Game 32: Fuel vs. Brampton

The Brampton Beast entered 2017 as the ECHL’s hottest team – having won 10 of their last 12 heading into Sunday’s contest at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The Indy Fuel entered the new year looking to reverse their results from the previous month.

Fuel defenseman Brandon Martell dives for a puck during Sunday's game against Brampton. He had two assists in the 6-3 loss. Photo by Whiteshark Photography.

Fuel defenseman Brandon Martell dives for a puck during Sunday’s game against Brampton. He had two assists in the 6-3 loss. Photo by Whiteshark Photography.

The Fuel had a strong start, but a three-goal Brampton flurry in a seven-minute span of the second period gave the visitors a three-goal lead in an eventual 6-3 Beast victory over the Fuel.

Brampton showed why it’s the league’s third-highest scoring team, with five different goal-scorers, facing a Fuel team that was playing its fifth game in six days, playing all five with a short roster due to injuries and callups.

Tristan King and Alex Guptill each had a goal and an assist for the Fuel, and newcomer Brandon Martell had two assists in his first game with the team.

“I think, with the bodies we have and having so many games in a row, it’s tough, but we can’t use that as an excuse,” King said. “You’ve got to be ready to play every single night. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to try to put this past us and move on.”

Matt Rupert had the Fuel’s first goal, giving the team a 1-0 lead 5:58 to cap a long shift with pressure in the Brampton zone. His awareness helped keep the play alive in a long offensive zone shift, and three passes later, Guptill pivoted on a defender and zinged a pass across the goalmouth to Rupert for the goal.

“He’s got that little instinct about him,” Fuel coach Bernie John said of Rupert’s offensive-zone awareness. “He’s probably been snakebitten a few times. He does it all. You see the way we play him – penalty kill, power play, last minute of a period. He works his tail off, but he’s a smart hockey player.”

The lead was short-lived, as Brampton defender Mike Folkes fired a seeing-eye shot through traffic that found the top corner of the net five minutes later, and the Beast were able to take control in the first half of the second period. Chris Auger scored at 3:47 and 7:22 of the period, the first by banking the puck in out of a scramble, the second coming on a third-chance rebound in the crease, giving his team a 3-1 lead.

But in-between the goals, the Fuel had tremendous pressure with four shots on one shift, including one by Alex Wideman that landed behind Brampton goaltender Andrew D’Agostini, but was swept off the line – a move that was followed with end-to-end play that ended in Auger’s second goal, giving the visitors a two-goal lead moments after it was an eyelash from being tied. Mitch Zion made it 4-1 with a goal after a long offensive zone shift by the Beast.

“It was a matter of bearing down defensively,” John said. “We talk about all the time, we can’t go for big turns in the defensive zone, stops and starts. It’s commitment. We’re turning away, not getting the late guys, staring at the puck – all the negative things you do in the defensive zone that make it go in the back of your net. That’s why a good week of practice doing this this week, it will be a hard week for these guys to get back to that. That’s what we have to do to be successful.”

Fuel forward Matt Rupert (center) looks to close down a lane with Nick Mattson (left), goaltender Jake Hildebrand and defenseman Zach Miskovic (right) looking on, as is Brampton's David Pacan (61). Photo by Whiteshark Photography

Fuel forward Matt Rupert (center) looks to close down a lane with Nick Mattson (left), goaltender Jake Hildebrand and defenseman Zach Miskovic (right) looking on, as is Brampton’s David Pacan (61). Photo by Whiteshark Photography

The Fuel haven’t had much opportunity to practice in their busy December schedule, which included a five-game road trip early in the month, and saw Sunday cap a five-games-in-six-days stretch coming out of the ECHL’s Christmas break. That stretch came on the heels of a five-in-eight span. Without a game until Saturday, when they begin a four-game road trip with two games in Allen, John is looking forward to having a week to fine-tune.

After the third goal, John called a quick timeout to reset the team, and Chris Williams immediately fought Brampton’s Mathieu Gagnon – shouting “let’s go” as he skated to the penalty box. The Fuel responded with a strong second half of the second, and got within two on King’s goal, as he wired a shot from the center point through traffic and into the net.

“Martell had it on top, he moved it over to (Zach Miskovic),” King said. “I went up by the blue line to try to find some space. Misko was patient, and got ti to me. I let it rip. We had a couple of guys screening in front, which helped. You’re trying to find an opening in the net. Guptill and Wideman were in front of the net. Gups is a big body. When he gets in front of the goalie, it’s hard to see.”

