Game 44: Fuel vs. Quad City

The Indy Fuel entered Sunday determined to reverse their result from the evening before – and it showed with a high-energy first period where the Fuel controlled the play.

But Quad City made good on its few chances and took a two-goal lead on the Fuel in the opening period, and stretched it to a 5-1 victory over Indy at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. It gave the Mallards a sweep of the two-game weekend series.

The Fuel’s Matt Rupert (20) tries to poke the puck free from Quad City’s Justin Kovacs (10). Photo by Whiteshark Photography

The Fuel came out of the gate with a ton of energy and launched eight shots in the first six minutes of the game, including several high-quality scoring chances. Quad City goaltender C.J. Motte robbed Bryn Chyzyk twice, once on a 2-on-1, and later made a save on Cason Hohmann’s redirection in front. Of Motte’s 14 saves, six were on high-level scoring chances.

Yet, it was the Mallards that came out of the opening period with a lead – Chris Francis buried a shot from the point with 7:59 left in the first, and Michael Parks scored off a faceoff with 22 seconds to go.

“We came out flying there in the first,” Fuel defenseman Chris Williams said. “Even though we gave up the two goals, I think we had a really strong first period. They only had two or three scoring chances, they happened to score on two. We were all over them for the most part. That was very frustrating.”

Parks’ goal was a sudden change after an icing. The Fuel won the ensuing draw, but Francis forced a turnover and found Parks in front of the net. The goal with seconds remaining in the period significantly changed the game’s complexion going into the second.

“We’re only down one with 15 seconds left,” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “We’re thinking ‘let’s win a faceoff,’ which we do. ‘We’re only down one, we can come back from this. We’ve had a good period, we can do some good things here, and get pucks to the net.’ It deflates you, because now you’ve got to catch back up even more when you’ve had some energy. If we’d have lost the draw and they score, it’s different. When you win it, guys are going ‘we should’ve had that out, should’ve had control of it.’ That’s something we stress – being faceoff ready.”

Quad City’s Jack Nevins tries to reach behind Fuel goaltender Eric Levine, who reaches to cover the puck with Fuel defenders closing in. Photo by Whiteshark Photography.

The Fuel broke the ice in the second and got back into the game on the first Fuel goal by newcomer Cason Hohmann. The speedy forward, acquired earlier this week in a trade with Atlanta, split the defense in the neutral zone and converted a stretch pass from Alex Wideman into a breakaway goal 3:33 into the period.

It was Hohmann’s 11th goal of the season, and came in his second game with the Fuel.

“(Wideman has) got speed and some vision. I was getting behind their D a couple of times and had some near-misses,” Hohmann said. “Finally, I got past them and he made a saucer pass past their D and I was in alone on a breakaway. It was a great play by him.”

The Fuel’s solid first period carried into the second. The frustrations also carried in. Indy nearly tied the game twice – once on a scramble in front that saw several players jabbing at a rebound with Motte doing a snow-angel to try to cover it. Just as the referee blew the play dead having lost sight of the puck, the Fuel put it in the back of the net. Seconds later, Josh Shalla nearly tied it as he was free in the low slot, but just missed the left post.

Instead, Quad City got the next goal on an almost-identical play to the one where the Fuel goal had been blown dead. This time, as Fuel goaltender Eric Levine was trying to cover the puck, the play stayed alive and Quad City’s Jack Nevins was able to work it free and put it into the net. The Fuel players protested, believing Levine had covered the puck.

“You’ve got more momentum, being down two and coming back and getting two. You’re excited. And all of a sudden, they come down and it’s almost the same play,” John said of the quick turnaround from potentially having tied the game to being behind 3-1. “It’s a double-edged sword where you had the chance, it could be 2-2. Then, it’s the same play on the other end, and it’s a goal.”

The Mallards began to carry the play, and added two more third-period goals – a shot from the point by Pavel Jenys and a rebound goal by Grant Arnold – to skate away with the weekend sweep.

“We had a lot of energy (early),” John said. “We missed a few good chances. I thought we came back, we scored, we had some energy and we lost it again somehow. It’s an energy game.”

With games coming up next weekend against familiar foes Cincinnati and Fort Wayne, John said the Fuel will get back to working on details – like puck management, getting the puck deep and playing fast.

“We need to show up ready to practice this week,” Williams said. “We have another big weekend coming up.”

Boxscore

3 stars

  1. Chris Francis (QC) G/A
  2. Jack Nevins (QC) G/A
  3. Cason Hohmann (Fuel) G

Takeaways

  1. Newcomer Cason Hohmann made his presence felt quickly, with a goal and four shots on goal in the game. He showed speed and not only scored a goal, but had a number of scoring chances. Hohmann came to the Fuel with a three-game scoring streak while playing with Atlanta. While that was snapped Saturday, he now has two goals and three assists in his last five games with two teams.
  2. Another player who had a solid outing was Bryn Chyzyk, who had seven of the Fuel’s 28 shots on goal. He had two outstanding chances early in the first period.
  3. Alex Wideman, who sprung Hohmann with a beautiful tape-to-tape stretch pass through the defense, was the Fuel’s plus player, as he was +1 on the day. He also tallied three points in the last two games.
  4. While two almost-identical scramble plays went against the Fuel in the second period, John said he could understand why both went the way they did – on the Fuel’s non-goal, the bench could see the puck loose next to Motte, but the referee was in position on the opposite side of the goal. On the Quad City goal, the puck was slightly behind Levine and therefore easier to see.
  5. Making his first start since Jan. 8, Eric Levine made 29 saves in the Fuel net. C.J. Motte stopped 28 shots in the Quad City goal, half of which came in the opening period.
  6. Chris Williams added to his total of fighting majors with a third-period fight with Jack Nevins – which completed a Gordie Howe hat trick for the Mallard, who had a goal and an assist earlier in the contest.
  7. Indy went with 11 forwards and five defensemen, as defenseman Nick Mattson had a minor upper-body injury that kept him out of action. That allowed John to mix forward units. “We went on feel. We’d talked about, ‘you’ve got to earn your ice time. When you’re taking shortcuts, it’s not going to work well, but when you’re playing hard, it is going to work well.'”
  8. The Fuel PK was on the ice only once, but it was successful for the sixth consecutive time – a period that spanned the three weekend games. Indy has killed 12 of the last 13 opponent power plays over the last six games.
  9. Quad City’s big players from Saturday also had big games Sunday. Chris Francis finished the weekend with three goals and two assists and was the No. 1 star each night. Pavel Jenys also had three goals in the two games.
  10. The Fuel are now 1-4-2 against Quad City this season, with all four regulation losses coming at home. The Fuel have garnered points out of all three games played in Moline. The next meeting will be March 4 at Quad City, which will be the eighth of 10 meetings between the two division rivals.

Lineup

The lines based on warmups, although they changed during the game

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

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

Eric Levine
BU: Jake Hildebrand

Scratches: Nick Mattson, Adam Phillips, Jacob Poe, Cody Sharib (IR)

Next up: The Fuel travel to Cincinnati for a 7:30 p.m. Friday game, then return home Saturday for a 7:35 p.m. game against Fort Wayne for Scout Night.