Fuel Rewind: January 5 vs. Fort Wayne
Game breakdown and analysis from Indy Fuel Insider Andrew SmithJan 6, 2018
A familiar face was back in the Indiana Farmers Coliseum Friday night.
And it didn’t take long for him to familiarize himself with the Coliseum’s red goal lights.
Two days after joining the Indy Fuel from Europe, Josh Shalla scored twice in his debut. They came as the Fuel tried to rally back from an early deficit in an eventual 6-4 loss to Fort Wayne.
The two teams play again Saturday night in Fort Wayne in the second half of the home-and-home series.
Shalla, who scored 22 goals in 48 games with the Fuel last season, had spent the first part of the season in England.
After two days of travel earlier this week – a nine-hour flight across the Atlantic Ocean and a 10-hour drive to Indy – he said it will likely take a couple of days to get his legs under him, but he picked up where he left off last season. His line generated a prime scoring opportunity on the game’s first shift, he nearly had a breakaway on his second, and eventually potted two goals.
“It’s nice coming back here,” Shalla said. “I feel comfortable. I was here last year and I know most of the guys. It feels right. Scoring some goals gives you some confidence going forward.”
Shalla holds the Fuel single-season record for goals scored – and did so in two-thirds of a season last year. He had tallied eight points in 26 games for the Nottingham Panthers of the EIHL, but quickly regained his scoring magic on the smaller North American ice.
“We know he can score goals,” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “That’s where we’re going to try to get some help from him 5-on-5. He did that.”
However, after the early push – two scoring chances sandwiched in-between a shot by Jack Burton that rang the post, one of two hit by Fuel blueliners in the opening period - the Fuel spotted their visitors three first-period goals and couldn’t close the deficit.
Ryan Lowney scored 4:47 in on a rebound after a long cycle led to Fuel goaltender Etienne Marcoux facing multiple shots. Dennis Kravchenko scored on a one-timer at 8:26, and seconds later, Burton had to ward off Shawn Szydlowski on a one-on-one play. He did so, but Mason Baptista scored late in the period on another rebound.
“The first goal was a turnover where we turned it over in the offensive zone,” John said. “They didn’t score right away, but they scored after that turnover. We talk about it all the time – you don’t hope and pray, if you don’t think they’re there, you manage the puck. The first period, we were terrible in our defensive zone. We stood around and watched. We didn’t move our feet, we didn’t have good sticks. That puts you in a tough spot.”
Fort Wayne outshot Indy 18-9 in the opening period.
“We have to make sure we come from the first drop of the puck,” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “That’s where we lost it. We lost the game in the first period. It’s a different game – we’re chasing the game. That’s too good of a team to try to chase the game against.“
Darian Dziuryzinski and Michael Neal also scored for Indy. Dziruzynski scored :42 into the second by one-timing a centering pass by Burton to stem the visitors’ momentum and cut the lead to 3-1. Indy appeared to be seizing momentum after killing a long 5-on-3, but at the end of the second minor, a seeing-eye shot from the point hit Daniel Maggio’s body and deflected into the net to restore the visitors’ three-goal lead. Fort Wayne added another before a Fuel push paid off.
Shalla’s first goal came on a centering feed from Neal, cutting Fort Wayne’s lead to 5-2 late in the second. Midway through the third, Shalla picked up the puck in his own zone and took it end-to-end before tucking it in on the short side. Neal added a late power play goal in a 6-on-3 situation, for his team-high 11th tally.
Shalla and Neal are familiar faces – and were teammates in the final few weeks of the 2016-17 season, but had quick chemistry. The duo combined for six shots. Shalla and fellow winger Johnny McInnis were both +2, while Neal was +3.
“Being from the same hometown, we’ve known each other for a long time,” Shalla said. “We haven’t played with each other much, but I thought it was pretty good tonight. Hopefully, it keeps going.”
Friday also saw the debut of Greg Dodds in the Fuel net. Marcoux was pulled after allowing Fort Wayne’s sixth goal early in the third. Marcoux stopped 25 shots. With both Collin Delia and Matt Tomkins in Rockford, Dodds was signed earlier this week from SPHL Macon. He made 12 saves in 16 minutes of play. Marcoux will be back in the Fuel net Saturday night.
“We wanted to give (Marcoux) a break, not try to tire him out because we’ve got him back-to-back tomorrow night,” John said. “He’s going to go and he’s going to be good. (Marcoux) wasn’t bad tonight – the fourth one hits a guy and goes in. That’s a tough one. We don’t pick up the late guy on another. The guys tried to make a comeback but the sense of urgency wasn’t there.”
1. Ryan Lowney (FW) G/2A
2. Josh Shalla (Fuel) 2G, 5 shots, +2
3. Gabriel Desjardins (FW) 3A, +4
1. The game featured some feistiness late. Matt Rupert and Fort Wayne’s Shawn Szydlowski got tied up in a long and heated altercation for which both players got fighting majors and misconducts. But a second altercation broke out between the Fuel’s Garrett Clarke and Fort Wayne’s Louick Marcotte, from which Marcotte got not just a major for fighting, but another for spearing.
2. The defense pairing of Zach Miskovic and Jack Burton quietly had a strong game for the Fuel. Both were +1, Burton hit a post early, and they were strong defensively against tough assignments.
3. Shalla led the Fuel with five shots. Matt Rupert had four. Fort Wayne outshot the Fuel 43-29.
4. Indy was 1-for-5 on the power play, with the goal coming on a 6-on-3 late in the game with Dodds pulled. Fort Wayne was 1-for-3.
5. The Fuel are now 0-3-0 against Fort Wayne this season. The two teams play again Saturday in Fort Wayne. The next meeting after Saturday will be Jan. 23 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
6. Darian Dziruzynski has continued to make an impact. He has scored in four of the six games he’s played in a Fuel sweater, and now has five goals and two assists.
7. Johnny McInnis had an assist on Shalla’s first goal. He now has a four-game scoring streak going. He’s tallied points in six of his last eight games.
Darian Dziurzynski-Cam Reid-Reed Seckel
Alex Wideman-Ryan Rupert-Matt Rupert
Josh Shalla-Michael Neal-Johnny McInnis
Jack Burton-Zach Miskovic
Garrett Clarke-Riley Sweeney
Nolan Descoteaux-Anthony Cortese
Scratches: Andrew Schmit, Stephen Collins, Troy Vance (IR), Nathan Noel (IR)
Next up: The Fuel travel to Fort Wayne Saturday night to begin three consecutive road games.