Fuel Rewind: March 9 vs. Cincinnati
Game breakdown and analysis from Indy Fuel Insider Andrew SmithMar 10, 2018
Hockey games can change quickly.
Saturday night, the Indy Fuel needed just 15 seconds to turn the tables on the Cincinnati Cyclones in a 5-2 Fuel victory at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Matt Rupert and Matt Iacopelli scored twice in that span to turn a one-goal deficit into a 3-2 lead. The Fuel continued to seize control of the game from that point, picking up two critical points in the race for the final playoff spot in the ECHL’s Central Division.
The 15-second spurt gave Indy the lead, but it was part of a four-goal second period in which the Fuel turned the tables after falling behind 2-0.
“No matter the situation, we do a pretty good job when we’re down for whatever reason,” Fuel forward Johnny McInnis said. “It’s not a bad thing, but it’s not good to be down. We did what we had to do when we were down. We had a quick strike, then we caught them with their backs to the wall and kept pushing and got that four-goal spurt. It was a momentum thing – we wanted to get that and tried to control that.”
The Fuel gained ground on the two teams immediately ahead of them in the standings and is now four points back of fourth-place Kansas City, which holds the final playoff spot in the Central Division.
Matt Rupert had a goal and two assists. Iacopelli tallied two goals, while McInnis and Alex Wideman also scored for the Fuel. Matt Tomkins stopped 30 shots in the Indy net.
Cincinnati’s Brock Beukeboom scored on a seemingly-harmless shot that deflected off a Fuel player and in, and took a 2-0 lead 22 seconds into the second on a goal by Brandon McNally.
The Fuel, who have made a habit of coming from behind in recent games, needed a response. They got it on the next shift, which shifted momentum in the game and began the four-goal flurry.
Matt Rupert and Ryan Rupert drove the net on the rush. Zach Miskovic threw the puck on goal. Cincinnati’s Jonas Johannson made the initial save. Matt Rupert’s rebound broke through Johnansson and sat in the crease, where McInnis punched it in. That closed the deficit to one and came 38 seconds after the Cyclones’ goal.
“We did that a lot in practice this week – working on two guys going to the net,” Matt Rupert said “It shows what we do in practice is what we’re doing in the game.”
The Fuel then rode momentum to begin to tilt the ice.
It eventually paid off as Matt Rupert finished off a beautiful passing play on the rush, where he drove up the left wing and took a feed from his brother Ryan at the weak-side post to tie the game. Before anyone could get settled, the Fuel forced a turnover after an offensive-zone draw and Iacopelli ripped a shot from the mid slot off the post and in, forcing Cincinnati to use a timeout.
“That’s a big momentum shifter,” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “Usually when you score, it’s a big next shift, and when you score again, it’s even bigger. It forced them to use a timeout, which is good because you can feel the momentum, and it’s always good when that can happen.”
Indy continued to ride the wave of momentum. The trio of Rupert, Rupert and McInnis hemmed Cincinnati in its zone on its next shift after Iacopelli’s goal, a shift that eventually drew the first of two Fuel power plays in the period. The Fuel scored a fourth goal when Wideman buried a one-timer from the right circle on the Fuel’s first power play . Indy poured 22 shots on net in the period.
“We could’ve had three more (goals),” McInnis said. “ That was a big focus on their timeout – we have all the momentum now, let’s not squander it. Let’s not change anything. We carried that through the rest of the period and into the third period.”
Indy’s forecheck kept Cincinnati in its own zone for long stretches, especially in the second where the defense has the long change.
“The last two days in practice, we were really working on our puck management in the O zone – getting more movement and getting some more guys involved, and really not taking hopes and wishes plays,” John said. “We felt the ice tilting at that time and the guys kept pushing and pushing. Even the second power play – the one we didn’t score on – we had a ton of chances. That’s good. That creates a ton of momentum for the guys.”
The Fuel are back in action tonight at Kalamazoo, a critical four-point swing game in the race for the final playoff spot in the Central Division.
