Traveling to face the hottest team in the ECHL in the start of the season, the Indy Fuel had a strong start.
And Indy did just about all right except come up with the equalizer in the third period.
The Fuel scored the first goal, drew seven power plays and starting goaltender Matt Tomkins didn’t allow a puck past him.
But the host Florida Everblades rallied in the final stanza to beat the Fuel 3-1 in the opening game of a three-game, four-night series in Estero.
The Fuel are now 1-2-1 on the season through four games, all of which have been close. Three have been decided by one goal, and Wednesday’s was a one-goal contest until a late empty-netter.
Indy’s red-hot power play continued as such in the opening frame, when Tommy Olczyk hammered home a feed from Nick Bligh to give the Fuel an early lead 9:19 into the game. It came halfway through the Fuel’s first power play of the night in a physical contest.
Tomkins was good, stopping all 11 shots he faced, but he drew contact early in the second period, which led to a fight between the Fuel’s Garrett Clarke and Florida’s Keegan Kanzig. Tomkins left the game and yielded to opening-night starter Collin Delia, who came in cold off the bench and stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced.
Will Smith nearly put the Fuel ahead, trickling a shot through the pads of veteran Florida netminder Martin Ouellette, but it was swept off the line before it went in. Shortly thereafter, Michael Kirkpatrick scored the equalizer in the final five minutes of the second to knot the game up at 1-1, a period in which the Everblades held the upper hand, outshooting Indy 19-8. Joe Cox scored the game-winner midway through the third. Indy had two power plays in the final 10 minutes in an attempt to tie. The Everblades’ Matt Berry scored a late empty-netter.
The two teams play again Friday and Saturday at the Everblades’ home rink.
- Joe Cox (FLA) G/A
- Martin Ouellette (FLA) 26 saves
- Tommy Olczyk (Fuel) G
- Lots of good to take out of the game, even though it was a loss. One of the first is the fact that the Fuel have played one of the top teams in the league, and held the upper hand for much of the game. Florida has started 5-0.
- Something else to watch for – with two games left in the series, some bad blood might spill over. Garrett Clarke drew a double-minor for a scrap with Dave Dziurzynski in the first period, then fought Keegan Kanzig in the second after Tomkins was injured.
- Cam Reid continues his hot play. He had the second assist on Olczyk’s goal and has five helpers on the year.
- Indy has now connected six times on the power play, accounting for two-thirds of the nine goals scored by the team this season. The Fuel have at least one PPG in each game.
Alex Wideman-Cam Reid-Geoff Walker
Matt Rupert-Ryan Rupert-Nick Bligh
Radovan Bondra-Reed Seckel-Tommy Olczyk
Brandon Anselmini-Zach Miskovic
Nolan Descoteaux-Troy Vance
Garrett Clarke-Robin Press
Scratches: Matt Johnson, Andrew Schmit, Nick Trecapelli, Anthony Cortese (IR), Jack Burton (IR), Michael Neal (IR)
Next up: The Fuel meet Florida again at 7:35 p.m. Friday at Germain Arena.