Game 41: Fuel vs. Cincinnati

After the Indy Fuel posted a complete 60-minute effort in a shutout victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones to begin their two-game series, one would expect the Cyclones to come out with a significant push in Sunday’s rematch.

They did, scoring three goals in the opening period and went on to a 4-0 victory at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, to split the two-game series. Each team had a three-goal period and a shutout over the weekend.

Mark Visentin made 36 saves in the Cincinnati goal for his second shutout of the season. Dominic Zombo scored twice and Jordan Sims had a goal and two assists for the visitors.

Fuel defenseman Robin Press tries to carry the puck past the check of Cincinnati’s Jordan Sims. Photo by Whiteshark Photography

Both teams were playing their third game in three days. The visitors came out of the gate looking desperate to end a four-game losing streak a, which included a 3-0 loss to the Fuel on Saturday night, and had a jump the Fuel were unable to match early. They put up a 16-6 shot advantage in that opening period, which turned out to be the game’s decisive frame.

“The focus wasn’t there,” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “The intensity wasn’t there in the first period for sure. It got a little bit better in the second and third, but we’re playing desperate hockey.”

The Fuel had a solid first shift – with Josh Shalla hitting the outside of the post off a behind-the-net feed from Bryn Chyzyk – but Cincinnati quickly seized control. Fuel netminder Jake Hildebrand made an incredible save on Shane Walsh after a long cycle, getting his blocker on a point-blank shot from the doorstep, but six seconds later, Seth Ambroz deflected Troy Vance’s shot into the net to give the Cyclones a lead 6:48 into the game.

The first goal tilted momentum Cincinnati’s way.

“It’s big, but it’s not the end-all, be-all,” Fuel captain Zach Miskovic said of the first goal. “It’s a factor, but we can score goals. We have guys that can put the puck in the net, and we have guys who have stepped up to put the puck in the net. We just need to do that on a nightly basis.”

The Cyclones used that momentum to build their lead. Off a long cycle, Sims got free in the low slot and scored on a backhand with 6:45 left in the first. Moments later, Hildebrand robbed Colin Mulvey on a deflection.

The Fuel had a mid-period power play, but a boarding penalty evened things out, and Zombo scored the first of his two goals on a 2-on-1 on the ensuing 4-on-4, giving the visitors a three-goal edge. Cincinnati established that early momentum and rode the wave to a three-goal period – much like the Fuel had done to the Cyclones the previous evening.

Fuel player Chris Williams and Cincinnati’s Jaynen Rissling have a disagreement during Sunday’s game. Photo by Whiteshark Photography

“We need to bring the intensity,” Fuel captain Zach Miskovic said. “We need to set the tone. It’s our building. We need to come out harder from the drop of the puck, from the first second of the game all the way through the buzzer. We need to find a way to get the job done.”

Indy had a better second period and got some solid scoring chances – the top coming from Brady Ramsay after a strong forecheck forced a steal, but Visentin stopped his backhand. Visentin stopped Matt Stanisz’s slapshot blast on a 4-on-2 later in the period, and he somehow got a pad on a skipping shot from Miskovic at the point that looked to be bouncing over his pad.

However, Zombo extended the lead for the Cyclones. Midway through the period, Rupert was given a penalty for slashing Saverio Posa, who was injured on the play. That led to a major – and by rule, a game misconduct – for Rupert, while a melee broke out. Out of the scrum, Cincinnati got a three-minute power play and Zombo’s goal came with five seconds remaining in it.

The Fuel had a strong push in the third, outshooting the Cyclones 16-9, giving them a 36-35 shots on goal edge for the game – but were unable to solve Visentin. The Fuel made a commitment to putting shots on net and getting traffic in front, with the defensemen firing shots into and through traffic. The Fuel’s blueliners had six of the team’s 16 shots on goal in the final period.

“That’s what our focus is all the time,” John said. “When we can do it and do it with authority and hard work and we’re moving our feet, it’s good. When we want to do it a different way and take shortcuts and cheat the zone and play on the wrong side of the puck, what happens is what happened in the first period.”

Winners of four of their last seven games, the Fuel have a full week of practice before another weekend with three home games. It starts Friday against Rapid City.

“Coming up, it’s back to the details, back to the basics, back to doing what we have to do, which is working hard,” John said. “And back to the drawing board for us as coaches for us to simplify some things. We’ve got to figure out who’s going to compete, because that’s what we need more of, guys competing each and every shift. You can’t take a shift off in this league. Guys are too good all the way around. The first period – that’s what happens when you do.”

Boxscore

3 stars

  1. Dominic Zombo (CIN) 2G, +2, 4 shots
  2. Mark Visentin (CIN) 36 saves, shutout
  3. Jordan Sims (CIN) G/2A, +2

Takeaways

  1. This game looked eerily similar to Saturday night’s game, only with the sweaters reversed. The winning team was looking to bounce back from a loss from the night before and set the tone from the drop of the puck, created momentum with the first goal and got a stellar shutout performance from its goaltender.
  2. The third period was the Fuel’s best period of the day, and while it didn’t yield any goals, it did lead to them getting a number of shots and challenging Visentin. They did it with an emphasis on point shots and shots through traffic. “When you’re having a tough go, you’ve got to simplify,” Miskovic said. “You’ve got to get pucks to the net, we’ve got to get bodies of the net. It’s not always going to be a pretty goal, but you’ve got to get pucks and bodies to the net. Taking the body wears a team down, and I don’t think we did enough of that tonight.”
  3. Following Saturday’s game where there were a number of altercations, this game started out relatively calm, got feisty in the second period, then had a calm finish. The feistiness started when Cincinnati’s Arvin Atwal and the Fuel’s Matt Rupert had a scrum that led to matching unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the first, continued Cincinnati’s Jaynen Rissling got sent off for roughing 15 seconds into the second, as he got tangled up with a Fuel player well behind the play. The only fight was between Brady Ramsay and Cincinnati’s Dylan Nowakowski, who instigated the bout after Ramsay’s check led to an injury. Rissling and Chris Williams had some post-whistle words late in the second, but the third period was relatively tame.
  4. Cincinnati was 1-for-3 on the power play – two of those power plays came on a three-minute PP due to the differential between the major to Ramsay and minor to Nowakowski that were issued on the play. Indy was 0-for-3 with the man advantage.
  5. Bryn Chyzyk continues to play well in the offensive zone for the Fuel. He had five shots, leading the team. Alex Guptill had four shots.
  6. The Fuel’s 16-shot third period gave them an edge in shots on goal. Indy is 2-6-1 when outshooting opponents this season.
  7. This was the ninth game of 12 between the Fuel and Cyclones this year. Most have been evenly-matched, down-to-the-wire games. Cincinnati holds a 5-4 lead in the series – with all nine games having been decided in regulation. The next meeting is Feb. 3 in Cincinnati.

Lineup

The lineup was the same as the two previous nights

Alex Wideman-Alex Guptill-Zach Miskovic
Ryan Keller-Bryn Chyzyk-Josh Shalla
Matt Rupert-Patrick D’Amico-Brady Ramsay
Chris Williams

Nick Mattson-Jonathan Carlsson
Matt Stanisz-Adam Phillips
Brandon Martell-Robin Press

Jake Hildebrand
BU: Eric Levine

Scratches: Raphael Corriveau (res), Paul Zanette (res), Cody Sharib (IR)

Next up: The Fuel host Rapid City at 7:35 p.m. Friday, then entertain Quad City Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon next week, capping a six-game homestand.