Fuel Rewind: February 3 vs. Toledo
Game breakdown and analysis from Indy Fuel Insider Andrew SmithFeb 5, 2018
The Indy Fuel gave the second-largest crowd in team history everything it wanted Saturday night except one thing – a victory.
The Fuel dropped a 4-2 decision to the first-place Toledo Walleye, despite outshooting the visitors, scoring two power play goals and carrying the play for much of the night.
The difference was Toledo netminder Pat Nagle, an ECHL veteran who stopped 44 of the 46 Fuel shots to stymie the hosts. It came in front of an overflow crowd of 6,542 on Blackhawks Night at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
“They’re a first-place team and they show it,” Fuel forward Josh Shalla said. “We played really well. It’s something we’ve got to build off. You hear that a lot from hockey guys when they lose, but I thought we played a good game. It was just a couple of errors in there or it could have gone our way.”
Indy had every reason to struggle Saturday. The Fuel had played poorly in a 7-3 Friday night loss at Wheeling, then had their bus break down en route to Indy, delaying the team’s return until 7 a.m. Meanwhile, first-place Toledo was rested – and improved, thanks to the signing this week of veteran Mike Embach – and took a 1-0 lead 60 seconds into the game.
The damage was done by a number of old friends – a Toledo roster that featured former Fuel player Tyler Barnes and five skaters who played their junior hockey in Indy. Three of the Walleye’s goals came from those familiar faces – Christian Hilbrich, Embach and Kyle Bonis.
But, as has been the Fuel’s modus operandi over the last several weeks, the Fuel continued to go toe-to-toe with the Walleye despite chasing the game, but simply couldn’t come up with the equalizer.
“Overall, we outplayed them,” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “When you get down one early, and you get down two in the first, you’ve got to chase the game. Give credit to our guys. We had a long trip last night – our bus broke down and we got in at 7 (a.m.), when we usually get in around 2. We had a long trip, for the guys to come in and play the way they did is good.
“They bounced back after a subpar effort last night and threw up 46 shots against the best team in the league that usually only gives up 25 or 26. Their goalie stood on his head. Toledo is a good team – they’re opportunistic and they took advantage of their opportunities.”
Greg Dodds was a hard-luck loser on the other end for the Fuel, making several big saves among his 33 stops in his first start on Coliseum ice. Dodds joined the Fuel in late December from the SPHL after goaltenders Collin Delia and Matt Tomkins were called up to Rockford. He moved to the forefront again when Etienne Marcoux was loaned to the AHL’s Springfield Falcons earlier this week. Dodds had a win last week in Kalamazoo with a 53-save effort, and had another strong start Saturday.
“Doddsy’s been great,” Shalla said. “He stopped something like 60 shots in the Kalamazoo game. Tonight, he made a bunch of big saves. The goals he let in were tap-in, back-door goals where he couldn’t do anything about it. He’s been great. He’s been big for our team.”
The Fuel found their answers on the power play. After falling behind 2-0 on goals by Patrick McCarron in the first minute and a tally by Hilbrich when he got loose in front with 4:35 left in the opening period, the Fuel spent much of the second period on the power play.
While the first three power plays netted few chances, Indy broke through on the fourth, an interference call on Embach that saw Josh Shalla sneak a shot past Nagle with 17.1 seconds left before intermission.
Indy pressed in the third to get the equalizer – Reed Seckel was stuffed by Nagle looking for the five-hole on a rebound in the crease. Ryan Rupert took a stretch pass and just missed picking the corner on a breakaway. Michael Neal had a rebound chance at an open side that Nagle flashed a pad onto with 8:10 left.
The Fuel continued to push – launching 19 shots in the final period – but a bad break gave Toledo its opening, as a defenseman losing an edge at the offensive line gave the Walleye a clean breakout, and Embach scored on the ensuing rush to make it 3-1.
Again, the Fuel power play cashed in, with Robin Press ripping a blast from the center point to make it 3-2.
Shalla and Darian Dziurzynski both had golden chances in front to try to get the equalizer, but Nagle was up to the challenge before a late empty-netter by Toledo set the final margin.
“That’s unfortunate,” John said of the third goal. “But our guys bounced back and got another one and it was right there again. We hit a post, we had pressure, and we missed a few front of the net opportunities. Give the guys credit. If you play this way, if you play the right way, when our feet are going, we cause a lot of turnovers because we’ve got good sticks. Our transition game gets better and that’s what we saw tonight.”
After playing four straight road games – and winning three – before Saturday’s contest, the Fuel head back onto the road for the next seven. Four of those games – two each against Kalamazoo and Kansas City – are against teams directly ahead of Indy in the Central Division standings. Indy also has games against Quad City, Fort Wayne and Tulsa on the roadtrip.
“We know where we are in the standings,” Shalla said. “We’ve got to win the games. They mean that much more. There’s not much we can do about it other than go play.”
1. Pat Nagle (TOL) 44 saves
2. Mike Embach (TOL) GWG/A, 7 shots
3. Josh Shalla (Fuel) G/A, 5 shots
1. Take out the score and Saturday’s was one of the best-played, most entertaining hockey games we’ve seen on the Indiana Farmers Coliseum ice. The Fuel played toe-to-toe with, and for large stretches outplayed, one of the best teams in the ECHL.
2. Indy cashed in twice on the power play against a Walleye team that came in second in the league with an 87.9 percent success rate. The Fuel have the league’s third-best power play, coming in at 19.9 percent. The first three power play opportunities yielded few chances against Toledo’s aggressive PK unit, but Indy scored on both of its last two chances. The Fuel PK was also a perfect 4-for-4. “It’s hard to find holes in their PK,” John said of the Walleye. “They’re very aggressive. We told our bumper guys to help a little more. We told our top guys, we’ve got to get shots through. That just deteriorates the box. Shalls is a shooter. We just cleaned it up a little bit. Once we get in there, we get some puck movement, we get some good opportunities. Our power play answered, which it hadn’t been for the last three games. Our penalty kill answered, which hasn’t been good the last three games. We just couldn’t find a way to score five-on-five.”
3. Shalla had a goal and an assist, his fourth multi-point game in 13 games with the Fuel. Robin Press scored a goal for the third time in four games. He has three goals and two assists in that stretch. Ryan Rupert talied the primary assist on Press’ goal and has points in four of his last five games.
4. The Fuel’s top scoring line of Darian Dziurzynski, Michael Neal and Josh Shalla generated a number of opportunities. The trio combined for 14 shots in the game. Press led the way with six shots on goal.
5. Indy is now 0-5-0 against Toledo this season. Their next meeting will be Feb. 27 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Darian Dziurzynski-Michael Neal-Josh Shalla
Matt Rupert-Ryan Rupert-Cam Reid
Stephen Collins-Reed Seckel-Johnny McInnis
Jack Burton-Zach Miskovic
Garrett Clarke-Riley Sweeney
Robin Press-Anthony Cortese
BU: Adam Carlson
Scratches: Nolan Descoteaux, Andrew Schmit, Brandon Anselmini
Next up: The Fuel travel to Quad City for a Friday game before playing at Kalamazoo Saturday and Sunday, beginning a seven-game roadtrip. Indy’s next home game is Feb. 20 against Cincinnati.