Fuel Rewind: December 14 vs. Quad City
Game breakdown and analysis from Indy Fuel Insider Andrew SmithDec 15, 2017
The Indy Fuel have found success with a simple formula.
Forecheck hard in the attacking zone, keep play wide in the defending zone, score first and ride the hand of a hot goaltender – it adds up to success on the ice.
The Fuel found that again Thursday, as they beat the Quad City Mallards 2-1 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Indy’s forecheck forced turnovers that led to both goals – tallies by Matt Rupert and Michael Neal – while netminder Etienne Marcoux stopped 37 of the 38 shots he faced.
The Fuel have now won four of their last six games, coming back from a good effort Tuesday in a 3-2 loss at Wheeling with another strong effort and a win Thursday. That continued a four-games-in-five-nights stretch, which carries on Friday with the beginning of a home-and-home with Fort Wayne.
Indy also moved ahead of Quad City into sixth place in the ECHL’s Midwest Division standings.
“The energy in the room, the confidence in the room is high,” coach Bernie John said. “These guys are feeling it, they’re feeling good, with a lot of wins and a lot of good things going on. It was a huge win. Now we move to a big eight-point weekend with Fort Wayne.”
From the early stages of the game, Tommy Olczyk, Reed Seckel and Johnny McInnis – as well as several others – were pressuring the Mallards defensemen and forcing turnovers.
“Coach Bernie (John) has been preaching us on the simple things - not turning pucks over, getting pucks deep. We’re trying to do the simple things. With a 2-1 win, we’re obviously playing good defensive hockey,” Rupert said. “The last two or three weeks, we’ve been hard on the forecheck. It’s probably caused a goal a game because of the forecheck causing turnovers. Bernie’s been preaching a hard forecheck. It’s making the defensemen scared and turning pucks over.”
Eventually, it led to the breakthrough, as Ryan Rupert intercepted a clear at the offensive line and fed McInnis along the boards. He fired a hard centering pass to Matt Rupert for a tap-in at the far post.
“It was a good hard forecheck,” Matt Rupert said. “Ryan made a turnover, Johnny made a great pass. All I had to do was drive the net with my stick on the ice.”
Taking a lead nine minutes into the game set the tone for the rest of the night. The Fuel drew another power play moments later and continued to control the play throughout the first and most of the second periods.
“When know when we get the lead, we’re playing better, we’re playing with more confidence,” Marcoux said. “It gives us, as goalies, the feeling our team’s going to get some goals for us.”
Indy extended the lead midway through the second, with some more offensive zone pressure forcing an errant pass, which Neal picked off and rifled over goaltender C.J. Motte’s blocker for his eighth goal.
“You let Neal walk down Broadway, he’s going to put it in the net pretty much every time,” John said. “He’s got a cannon and he knows how to score. He’s feeling it right now, too.”
Indy withstood a Quad City push late in the second, which included Marcoux’s best save of the night, a dive backwards to sweep the puck off the goal line, and played a simple chip-and-forecheck game in the third. Quad City’s Chris Francis cut the lead to one with a seeing-eye goal with 7:52 left, and the Mallards answered with one more big push. The Fuel withstood it with Marcoux making several saves.
The pressure was relieved by a steal at center by Seckel, after which he drew a penalty with 2:32 left. That allowed Indy to slow the Mallards’ momentum and kill two minutes off the clock. When the penalty expired, Ryan Rupert won two big defensive zone draws to help seal the game.
“You can especially see Seckel’s energy on the forecheck,” Matt Rupert said. “We can build off his energy, because he brings it every game. No matter the score, the situation, he’s always battling. We have to build off that.”
1. Michael Neal (Fuel) GWG, 4 shots
2. Etienne Marcoux (Fuel) 37 saves
3. Matt Rupert (Fuel) G, 5 shots
1. Thursday was a good bounce-back win for the Fuel after a tough 3-2 loss in Wheeling two nights earlier. In that game, the Fuel largely outplayed the Nailers, but weren’t rewarded with a point. But the momentum from that game carried into the weekend. One reason for the success is, again, allowing goaltenders to see the puck in the defensive zone. “Tonight, Etienne had to make three or four pretty good saves. Against Wheeling (Tuesday), we had the Grade As down against one of the top teams in the league. We kept them to the perimeter,” John said.
2. Last week, Matt Tomkins was the ECHL’s Goaltender of the Week. Etienne Marcoux followed that up with a 37-save performance, as the duo continues to give the Fuel outstanding goaltending. “Matt’s been unreal. He’s a good guy. We’re having a good time together,” Marcoux said of the goaltending pairing. “When he’s in the net, I’m happy for him. When I’m in the net, he’s happy for me. We have a lot of games in a short amount of time.”
3. The strong goaltending allows the Fuel to look for opportunities to jump into the attack. “To have those guys playing the way they are, it’s a huge confidence,” John said. “When they’re playing like that, you can ride it. You can take some chances – you don’t want to take too many – but you can be opportunistic at times.”
4. One of the biggest keys for the Fuel in their recent run is getting healthy. Indy now has a largely full roster with depth forwards and defensemen, giving John choices. That’s also key in managing rest in a busy stretch. “It creates competition,” John said. “Guys know they can’t take a shortcut. We want them to play the right way. If the work ethic’s not there, we’re going to plug a guy in. It’s nice to have that luxury. When we had our success at the end of last year, we had that luxury.”
5. Matt Rupert has scored goals in three straight games and has points in five of his last six. Thursday, his goal came from a hard net drive. “That’s where my game is mostly – that 10-foot area around the crease,” he said. “Eighty percent of goals are in that area. You’re going to get goals going to the net.”
6. Neal also continues to have a hot stick. He has scored points in six of his last eight games, with seven goals and two assists in that stretch. Matt Rupert also has been hot – he’s scored goals in three straight games and points in five of his last six. Ryan Rupert had the second assist on his brother’s goal, giving him a three-game assist streak.
7. Indy is now 2-1-2 against Quad City and 2-0-0 at home. The teams meet again Jan. 12-13 at Quad City.
These were the warmup lines, but Nathan Noel & Johnny McInnis swapped spots in the first period.
Alex Wideman-Cam Reid-Johnny McInnis
Matt Rupert-Ryan Rupert-Nathan Noel
Reed Seckel-Michael Neal-Tommy Olczyk
Jack Burton-Zach Miskovic
Garrett Clarke-Troy Vance
Nolan Descoteaux-Anthony Cortese
BU: Matt Tomkins
Scratches: Stephen Collins, Nick Bligh, Riley Sweeney
Next up: The Fuel are in Fort Wayne Friday, then return to the Indiana Farmers Coliseum at 7:35 p.m. Saturday to face Fort Wayne