Game 43: Fuel vs. Quad City

With a chance to pick up points on a team ahead battling for playoff position, the Indy Fuel players were looking forward to this weekend’s back-to-back against Quad City.

Fuel captain Zach Miskovic (center) defends a pass from Quad City’s Pavel Jenys (left) to Chris Francis (right). Photo by Whiteshark Photography

But the Fuel found themselves chasing the score throughout Saturday night’s contest, allowing two goals in the first 2:37 in a 7-2 loss to the visiting Mallards.

Indy will look to get a split in the two-game series when the two teams meet again at 3:05 p.m. Sunday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.

The visitors took command of the game off the opening faceoff and built a commanding 4-1 lead after the opening 20 minutes on goals by Michael Parks, Chris Francis, Pavel Jenys and Alex Petan. Francis and Jenys would add tallies later in the contest to each finish the night with two goals.

Alex Wideman had a goal and an assist for the Fuel, while Chris Williams also tallied a third-period goal.

“An important game like this, we wanted too much,” Fuel defenseman and alternate captain Jonathan Carlsson said. “We were doing the wrong things out there. One thing leads to another, and you end up chasing from the beginning of the game. That’s a tough situation to be in. We’ll have to regroup and figure out a way to come back tomorrow.”

Parks – Quad City’s leading goal scorer – scored the first goal 65 seconds into the game, as he cut in from the right side and was one-on-one with Fuel netminder Jake Hildebrand. Ninety-two seconds later, Francis intercepted a Fuel pass and scored on a breakaway. A penalty – and a solid kill by the Fuel – followed, as did a goal by Wideman to cut the deficit to 2-1.

Wideman’s goal came as he fired a turnaround shot in the slot after a solid feed from blueliner Brandon Martell, careening just inside the left post.

But from there, Quad City took advantage of Fuel mistakes, as the Mallards’ strong sticks in the defensive zone forced turnovers, and their breakouts yielded a pair of odd-man rushes. Hildebrand stuffed Sam Warning on a 3-on-1 with eight minutes left in the period, but Jenys scored on a 3-on-2 two minutes later. Alex Petan buried a rebound 1:35 later to give his team a 4-1 lead.

Fuel forward Matt Rupert (20) tries to hold off Quad City’s Alex Gudbranson (left) during Saturday’s game. Photo by Whiteshark Photography

“When you have to chase (the score) the whole game, you end up making mistakes,” Carlsson said. “You end up forcing plays that aren’t there. It sounds like a cliche, but we have to take one step back and do the simple things and do the little things right. Hockey’s a simple game. You don’t have to make it more difficult than it is.”

Eric Levine took over in net for the second period. Indy had a stronger second period, although Quad City’s Jenys had the lone tally – Ryan Keller generated two strong chances on the opening shift of the period, and Chris Williams created a great chance with a point shot that gave Wideman a rebound in front of the net, but Quad City’s Adam Vay made the save. Later in the second, Vay robbed Josh Shalla and Cason Hohmann on the same shift.

Williams cut the deficit to 5-2 five minutes into the third with his fourth goal – a shot from the point that got through traffic and picked the top corner. Paul Zanette nearly cut the deficit to two on a drive down the slot and a feed from Shalla, but Vay was again up to the challenge. On the ensuing rush, Francis tallied a goal for Quad City. The Mallards added a late goal by defenseman Donnie Harris in the closing seconds.

With the two teams meeting again Sunday, it’s an opportunity to start fresh for the Fuel. The focus will be returning to the fundamental play that carried them to a 2-0 win over Rapid City to begin the weekend.

“We had a really good start to that game. We came out flying,” Carlsson said of Friday’s win. “It’s a good thing we get to play these guys again tomorrow and redeem ourselves right away.”

Boxscore

3 stars

  1. Chris Francis (QC) 2G/A
  2. Pavel Jenys (QC) G/A
  3. Nick Grasso (QC) 2A, +4

Takeaways

  1. There are games where things go your way, and games where they don’t. This was the former for Quad City and the latter for the Fuel – as Quad City came out with a strong forecheck and crisp breakouts that led to chances in the opening period. The Fuel had an uncharacteristically high number of defensive zone turnovers in the opening period that led to chances and extended zone entries for the Mallards. While the Fuel were able to shut down Rapid City’s odd-man rush attempts on Friday night, Quad City was able to convert on a pair in the opening period. Carlsson explained it well – falling behind led to trying to force plays, which can compromise the defense and lead to mistakes. Quad City capitalized on them Saturday night.
  2. One of the great things about hockey is there’s often a quick opportunity to redeem oneself. Coach Bernie John noted Friday the team had a strong week of practice, stressing a lot of little things. That led to a solid 2-0 win on Friday night. That will likely be the focus going into Sunday’s game.
  3. Wideman got the Fuel on the board with a really solid goal, which was a series of strong plays – the reversal of the puck between the two defenseman, a heady play by Brandon Martell to look off his defender and find Wideman in the slot, and a great finish by Wideman for his 14th goal of the year. He would later add his 20th assist to mark his 10th multi-point game of the year.
  4. In a six-game stint at forward, Chris Williams found the net twice. Returning to his natural defensive position this weekend, Williams again found it for his fourth goal of the year. It was his first goal as a defenseman since Nov. 18, and his third goal in a seven-game span.
  5. Martell, Wideman and Robin Press, who had the second assist on Wideman’s goal, all broke three-game scoreless streaks with points.
  6. Patrick D’Amico finished the night as a plus player. He was on the ice for Williams’ goal and finished +1 on the night.
  7. Cason Hohmann made his Fuel debut. He finished the night without a shot on goal and an even plus-minus, and showed a bit of playmaking ability. He began the night on a line with Josh Shalla and Bryn Chyzyk.
  8. Eric Levine made his first appearance since Jan. 8 at Allen. He stopped 19 of 22 shots over the final two periods.
  9. The Fuel are now 1-3-2 against Quad City in the six meetings this season. The seventh of 10 meetings is Sunday. After that, the next meeting will be March 4 in Moline.
  10. Coach Bernie John juggled all three lines for the third period. The trio of Patrick D’Amico centering Alex Wideman and Cason Hohmann was on the ice for the Fuel’s third-period goal. Matt Rupert and Ryan Keller skated alongside Bryn Chyzyk, while Josh Shalla moved to the wing with Paul Zanette and Alex Guptill.

Lineup

Josh Shalla-Bryn Chyzyk-Cason Hohmann
Alex Wideman-Paul Zanette-Alex Guptill
Matt Rupert-Patrick D’Amico-Brady Ramsay
Ryan Keller

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

Jake Hildebrand
Eric Levine

Scratches: Raphael Corriveau, Adam Phillips, Jacob Poe, Cody Sharib (IR)

Next up: The Fuel and Quad City meet at 3:05 p.m. Sunday to conclude Indy’s six-game homestand. The Fuel will have a back-to-back weekend next weekend, beginning with a trip to Cincinnati on Friday and a return trip home to face Fort Wayne at 7:35 p.m. Saturday.