Fuel build early lead, cruise to critical victory over Wings
Josh Shalla’s milestone night leads Indy to 5-1 win on home iceMar 2, 2019
INDIANAPOLIS – Coming off a lopsided loss Friday in Cincinnati, the Indy Fuel (27-26-2-1) responded with one of their most complete performances of the season, defeating the Kalamazoo Wings 5-1 Saturday night in front of a crowd of 6,026 at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The bounce-back effort brought Indy back within four points of the Wings and the Fort Wayne Komets in the race for the final two playoff berths in the ECHL’s Central Division standings, with 16 games left to play in the regular season.
Indy controlled the contest from the drop of the puck Saturday, racing to a 3-0 lead in the first period before tacking on two more goals in the third. Leading the Fuel’s offensive charge was forward Josh Shalla, who surpassed the 300-point mark in his ECHL career with a two-goal performance. Ryan Rupert (1g, 1a) and Alex Brooks (2a) each logged multi-point nights for Indy, while Olivier Labelle and Matt Rupert chipped in goals.
The Fuel set the tone early on, swarming Wings goaltender Ivan Kulbakov (40 saves) with nine shots in the first three minutes of regulation before opening the scoring at 3:47 with a strike from Labelle. The veteran’s 13th goal of the year came courtesy of a spectacular feed from Mathew Thompson, who forced a turnover in the Kalamazoo end before freezing Kulbakov and sliding a drop pass to Labelle in the slot.
Indy’s first power play of the contest led to a 2-0 advantage at 8:19, when Matt Rupert finished a rebound left by his twin brother off of the right post. Defenseman Travis Brown picked up the secondary assist on Rupert’s 20th of the campaign, his first point in a Fuel uniform coming in his Indy debut.
Shalla tallied career point number 300 to extend the home team’s lead to three at 12:31 of the opening frame. The Fuel’s leading goal-scorer put a shot on net from just off the goal line, which caromed off a defender’s stick and flipped over Kulbakov’s shoulder. Indy ended the first period with a commanding 25-7 lead in the shot column.
Neither team found the net in the second, though the Fuel continued to generate pressure in the offensive end. Kulbakov kept the deficit at three with 12 saves in the middle frame, including a point-blank stop on Thompson coming during a Wings power play.
Kalamazoo got on the board just 22 seconds into the third period, on a power play tally from Luke Sandler. A point shot from Kyle Bushee hit a body in the slot, while Sandler was there to slip the rebound through the legs of Indy netminder Matt Tomkins. The early goal was the only blemish in what was a solid performance from Tomkins, who turned aside 20 shots to record his 22nd victory of the season.
After withstanding a strong push from the Wings following Sandler’s goal, the Fuel put the game away with third period markers from Ryan Rupert and Shalla. Rupert picked up his 20th goal of the season at 12:27, depositing a rebound from Woody Hudson to cap off a 2-on-1 rush.
Shalla registered his team-best 25th goal of the campaign with just over four minutes left in regulation, picking up a pass from Eric Schurhamer in the neutral zone before snapping a wrist shot past Kulbakov’s glove from the left circle.
Indy finished the game with a dominant 45-21 edge in shots on goal, while scoring once on five power play opportunities. The Fuel penalty kill held the sixth-ranked Kalamazoo power play to one goal on eight chances.
The Fuel wrap up a weekend three-in-three series Sunday afternoon on the road against the Toledo Walleye. The puck drops from the Huntington Center at 5:15 p.m. ET.
Single-game tickets are now on sale for the Fuel’s 5th anniversary season at Indiana Farmers Coliseum! Lock up your seat for every second of the action at Indiana Farmers Coliseum with a Fuel Ticket Plan – grab yours by heading to IndyFuelHockey.com or by calling the Fuel front office at 317-925-FUEL. Don’t forget to follow the Fuel on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (IndyFuel) for news, updates, contests and much more throughout the 2018-19 season.
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