Fuel Rewind: March 23 vs. Fort Wayne
Game breakdown and analysis from Indy Fuel Insider Andrew SmithMar 24, 2018
The Indy Fuel have been flipping the script against the ECHL’s top teams often in their late-season playoff push.
Facing a long 5-on-3 penalty kill, leading by a goal against a Fort Wayne team that has made a living with comebacks this season, the opportunity came to flip the script again.
The Fuel did just that Friday, killing the penalty and staving off a third-period comeback to beat the visiting Komets 3-2 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Josh Shalla – who has made a living as a Komet killer – scored twice for the Fuel. Logan Nelson scored the game-winner against his former team, which gave the Fuel a 3-0 lead in the second period. Etienne Marcoux made 38 saves in the Indy net.
The victory pulls the Fuel into a fifth-place tie in the ECHL’s Central Division standings with 68 points and seven to play. Indy is two points back of fourth-place Kalamazoo for the division’s final playoff spot and five points back of third-place Cincinnati. The Fuel have wins over all three of the division’s top teams - Toledo, Fort Wayne and Cincinnati - in the last two weeks.
The game had a wild third period, with the Fuel disputing two plays at the net – a goal for Fort Wayne and a disallowed one for Indy – and saw Indy go shorthanded three times.
“You get a couple bad bounces and you’ve got to kill penalties. It’s hard to keep a level head as a player,” Fuel forward Logan Nelson said. “But I think we did a good job sticking together and gutting out that win.”
After the Fuel took a 3-0 lead into the third period, the lead was closed to 3-2 on a pair of controversial sequences that led to Shawn Szydlowski goals. The first came on a pileup in front of Marcoux’s net, in which Szydlowski jammed the puck across the line during a power play 89 seconds into the period. The Fuel argued Marcoux’s ability to play the puck had been interfered with, to no avail.
Shortly thereafter, Nelson appeared to have scored on a similar sequence that would’ve given the Fuel a three-goal lead, but the goal was waved off due to goaltender interference. On the ensuing sequence, with tempers boiling on the ice, Szydlowski forced a turnover and scored an unassisted goal to cut the lead to 3-2.
Fort Wayne followed with pressure and extended zone time looking for the tying goal, which eventually led to an 83-second 5-on-3 power play. Ryan Lowney hit the post with a shot, but the Komets registered one shot on goal during that time and the Fuel cleared the zone twice before killing off the two-man advantage, and the remainder of Ryan Rupert’s slashing minor.
“It’s big for confidence for the goalie and for our team,” Nelson said of the penalty kill. “Once we killed that off, we played simple the rest of the way and we had the game the rest of the time on our sticks.”
In his second game back after returning from a long stint in the American Hockey League, Marcoux stopped 17 of 19 shots in the third period to seal the victory. He is 2-0-0 since returning.
“He came back with some confidence and played well tonight,” John said. “He made some big key stops at key times. Both goaltenders have played well. We’re very fortunate to have the goaltending we do, to be able to put anybody in net and we have the confidence we’ll win.”
Indy came out and set the tone early with a very heavy, physical game, looking to wear down a Fort Wayne squad that was playing without several key players, including two of the top defensemen.
“That’s what we wanted,” John said. “Obviously, they’re missing some key guys in the back and some big bodies. We wanted to put some pressure on their D to make some plays and keep it out of the forwards’ hands. We did that most of the night. They got some chances. E.T. was big when he needed to be.”
That heavy forecheck led to a 2-0 lead in the opening period, with both goals coming off Shalla’s stick. Three minutes in, Garrett Clarke dove into the corner on a forecheck and disrupted the Komets’ breakout, forcing an errant pass that went right to Shalla for the game’s first goal.
With three seconds left in the opening period,the Fuel were on the game’s first power play. With the clock racing toward zero and the Komets trying to pin the puck against the boards to bleed the remaining time, Ryan Rupert dug it free and fed Shalla in the slot for another goal.
Shalla now has six goals and two assists in five games this season, and hit the 20-goal mark for the third straight year.
“I played the easy role on both of those goals,” Shalla said. “Everybody else did all the hard work and I got all the glory at the end. Everybody was working hard to contribute on those.”