“Every game from here on out is a playoff game,” McInnis said. “That’s what you want this time of year. Sometimes, it can be a problem if you’re all set this time of year, but we’re going to be playing playoff hockey for a month.”
1. Matt Rupert (Fuel) G/2A
2. Matt Iacopelli (Fuel) 2G
3. Matt Tomkins (Fuel) 30 saves
1. The trio of Matt Rupert, Ryan Rupert and Johnny McInnis has been the Fuel’s energy trio in recent weeks, and was huge again, not just on the scoresheet. They combined for 13 shots, five points, and were key on special teams. Matt Rupert and McInnis were both +2 and Ryan Rupert +1. Both of the goals generated by that line came on plays where the forwards drove the net and scored at the doorstep. “That’s all they do. If you want to score goals, you’ve got to go to the net, go to those dirty areas and you’ll score a handful of goals,” John said. “That’s why we’ve got a bunch of guys with 15, 16 goals and getting to the 20-goal mark. That line especially, they get to the net and go to the dirty areas. They’re greasy but they’re really skilled. They got us going, and everyone else fed off of that.”
2. All three lines generated offense. Alex Wideman, Logan Nelson and Josh Shalla combined for 14 shots – Wideman had six and Nelson five. Wideman tallied a goal and Nelson an assist. Michael Neal, Matt Iacopelli and Darian Dziurzynski were +1 and had nine shots, with five shots and two goals coming off Iacpoelli’s stick.
3. Matt Iacopelli had a strong game, not just in scoring goals – he now has eight in eight ECHL games with the Fuel – but in playing a 200-foot contest. “Iacopelli played really well,” John said. “He was finishing (checks) tonight, and I know that’s what Rockford wants to see is to see him winning the body, competing for the puck. He did that better than the last three or four games.”
4. Alex Wideman now has points in 11 of his last 12 games. He has five goals and 11 assists in that span.
5. Robin Press extended his team-record scoring streak to 12 games with the second assist on Matt Rupert’s goal, starting the rush that led to to the quick passing in the slot. The defenseman, returning to action after missing Sunday’s game against Utah, was honored pregame for being the ECHL’s Player of the Month for February. He has four goals and 13 assists in his streak. Over his last 19 games, he has six goals and 16 assists, tallying points in 17 of those contests.
6. Two Fuel players made their pro debuts Friday. Forward Michael McNicholas skated as the 10th forward and saw ice time, while defenseman James Roll was paired with Jaynen Rissling and was +1 with two shots. Both signed this week after their college seasons were completed. “I like Roll’s speed and his puck awareness. McNicholas got better when he got shifts,” John said. “Both of them will, college is a completely different game. It’s speed, throw pucks in, it’s a little more controlled here. You have to slow down, lean on your stick and be a little stronger. They were a nice surprise.”
Alex Wideman-Logan Nelson-josh Shalla
Darian Dziurzynski-Michael Neal-Matt Iacopelli
Matt Rupert-Ryan Rupert-Johnny McInnis
Jack Burton-Zach Miskovic
Garrett Clarke-Robin Press
James Roll-Jaynen Rissling
BU: Colton Phinney
Scratches: Reed Seckel, Tommy Olczyk, Riley Sweeney, Brandon Anselmini (IR), Cam Reid (IR), Jonah Imoo (IR)
Scoreboard watching: Fourth-place Kansas City lost 3-2 in overtime at Idaho, while fifth-place Kalamazoo lost 6-2 at home to Fort Wayne. With 59 points, the Fuel are two points back of Kalamazoo (61) and four back of Kansas City (63). Indy has two games in hand on Kalamazoo and one in hand on KC. The Fuel play at Kalamazoo tonight, while Kansas City again plays at Idaho.
Next up: The Fuel travel to Kalamazoo Saturday for a critical four-point swing game. They finish a three-in-three weekend Sunday at Toledo.