Several new faces provided the gifts for the Indy Fuel Thursday night – in the form of goals that erased a three-goal deficit and put the Fuel in position to win their first game since Thanksgiving.
But an old nemesis, the Beast’s David Pacan, played the role of the Grinch. He hammered in a rebound 2.5 seconds ahead of the final horn to steal a 5-4 victory for the Beast over the Fuel.
Alex Guptill scored twice for the Fuel, while Ryan Keller had a goal and an assist for his first ECHL points, helping Indy rally from an early 3-0 deficit. Tristan King also scored his first Fuel goal in the loss.
Pacan’s buzzer-beating goal spoiled a strong night for the Fuel. Indy had its top offensive game since Nov. 23 and rallied from two different deficits, but saw its winless streak extend to 12 games.
“There’s a lot of positives in tonight’s game,” said Keller, who tallied points in his second stint with the Fuel this season. “We had them on the ropes for a while once we tied it up. We kept working hard all night, but at the end, we didn’t get a bounce. That’ll come.”
Luke Pither’s hat trick paced the high-powered Brampton offense, which launched 35 shots at Fuel goaltender Jake Hildebrand in the first two periods, and 46 for the game. Hildebrand finished the night with 41 saves.
Pacan, Brampton’s leading goal-scorer, tallied his 19th with the winner. It came on a quick re-entry, as Beast blueliner Jordan Henry fired one last shot from the left point. Hildebrand made the save, but the rebound kicked to Pacan on the weak side for the game-winner.
Earlier in the game, it was Pither’s rocket shot giving Brampton two different leads of 3-0 and 4-3.
Pither blasted two perfect snipes in the first period – one a top-shelf blast on the power play to open the scoring, the other a hammer from the top of the circle 30 seconds after Chris Auger scored off a rebound, giving Brampton a 3-0 lead with 5:19 left in the first.
But Brampton’s two goals in 30 seconds was answered immediately by the Fuel, as Patrick D’Amico won the ensuing face-off to Guptill, who barreled up the wing and beat Brampton starter Bryan Pitton to cut the deficit six seconds later. That response goal was added onto on Guptill’s next shift, as he wired a shot through a screen and into the net with 2:51 left in the first, cutting the Fuel’s deficit to 3-2 after one.
“Scoring right away, especially after they scored on us, was huge,” King said. “Having momentum like that, where they’ve scored and we score right away, that gave us momentum we haven’t had in a little bit.”
King, a veteran recently acquired from defending Kelly Cup champion Allen, scored his first Fuel goal two minutes into the second period, tying the game at 3-3. Keller looked to attempt a wraparound and found King with a back-door pass to tie the game and chase Pitton from the Brampton net.
“Keller made a great play on the wall and put it around the net,” King said. “I went to the net, posted up hard and it went right into my skates and I put it into the empty net. Keller did a lot of the work. I was lucky enough to score. He had a great game tonight.”
The Fuel’s three goals came in the span of six shots and 7:29 of clock – bridging an intermission.
“That showed character, especially with the team being on a bit of a losing streak,” King said. “It’s hard on everybody. Sometimes, you grip the stick a little bit too tight or try a little too hard, and really, you’ve just got to remember how you played the game, be patient and wait for your opportunities.”
Pither completed his hat trick and gave his team the lead back with a shot through traffic 70 seconds later, but a mid-period penalty kill gave the Fuel momentum. Indy was being outshot 31-8 at the time of the penalty kill, and then outshot the Beast for the remainder of the game. Shortly after the kill, a cross-crease pass just missed Guptill with an open side, but the tying goal was soon to come.
Brady Ramsay made a strong play against the wall at center ice, winning the puck from two Beast players and wiring a pass through them to Keller in stride, who fired and scored.
“(Ramsay) was battling against the wall and I found open space and beat the defender wide, Keller said. “I wasn’t trying to go on the ice (with the shot), but it found a way in. You take them any way you can get them.”
