oct 29, snapping a 14-game streak. It was his first point in five games.
- Raphael Corriveau had the assist on Wideman’s goal. He has points in two of his last four games. Wideman snapped a three-game scoreless streak with his 12th tally of the year.
- Another newcomer is Alex Guptill, acquired in a trade with Allen earlier in the week. He had goals in both games in Cincinnati, and had a couple of solid scoring chances – especially on a third-period power play where he had a jam at a rebound in front after a strong initial shot by Robin Press. Guptill had four shots Saturday night. “He battles hard, he can shoot the puck, he creates a lot of scoring opportunities,” John said. “He’ll put the puck in the net. There are some other guys we need to get going. We’re trying to build around some pieces and try to get a core of guys.”
- Two Fuel players came to the team this weekend from the Southern Professional Hockey League – Justin MacDonald joined the team Thursday, and Michael Colantone for Saturday’s game. Colantone – who played the last half of the 2015-16 season with the Fuel – had two shots in his season ECHL debut.
- Quad City had had five players with two-point nights. Alex Petan, Justin Kovacs and Sam Warning had a goal and an assist each. Cody Francis and Kevin Gibson – the son of former Major League Baseball star Kirk Gibson – had two assists each.
Alex Wideman-Tristan King-Raphael Corriveau/Josh Shalla
Justin MacDonald-Patrick D’Amico-Alex Guptill
Matt Rupert-Michael Colantone-Brady Ramsay
Robin Press-Jonathan Carlsson
Nick Mattson-Chris Williams
Keevin Cutting-Zach Miskovic
Scratches: Kevin Lynch, Matt Stanisz, Bryn Chyzyk (res), Cody Sharib (IR)
Next up: The Fuel host Brampton at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday. The same two teams will also meet at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum Thursday evening in the final game before the brief Christmas break.