Game 53: Fuel vs. Fort Wayne

Less than 90 seconds into his first game in a month, Brady Ramsay dropped the gloves and battled in a long fight.

Seven minutes in, Josh Shalla buried a rebound for the game’s first goal.

Brady Ramsay (right) fights Fort Wayne’s Mason Baptista early in Friday’s 5-1 Fuel loss to Fort Wayne. Photo by Whiteshark Photography.

Fights and goals can often allow a team to turn or seize momentum. But the Fuel were unable to take advantage of those early boosts, as Fort Wayne responded with two quick goals in the first, added two more in the second and beat the Fuel 5-1 Friday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.

“We had no compete, from the first drop of the puck to the end,” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “We had no energy to start, we get a fight, we get the first goal, and you think something would click, but we got not a thing from anybody. It seemed like we were playing summer hockey. We made it easy for those guys.”

Fort Wayne outshot the Fuel 20-4 in the opening period, but the Fuel were able to stay into the game by scoring the first goal. It came off a faceoff win back to Brandon Martell, who blasted a shot on net. The Fuel took three whacks at the puck on the doorstep before Shalla put it in, giving Indy a 1-0 lead.

“Marty blasted it. I couldn’t get the rebound – it hit my foot,” Shalla said. “Kenny (Ryan) threw it out front. I picked it out of my feet, closed my eyes, shot it and it was a good result.”

But the Fuel couldn’t gain momentum off that – garnering just one shot the remainder of the period as Fort Wayne carried the play. Eventually, the Komets took advantage, as Jason Binkley scored off a centering pass and Trevor Cheek buried a power play goal less than two minutes later.

“We didn’t win the battles we should’ve won, and losing those battles created some chances for them and they capitalized on their opportunities,” Shalla said.

Outside of the three-shot flurry that led to Shalla’s goal, the Fuel struggled to build an offensive attack in the opening half of the game, as Fort Wayne was able to cover sticks and prevent Indy from setting up a cycle.

“They didn’t give us much,” John said. “They had good sticks on the ice, covering sticks in lanes for the guys who weren’t on the puck, and for the guy who was, it was stick on puck. We, too, preach that all the time. Today, our sticks were up, letting those passes go through the seams.”

Indy had a late power play in the first when Taylor Crunk drew an extra minor in a scuffle with Raphael Corriveau. Paul Zanette just missed picking the corner on that power play. A mid-second period power play after a penalty to Cody Sol saw the Fuel begin to generate some momentum and chances. Adam Phillips rushed the puck into the slot on the power play and let go a wicked backhand that elicited one of the best of Garrett Bartus’ 27 saves, reaching to the top shelf to snare it with his trapper.

Nick Mattson (right) looks to clear the puck from Jake Hildebrand’s net (30) while Fort Wayne’s Gabriel Desjardins moves in. The Fuel were wearing special sweaters for cancer awareness. Photo by Whiteshark Photography.

Instead, it was Fort Wayne that responded, with Garrett Thompson scoring at the end of an extended cycle. Indy continued to show good jump again with a number of solid chances, including a 3-on-1 that saw Nick Bligh’s shot denied by Bartus. Fort Wayne had back-to-back 2-on-1s on a late-period 4-on-4. Brett Perlini hit the post with one, but Gabriel Desjardins scored on the ensuing odd-man rush to make it 4-1.

Again, the Fuel opened the third with good push – Matt Rupert just missed in front after a strong centering pass, and Shalla sprung Ramsay up the middle for a chance moments later. Bartus then denied Alex Wideman on the doorstep as he deked to the goalmouth and tried to go short-side.

Colin Mulvey scored a third-period goal off a rush by banking the puck in out of a scramble to give Fort Wayne a fifth goal.

The Fuel get back to action Saturday night with a trip to Cincinnati in the middle contest of a three-game weekend.

“One of these, you’ve got to forget,” Shalla said. “We knew we kind of laid an egg tonight and we have to respond tomorrow. That’s on us. That’s a good thing about three-in-threes, you forget about it quickly and get going.”

Boxscore

Three stars

  1. Gabriel Desjardins (FW) G/2A
  2. Trevor Cheek (FW) G/A
  3. Josh Shalla (Fuel) G

Takeaways

  1. Shalla’s goal was his 24th of the season. He now has 14 goals and 26 points in 29 games with the Fuel. He has points in seven of his last nine games. Kenny Ryan had an assist, building on his three-point game last Saturday in Tulsa. Raphael Corriveau, who had the second assists, has points in consecutive games.
  2. The fight between Brady Ramsay and Mason Baptista just 1:22 into the game was a donnybrook, with each throwing several haymakers before both went down to the ice. In the second period, captain Zach Miskovic dropped the gloves with Fort Wayne’s Travis Ewanyk. The game featured 42 penalty minutes overall. Plays like Ramsay dropping the gloves early, or Matt Rupert diving across the ice to block a shot as he did in the third period, will be building blocks as the Fuel get back to the ice to prepare to face Cincinnati on Saturday night. “We’ll address some things tomorrow morning. It’s always good to get back into the groove,” John said. “Credit a guy like Rammer who hasn’t played in a while and tries to get the guys going with a fight. You’ve got guys sacrificing to block shots like Rupert does all the time. It’s a matter of being first, taking a hit, delivering a hit, doing the little things.”
  3. A couple of players returned to the lineup, but the Fuel lost one key one. Paul Zanette and Brady Ramsay both returned after eight-game absences. Zanette had two shots and showed his offensive creativity, while Ramsay had one shot and an early fight. Defenseman Chris Williams was out with an injury, joining Bryn Chyzyk (IR) on the injured list. Ryan Keller was the healthy scratch.
  4. The Fuel were 0-for-4 on the power play. Fort Wayne had one power play, scoring in the first period.
  5. Alex Wideman (6 shots) and Nick Bligh (5 shots) led the Fuel offense in the number of shots on Bartus.
  6. Indy is now 0-5-1 against Fort Wayne this season with three meetings remaining. The teams meet again March 10-11 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.

Lineup

These were the warmup lines, but the Fuel primarily rotated five defensemen

Matt Rupert-Michael Neal-Tyler Barnes
Josh Shalla-Kenny Ryan-Brady Ramsay
Alex Wideman-Nick Bligh-Paul Zanette
Raphael Corriveau

Brandon Martell-Adam Phillips
Travis Armstrong-Zach Miskovic
Nick Mattson-Andrew Huckleby

Jake Hildebrand
BU: Eric Levine

Scratches: Ryan Keller, Chris Williams, Bryn Chyzyk (IR)

Roster move: The Fuel claimed defenseman Nick Grasso off waivers from Quad City on Friday. Grasso played three games in January with the Fuel, and has four assists in 14 games with Quad City.

Next up: The Fuel travel to Cincinnati for a 7:30 p.m. Saturday game. Cincy beat Wichita 2-0 on Friday. Indy finishes the weekend with a 5:15 p.m. game in Toledo. The Fuel’s next home game is March 3 against Wheeling.