Matt Rupert had a strong third period, with a couple of good chances, and with four minutes left, Alex Wideman set up Raphael Corriveau for a tip in front, but Brampton’s Andrew D’Agostini made a pad save to keep the game tied, where it remained until the closing seconds before a potential overtime.
Despite the loss, the quick comeback from a three-goal first period deficit was a building block for the Fuel, who will return from the four-day holiday break Dec. 27 in Fort Wayne.
“We’re going to turn this thing around after Christmas break, get refueled and come back with fire in our stomach,” Keller said.
- Luke Pither (BRM) 3G, 8 shots
- Alex Guptill (Fuel) 2G
- David Vallorani (BRM) 3A, +2
- When the Fuel were on their six-game winning streak in November, they made a habit of responding to adversity – often with quick response goals after allowing one. Thursday night, they responded with a flurry and remained in the game by finishing their chances, despite being outshot by a wide margin in the first 30 minutes. “Tonight, we showed a lot of character coming back,” King said. “It was a tough one to lose there at the end.”
- Ryan Keller made an impression. Skating with Patrick D’Amico and Matt Rupert for much of the night, he had a goal and an assist, and made a lot happen. He had played five games for the Fuel before returning to the SPHL’s Peoria Rivermen. He came back to the Fuel on Tuesday and made an impression. “When he was here before, I thought he was a really good player,” King said. “He works hard, he’s fast, he’s got some skill. He’s a good addition to the team. He’s got some grit. I really liked the way he played tonight.”
- Keller, a rookie who was Hildebrand’s college teammate at Michigan State, said the stint he had in Peoria was helpful in working on aspects of his game. “It’s a monkey off the back,” he said of his first ECHL goal. “Going back to Peoria really helped build my game. I try to keep it simple and do whatever I can to help the team win and do whatever I’m asked to do.”
- All four goals came from players who were recent additions to the team. Guptill and King were acquired in separate post-Thanksgiving trades with Allen, and Keller came on loan from the SPHL. Guptill has now scored four goals in five games since coming to the Fuel. While Thursday’s game-tying tally in the second marked King’s first goal with the team, he has now tallied points in three of the last four games. Another newcomer, Robin Press, had an assist on Guptill’s second goal, giving him points in two straight games.
- Patrick D’Amico’s assist on the Fuel’s first goal gave him assists in three consecutive games. He has assists in five of the seven games he’s played since returning from injury Dec. 9.
- Zach Miskovic had the second assist on King’s goal, his first point of the season.
- Jake Hildebrand made his return from a three-week stint in the American Hockey League, where he played three games, and immediately was tested. He made 13 first-period saves and 18 in the second, as well as 41 for the game. He got better as the game went on – especially in the second where he robbed Vallorani – a 17-goal scorer – on a third-chance rebound from the low slot, and a couple minutes later, where he snared a shot by Chris Leveille from in front of the net.
- Brady Ramsay is one of those players who does a little bit of everything, and he had a solid game. His assist on Keller’s goal was a thing of beauty – battling two players in the neutral zone, finding the puck along the boards and zipping a pass through bodies and sticks to Keller’s tape. He had a solid scoring chance right off the drop in the second, but was robbed by Pitton’s glove.
- The 46 shots by Brampton were the second-most allowed by the Fuel this season. Hildebrand’s 41 saves were also the second-most by a Fuel netminder this year.
- With two players out with injuries, the Fuel had 15 healthy skaters in the lineup Thursday night. Coach Bernie John mixed the line combos, but also had defenseman Chris Williams skating some third-period shifts at left wing.
Josh Shall-Alex Guptill-Brady Ramsay
Alex Wideman-Tristan King-Raphael Corriveau
Ryan Keller-Patrick D’Amico-Matt Rupert
Matt Stanisz-Jonathan Carlsson
Nick Mattson-Robin Press
Zach Miskovic-Chris Williams
BU: Eric Levine
Scratches: Kevin Lynch, Bryn Chyzyk, Cody Sharib (IR)
Next up: The Fuel visit Fort Wayne on Tuesday, Dec. 27, beginning a stretch of five games in six nights. The next home game will be Friday, Dec. 30 against Cincinnati.