The Fuel came out flying in the third period, especially the trio of Patrick D’Amico, Rupert and Ryan Keller, which generated three prime scoring opportunities for D’Amico on back-to-back shifts. D’Amico had a partial breakaway later on the period on a feed from Guptill, which was smothered by D’Agostini. But Indy’s efforts to close to within one and put pressure on Brampton were slowed by a neutral-zone interception and subsequent goal by defenseman Willie Corrin six minutes into the third, restoring a three-goal lead for the visitors.

“That’s been the case all year. We make a nice play, we’re starting to make a push toward the right direction, and we make a D play where we didn’t have to put it in the middle. There were all kinds of open spots,” John said. “We give it to their D and it’s a hard shot to save for our goaltender when a guy gets to tee it up winding up at the blueline and letting it go at the top of the circles.”

Indy continued to press – Guptill scored on a rebound, following up the play after D’Agostini stopped King on a breakaway with 9:25 left in the game. Again, Indy trailed by two, but could close no closer, as a late power play goal by Luc-Olivier Blain gave the visitors a three-goal victory.

“Guptill was bringing it up the middle. He heard me coming wide and found me for a breakaway,”  King said. “I had the goalie beat, but he made a great last-minute save. Gups went to the net hard.”

Indy heads to the road this weekend to begin a four-game swing, beginning with games Saturday and Sunday in Allen.

Boxscore

Three stars

  1. Chris Auger (BRM) 2G/A
  2. Tristan King (Fuel) G/A
  3. Willie Corrin (BRM) G/A

Takeaways

  1. The Fuel blueline received a boost with the addition of Brandon Martell. A fourth-year pro, he added some depth to a team that skated Saturday’s game with four defensemen due to a callup and an injury that took place within a span of a few hours the day before. Not only did he give the team a fifth defenseman, he contributed quickly with two assists. “He’s got a great stick,” John said of Martell. “He makes the play around his stick in the offensive zone. He does things simple, gets the puck up quick, he doesn’t try to do anything fancy. When he gets familiarized with these guys and what we want to do, he’s going to be a good asset for us and our six defensemen.”
  2. In the third period, Patrick D’Amico had four shots – nearly all prime scoring opportunities – in early-period flurries. “He’s been really good for us lately. He’s got a lot of skill. He thinks the game really well,” King said. “If you gave him an opportunity to step into more of a skill role, I think he’d really thrive in that.”
  3. Rupert’s goal gave him points in four of his last five games. He now has six goals on the season. “He does a lot of good things,” John said. “He’s hard on the puck, he passes to the right spot. He plays like they play at the next level.”
  4. Jake Hildebrand stopped 33 shots in the Fuel net. D’Agostini made 27 saves for Brampton.
  5. The Fuel PP was 0-for-5 in the game, and had its best chances with two point-blank looks on a 5-on-3 in the closing seconds of the first period. Brampton was 1-for-5 with the man advantage.
  6. King had his second two-point game since joining the Fuel – the first was Tuesday in Fort Wayne.
  7. Guptill’s goal gave him points in seven of the 11 games he has played with the Fuel, including points in four of his last six contests. It was his second two-point game with the Fuel.
  8. Miskovic has also had a hot stick of late. His assist on King’s goal gave him assists in three straight games. He has a point in five of the last six contests.
  9. Brampton has won all four meetings between the teams this season. They play again Feb. 12 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, the last of their five meetings in 2016-17.

Lineup

Alex Wideman-Kevin Lynch-Josh Shalla
Bryn Chyzyk-Alex Guptill-Tristan King
Ryan Keller-Patrick D’Amico-Matt Rupert
Collin MacDonald

Nick Mattson-Robin Press
Brandon Martell-Zach Miskovic
Chris Williams

Jake Hildebrand
BU: Eric Levine

Brady Ramsay also dressed but did not play. 

Scratches: Matt Stanisz (res), Brock Montgomery (res), Raphael Corriveau (IR), Cody Sharib (IR)

Roster moves: Prior to the game, the Fuel activated Brandon Martell, who played and had two assists Sunday. They also placed Matt Stanisz on reserve. They also activated Brock Montgomery and placed him on reserve. Montgomery was acquired Friday via trade from Orlando, but has not yet reported to the team.

Next up: The Fuel travel to Allen for games Saturday and Sunday, beginning a four-game roadtrip that will also include games at Wichita Jan. 10 and at Quad City Jan. 13. The next home game will be Jan. 14 against Tulsa, which will also be the team’s annual Blackhawks Night.