Fuel Rewind: February 23 vs. Quad City
Game breakdown and analysis from Indy Fuel Insider Andrew SmithFeb 24, 2018
With four home games in five days, this week afforded the Indy Fuel an opportunity to climb into the middle of the ECHL’s Central Division playoff race.
So far, they’ve done just that.
The Fuel won their third straight game Friday night, beating the Quad City Mallards 4-2 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The victory drew Indy within three points of the Cincinnati Cyclones, who currently hold fourth place and the final playoff spot in the Central Division. Indy is four points back of the third-place Kalamazoo Wings.
Both the Cyclones and Wings were idle tonight, but they will meet Saturday in Cincinnati while the Fuel and Mallards meet in Indy for the third consecutive game.
Despite the busy schedule, the Fuel are riding momentum from game to game. Indy has won five of its last six.
“Winning is pretty contagious,” said forward Alex Wideman, who had a goal and an assist in the opening period. “When you have a group of guys that are playing with a lot of confidence in their game, it is nice playing these games, because you want to keep the momentum going.”
Friday’s game was much tamer than Thursday’s wild 8-7 affair that saw the Fuel rally from an early deficit. The Fuel took a 2-0 lead after a period on goals by Wideman and Robin Press, and held at least a two-goal lead throughout the night. Etienne Marcoux made 32 saves in the Fuel net.
“Anytime you can do that and make the other team chase the game, they’ve got to play a little different,” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “Especially when we’re playing with nine forwards because of some suspensions. To get that lead is key.”
Both teams had a more defensive posture in a first period that saw the teams combine for only 10 shots – seven coming from Fuel sticks.
Indy opened the scoring 4:21 in after Press forced a turnover and fed Wideman for a goal.
The lead grew after a 5-on-3, when Wideman fed Press for a blast from the center point.
“You can see our numbers within the league on the power play – we’re among the top teams. Having a guy like (Press) is huge,” Wideman said. “He controls everything out there and he’s got a tremendous shot. All you’ve got to do is put it in his wheelhouse and he’ll take care of the business.”
Press extended his scoring streak to seven games, while Wideman extended his to six with each tallying two points in the opening period. Marcoux only had to make three first-period saves.
“Last night was not the start we wanted, especially at home, but good teams find a way to win,” Wideman said. “Tonight, one of our goals is to get the first goal and come out of the first period with a lead. We had a good start, we got that lead, and we really didn’t look back after that.”
Marcoux would be tested in the second, but only allow a goal to Alex Globke on a shorthanded 2-on-1, and Indy would exit the period with a three-goal lead. Burton made it 3-0 with a shot from the boards that banked off a Quad City blueliner’s skate, which ended the night for Mallards starter C.J. Motte.
After Globke’s goal, Fuel newcomer Matt Iacopelli scored for the second time in as many games when he took a feed from Johnny McInnis and ripped a shot on a 3-on-1.
“It was a great defensive play. We blocked a shot,” Iacopelli said. “We happened to have an odd-man rush. We made a good pass over and I do what I do, I shot the puck.”
Both of Iacopelli’s goals have come on odd-man rushes. He scored on a breakaway in Thursday’s game.
“He’s got American League speed,” John said of Iacopelli. “He can fly on the ice.”
Saturday’s game concludes a seven-games-in-nine-days stretch that has seen only two days without games – Monday and Wednesday.. The Fuel are 5-1-0 so far in the first six, and hoping to ride the wave of momentum as they climb closer to playoff contention.
“Every team goes through it,” Wideman said of the busy schedule. “I think we’re doing a pretty good job. We’ve won five of the last six. We have one more tomorrow. Each day is getting closer. Indy hasn’t seen playoff hockey in a while, so we’re hoping to bring it back.”
1. Robin Press (Fuel) G/A
2. Alex Wideman (Fuel) G/A
3. Etienne Marcoux (Fuel) 32 saves
1. The Fuel have tremendous balance – eight players have between 10 and 18 goals in a Fuel sweater. Press tallied his ninth Friday, while two more players have eight. That continued Friday, with four different goal scorers – including a newcomer, Iacopelli, and an unlikely source, as Jack Burton scored his third. That balance allows Indy to score from all three lines. “That’s the one goal we’ve always wanted here – to have three balanced lines,” John said. “We don’t have to match. They know they have to play responsibly defensively, but if we’re going to play with the puck, we’re going to give other team fits. We’re trying to be like that, where they’re going to have to pick their poison. Maybe they can shut down one of our lines, but we’ve got two others that can score.”
2. After making 25 saves in relief in Thursday’s 8-7 victory, Etienne Marcoux stopped 32 of 34 shots Friday, giving him a .950 save percentage over the two nights, and two wins.
3. For the second straight night, the Fuel played with 15 skaters. One skater should return Saturday, as Ryan Rupert will be back from a two-game absence. Garrett Clarke will be eligible to return March 2. Quad City fielded a full lineup of 16 skaters, but had two players from Thursday’s lineup unavailable. Triston Grant received a five-game suspension for two different incidents in Thursday’s game, while Gergo Nagy was called up to the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.
4. Iacopelli has provided an offensive spark since joining the team from Rockford this week. A third-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2014, he has two goals and an assist, while also playing both special teams and seeing a lot of ice time. “It feels good,” he said of tallying two goals in two games. “Being in Rockford, 40 games this season, it’s a little bit tougher - it’s the American League, you’re not getting as much ice. Here, the more you play, the better you play. That contributes a lot to it. I’m gaining ice time and confidence.”
5. Press had another power play goal. Six of his nine goals this season have come with the man advantage. Not only has he tallied a point in seven straight games, he’s scored a goal in four straight. It’s been a reason the Fuel power play ranks as the league’s best. It was 1-for-4 Friday. “He has that shot mentality,” John said of Press. “When he was here last year, he didn’t have that. He wanted to pass it up. This year, he’s bombing it. Now that he sees they’re going in, he’s got a little more confidence. He’s been playing at another level and he’s playing really well for us. He’s playing really well defensively. He’s got a good stick.”
6. The Fuel now lead the season series 6-2-2, with Saturday’s game being the final meeting between the two teams. Indy has won all four meetings on Indiana Farmers Coliseum ice. “They’re a tough team,” John said. “They’re playing loose. They’re playing us hard – they’ve given us fits all year. They’ve got some skilled guys. We’ve got to make sure to continue to play the right way.”
Darian Dziurzynski-Michael Neal-Josh Shalla
Alex Wideman-Logan Nelson-Matt Rupert
Matt Iacopelli-Reed Seckel-Johnny McInnis
Jack Burton-Zach Miskovic
Jaynen Rissling-Riley Sweeney
Robin Press-Brendan Mitchell
BU: Matt Tomkins
Scratches: Ryan Rupert, Garrett Clarke, Brandon Anselmini, Cam Reid, Tommy Olczyk
Next up: The Fuel and Mallards complete their three-game series at 7:35 p.m. Saturday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.