The Indy Fuel put together a strong effort Tuesday night and got a stellar goaltending performance by Eric Levine, but two quick plays by the Brampton Beast were enough to hand the Fuel a 3-1 loss at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Brampton’s Willie Corrin reached to intercept a clearing attempt and stop it on the blueline, then fired a shot that hit traffic and dropped to the stick of the Beast’s David Vallorani in the scramble for the game-winner with 8:32 remaining in the game to break a 1-all tie.
The loss spoiled a strong effort by Indy in a contest that featured Robin Press’ first North American goal and outstanding goaltending by both Levine and Brampton’s Zach Fucale.
Levine made 28 saves in the defeat and suffered a tough loss.
“He played fantastic tonight,” Fuel coach Bernie John said of Levine. “He kept us in it and made some big saves – especially on the kill. He has been snakebitten as far as the record. It’s not for lack of effort. We’ve got to do better in front of him.”
Brampton added a late 5-on-3 goal to snuff out a Fuel comeback attempt. The defeat sent the Fuel to their 10th straight regulation loss. The teams will meet again at 7:05 p.m. Thursday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Despite the loss, there were a number of positives.
“In the past, it’s been the negatives have been outweighing the positives. It’s a bit more on the positive side today, or at least even. It’s just simplifying. It’s too many turnovers at the wrong time or in the wrong spot,” John said, noting the importance of zone time and puck management as areas to focus on for Thursday’s game.
“We want to play on our toes, not on our heels, and if you’re always turning it over, you’re playing on your heels and not your toes.”
Vallorani’s game-winner came after a tremendous play to keep the puck in at the blueline by Corrin, but the Beast stopped a number of attempts to clear.
“We talked between periods about this being one we can win, so we talked about making sure the puck gets out at the blue lines, when we’re in trouble, making sure it’s out. The game-winning goal, five times, we had the chance to get it out and we don’t,” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “It’s unacceptable at this stage of a game when you’re trying to get a win and get out of a rut like that.”
It came after the Fuel had seized some momentum 50 seconds into the third period.
Press tied the game early in the third, but it came right after a tremendous play by Matt Rupert. With Indy trailing 1-0 and shorthanded, Rupert stole the puck in the neutral zone, and then made an inside-out stickhandling move on Luc-Olivier Blain to get a clear shot at Fucale and draw a penalty. On the ensuing faceoff, Patrick D’Amico drew the puck back to Nick Mattson, who set up Press for a blast.
“It was a great play by Matty to set me up,” Press said. “I was just hammering it.
“I saw I had quite some time, so I tried to put some power behind it and go for the left side of the goal, hoping to get a rebound, but it went in.”
It was the first North American goal for the defenseman, who was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and played in Sweden until returning to North America this year. He had previously played a couple of games for the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs in 2014-15.
After that goal, the Fuel kept buzzing on the ensuing power play, and held Brampton to one shot over the next 10 minutes before Vallorani’s goal.
The Fuel had a late power play with 3:03 left, but it was cut short by two penalties, eventually leading to a goal by David Pacan in the closing seconds.
Indy came out with a strong start, with the trio of Alex Guptill, Patrick D’Amico and Rupert creating chances on successive shifts as the Fuel launched six shots in the opening five minutes.
Brampton drew first blood with a strong start to the second period, with Brandon Marino getting to a dump-in behind the net, then quickly feeding Chris Leveille for a one-timer at the top of the crease for a goal 6:57 into the second.
Indy killed two penalties in the latter half of the period to keep the score at 1-0 and allow Press to tie the game in the third.
- David Vallorani (BRM) GWG
- Mathieu Gagnon (BRM) 2A
- Eric Levine (Fuel) 28 saves
- Matt Rupert had a solid game throughout. He didn’t get an assist, but it was his penalty – coming off a shorthanded rush – that set up the Fuel’s goal. While he hasn’t scored in six games, he had a huge hand in the Fuel’s offense. Earlier in the season, John pointed out that, being a product of one of the Ontario Hockey League’s top junior programs – the London Knights – Rupert learned early how to play hockey the right way, and continues to do a lot of little things that add up to big ones. He led the Fuel with four shots on goal.
- Brampton’s first goal was a bang-bang play on a pass from behind the net. A nearly-impossible shot to stop, it barely got past Levine. He made a similar stop on Brandon MacLean on an almost-identical play later in the second, but his best work was a diving save on the weak side to deny Lucas Venuto late in the first – a stop so good, Venuto thought he had scored and had raised his stick in the air. In the third, he made a post-to-post move to deny a weak-side rebound chance.
- Levine has had some hard-luck losses this year. Tuesday was the sixth time he has allowed three or fewer goals in a game, and he has yet to be rewarded with a victory in those games.
- One thing you wouldn’t expect to hear in a 3-1 game is the end-to-end nature of the contest. The game saw both teams with strong breakouts turning into developing odd-man rushes on each end, but both squads did a strong job of backchecking to prevent clear scoring chances. Indy’s defensemen turned many a developing rush into nothing with a strong back check. However, John would like to see more of the Fuel’s rushes end with scoring chances. “They backchecked hard,” John said of his team. “Bhere were a few times in the second and in the first, we had some 2-on-1s and we were trying to make the pretty play instead of throwing it at the net. You’ve got to throw pucks at the net hard at the net and try to score. We’ll get back to the drawing board tomorrow and get back at it Thursday night.”
- With eight healthy forwards coming into the game, the Fuel again went to the SPHL to bolster the roster, re-acquiring Ryan Keller on loan from the Peoria Rivermen. He has five points in 10 games for the Rivermen, and skated with Raphael Corriveau and Brady Ramsay. He’s in his second stint with the Fuel – he played five games on a previous loan earlier this season. With nine forwards, the Fuel played seven defensemen.
- Keep an eye on Chicago. Shortly after the game, the Blackhawks activated goaltender Corey Crawford and assigned Lars Johansson to Rockford, which gives the IceHogs three net minders and will likely mean a goaltender will be returning to the Fuel shortly.
Josh Shalla-Tristan King-Alex Wideman
Alex Guptill-Patrick D’Amico-Matt Rupert
Ryan Keller-Raphael Corriveau-Brady Ramsay
Nick Mattson-Jonathan Carlsson
Matt Stanisz-Robin Press
Chris Williams-Zach Miskovic
BU: Keegan Asmundson
Scratches: Kevin Lynch, Bryn Chyzyk, Cody Sharib (IR)
Roster moves: Prior to the game, the Fuel signed forward Ryan Keller, on loan from the SPHL’s Peoria Rivermen
Next up: The Fuel host Brampton at 7:05 p.m. Thursday in the final game before the brief ECHL Christmas break.