Despite a 3-2 loss to the red-hot Allen Americans Wednesday night, the Indy Fuel began their three-game roadtrip with a building block.
A strong third period got the Fuel back into the game and push the two-time defending Kelly Cup champions to the brink on their home rink.
The rally fell short, but as the Fuel look to finish 2017 on a high note, it provided a building block.
Matt Rupert and Nick Bligh scored third-period goals as the Fuel dominated the final 20 minutes after falling behind 3-0.
The Fuel outshot Allen 10-4 in the third period, which began with the Americans having an extended 5-on-3. Their high-octane offense set up Greger Hanson for his 29th goal of the season to put Allen up 3-0 36 seconds in. From there, the Fuel carried the play. A long zone entry led to Grade-A chances for Nick Mattson and Adam Phillips, and Indy kept pouring on. Raphael Corriveau was denied with a spinning save by Allen’s Riley Gill, but the Fuel were able to crack the net not long after.
Chris Williams fed Matt Rupert for a tally with 5:34 to go, which also extended Tyler Barnes’ scoring streak, as he had the second assist on the play. With 3:10 left, the Fuel got their third power play of the night and cashed in, as Josh Shalla fed Nick Bligh on the doorstep for a goal that cut the deficit to 3-2. The Fuel pulled goaltender Jake Hildebrand for a final push, but Gill was able to hold it off.
Hildebrand made 24 saves for the Fuel in defeat. Gill stopped 25 in the Allen net, as both teams had 27 shots on goal.
Allen built a 2-0 lead with goals that sandwiched the first intermission – Spenser Asuchak scored his 21st of the season with :14 left in the first period, and Zach Hall tallied a goal 55 seconds into the second period. The Americans’ third goal came on a 5-on-3, as the Fuel took penalties 14 seconds apart late in the third. It came in the opening minute of the third.
Allen forward Chad Costello, who is running away with the ECHL scoring title, tallied his 68th and 69th assists in the game. He now has 97 points in 53 games and his well on his way to his third straight 100-point season.
The two teams meet again Friday in the Allen Events Center, before the Fuel travel to Tulsa for a Saturday contest.
- Greger Hanson (ALN) G/A
- Spencer Asuchak (ALN) G
- Chad Costello (ALN) 2A
- Travis Armstrong made his Fuel debut. The 6-foot-5 defenseman was claimed off waivers from Idaho on Sunday to give Indy defensive depth. Another newcomer, Andrew Huckleby, was signed over the weekend and made his debut Sunday. He had one shot in his second pro game. The two players were teammates at Finlandia University in Michigan.
- Getting Nick Mattson back was also key, as it gave the Fuel five experienced defensemen. He had two shots in the contest after missing six games with an injury.
- However, the Fuel added to the injured list with Chris DeSousa unavailable. With Paul Zanette also remaining out and Bryn Chyzyk missing his third straight game, the Fuel skated nine forwards.
- The Fuel’s third period is an encouraging sign, especially against the powerful Americans. Over the last four games, with injuries taking their toll, the Fuel had been outscored 11-3 in the third. To rally and control the third period against a team of Allen’s caliber on the road is a huge building block.
- Matt Rupert has had a hot stick. After scoring twice in Sunday’s game against Brampton, Rupert tallied another goal. He now has 13, the second-most among players in a Fuel sweater this season. Alex Wideman has 17. Twelve of Josh Shalla’s 22 goals have also come with the Fuel. Rupert has four goals and an assist in his last five games.
- Tyler Barnes extended his scoring streak to six games with an assist. He has 13 points in 10 games with the Fuel this season.
- Another player who extended a streak is rookie center Nick Bligh, whose hustle and speed have led to points in three straight games. In six games with the Fuel, he has three goals and two assists.
- Josh Shalla had his four-game scoring streak snapped Sunday, but he had an assist in this contest. He has points in five of his last six games and 11 of his last 16.
- The Fuel are now 0-3-1 against Allen with two games remaining. The next game is Friday in Allen, the final game of the series is March 12 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Josh Shalla-Michael Neal-Tyler Barnes
Alex Wideman-Kenny Ryan-Ryan Keller
Matt Rupert-Nick Bligh-Raphael Corriveau
Nick Mattson-Chris Williams
Brandon Martell-Adam Phillips
Travis Armstrong-Zach Miskovic
BU: Eric Levine
Scratches: Chris DeSousa, Bryn Chyzyk (res), Paul Zanette (res), Brady Ramsay (IR)
Next up: The roadtrip continues Friday in Allen and Saturday in Tulsa. The Fuel return home Feb. 24 to face Fort Wayne at 7:35 p.m.