Nelson made it 3-0 in the second period with another power play goal. Off the initial faceoff, he won the draw back to Shalla, went to the slot and buried a centering pass.
“I’m usually looking to tee up (Robin Press), but they jump so hard, they left Nellie open in the slot,” Shalla said. “He got one off and it trickled in. That was huge for us.”
Indy gets a rare Saturday off before heading to Brampton for a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee. The Fuel traveled Friday night and will spend the weekend in Ontario, while the Beast will be playing a three-in-three.
“We’re fortunate. We get to travel, get some rest,” John said. “Hopefully, we can take advantage of a team that’s tired and jump out to an early lead.”
1.Josh Shalla (Fuel) 2G/A
2.Etienne Marcoux (Fuel) 38 saves
3.Shawn Szydlowski (FW) 2G
1.The Fuel are getting hot at the right time, going 5-1-1 in their last seven games. Included in that stretch are two wins over Cincinnati, three of four possible points against league-leading Toledo and a win over second-place Fort Wayne. The victory sent Fort Wayne to its longest winless streak of the season – the Komets are 0-2-2 in their last four. The Fuel are now 2-6-0 against Fort Wayne this season with one game remaining,March 31 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
2.Shalla continued his wizardry against Fort Wayne. Since joining the Fuel in the 2016-17 season, Shalla has played 13 games against Fort Wayne. He has 17 goals and 23 points in those games and has tallied at least one point in all but two. This season, he has eight points – six goals and two assists – in five games. Seventeen of the 42 goals he’s scored in a Fuel sweater have come against the I-69 rivals. “It’s the only team I’ve done it against,” Shalla said. “I get lost (in coverage) and always get the puck. I don’t what it is, but I hope it keeps going.”
3.Shalla also became the second Fuel player to hit the 20-goal mark this season. He tallied his third straight 20-goal season and the fourth of his career. Friday’s game was also his sixth three-point game of the season.
4.The Fuel’s league-leading power play was again good, going 2-for-4. “Every time we can win the draw, start with the puck and get something right away, it’s nice,” Nelson said. “We’re getting pucks to the net and getting people to the right area.”
5.Marcoux was fantastic in the game. He made 38 saves, including some 10-bell ones – stopping Garrett Thompson on a first-period breakaway and Marc-Olivier Roy after a defensive zone turnover in the third. He was also a big reason the Fuel penalty kill was 4-for-5 on the game. “He was outstanding,” Nelson said. “Every straight up chance, he saved. He was bottling up rebounds.
6.Nelson had a strong game centering Michael Neal and Darian Dziurzynski. He had nine shots and a goal – he had another waved off – against his former team. Nelson was acquired from Fort Wayne in a midseason trade and has 10 points in 14 games with the Fuel.
7.Meanwhile, the Komets are solidifying their spot in second place. They now have a four-game winless streak, going 0-2-2 in that stretch.
Darian Dziurzynski-Logan Nelson-Michael Neal
Reed Seckel-Mathew Thompson-Josh Shalla
Matt Rupert-Ryan Rupert-Johnny McInnis
Jack Burton-Zach Miskovic
Brandon Anselmini-Robin Press
Jaynen Rissling-Riley Sweeney
BU: Matt Tomkins
Scratches: Tommy Olczyk, Kyle Rhodes, Cam Reid (IR), Jonah Imoo (IR)
Scoreboard watching: Kansas City lost to Allen 3-2, drawing the Fuel into a fifth-place tie with the Mavericks. Both teams have 68 points and seven games remaining. Fourth-place Kalamazoo, which has 70 points and eight games remaining, was idle Friday. KC travels to Allen Saturday. Both the Fuel and Kalamazoo are idle Saturday. The Fuel’s next game is Sunday at Brampton, Kalamazoo’s next game is Sunday at Toledo.
Next up: The Fuel make a trip to Canada to face Brampton at 2 p.m. Sunday, then return home March 30 to face Kansas City for a 7:35 p.m. puck drop. The latter game begins a stretch where the Fuel will play five of their last six at home.