Fuel Rewind: November 24 vs. Fort Wayne
Post-game breakdown and analysis from Indy Fuel Insider Andrew SmithNov 25, 2017
Shortly after the drop of the puck Friday night, Indy Fuel blueliner Jack Burton laid a big hit, signaling Black Friday might just become Black and Blue Friday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
An early snipe by Michael Neal gave the Fuel momentum and a superhuman performance by goaltender Etienne Marcoux kept the scoreboard even for much of the night, but visiting Fort Wayne turned the tide in the third period and pulled away to a 4-2 win over the Fuel.
The loss snapped a two-game win streak for the Fuel, who return home Saturday to face another division foe, the Kansas City Mavericks.
Fort Wayne’s Gabriel Desjardins scored a power play goal with 7:21 left to break a 1-1 deadlock, and the Komets added two more goals in the closing stages.
After Neal’s early goal, the Fuel had a difficult time generating offense as they struggled with turning the puck over.
“That’s a good hockey team over there, but if you limit the turnovers, we’ll be OK,” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “We gave them everything – we turned the puck over, we shortened the ice, and all of a sudden, they’re coming at us.”
Despite the loss, Marcoux was again brilliant in the Fuel net, stopping 47 shots and keeping the Fuel in the game. He had a number of close-in stops, including stuffing Garrett Thompson on a third-period breakaway and making several saves on an extended 4-on-3 power play at the start of the second period.
“He gives us a chance to win every night,” Neal said. “He’s a heck of a goalie. He’s definitely underrated. We saw him in practice, and everyone knew if he got the opportunity, he was going to shine for us, and that’s what he’s doing. We’ve got to play for him. We’ve got to keep the shots down low – the shot totals are too high, especially for a team like us. We’re a gritty team, we’ve got to keep those up.”
The eventual go-ahead goal came on the second of four Komets power plays in the third period, as the puck bounced out of a scramble across the crease to Desjardins at the back door with an open side.
Fort Wayne was 1-for-8 on the power play, but the one turned out to be the difference in the game.
“We had some big kills, created some momentum,” Neal said. “You give them so many chances to score on the power play, they’ve got some high-powered forwards.”
Ryan Culkin extended the lead with 5:03 left on a rush, and Cody Sol made it 4-1 with a seeing-eye shot from the blueline with 1:40 to go.
Neal scored his second of the game in the final minute. His first came in the opening period, and brought his team back even. He took a feed from Garrett Clarke and rifled a shot past Fort Wayne’s Garrett Bartus into the top shelf.
“(Matt) Rupert was going to the net, Clarke made a good pass coming up the ice. We created some speed through the neutral zone,” Neal said. “It was a good shot through a leg – Bartus didn’t see it.”
Marcoux made two diving stops at the end of the first period to thwart a Fort Wayne power play chance – and was saved by the bell as the puck went in a second after the horn. In the second, he stopped all 21 shots he faced, keeping the Fuel in the game despite being outshot 34-13.
In the third, Fort Wayne pushed early and kept coming, outshooting the Fuel 17-3.
“If we play halfway decent, we have a chance to win the game if we play our best period,” John said. “But we were on our heels, we’re turning pucks over, our forwards are posting standing still. That’s stuff we’ve been working on, but we were doing the opposite. We’ve got to get some speed and some creativity. We’ll watch some video, go back to the drawing board and get ready for tomorrow.”
Boxscore (link: https://www.echl.com/stats/game-center/15133)
1. Gabriel Desjardins (FW) G/A
2. Michael Neal (Fuel) 2G
3. Jamie Schaafsma (FW) 2A
1. One of the biggest takeaways was Michael Neal’s two-goal performance. After recovering from a knee injury suffered late in the 2016-17 season, Neal missed the Fuel’s first six games. He came into the game with a goal and an assist, but as he gets back into game shape, he’s becoming more and more the big, physical, goal-scoring presence he had been when he tallied 23 points in 21 games in 2016-17. “It’s been a long road. I couldn’t have asked for a better position Indy put myself in. They took care of me all summer. I want to be right where I was at the end of the year last year, and it’s coming,” Neal said. “Those goals mean nothing – we needed two points. We’re facing guys in our division here, we’ve got to win these games.”
2. Neal tallied his first two-goal game since April 1, when he had two goals and an assist against Fort Wayne in the last full game he played in 2016-17. Neal also had four shots, tying Cam Reid for most on the team.
3. It’s unfortunate that Marcoux was tagged with the loss – three of the four goals allowed were on almost impossible-to-stop shots – as he was again very good. One game after setting a Fuel season high with 46 saves against Tulsa last Saturday, he stopped 47 shots in this one. His 21 saves in the second period were the most by a Fuel goaltender in a period this season.
4. Another player making an impact when returning to the lineup was Brandon Anselmini. Playing his first game since Oct. 27, he had an assist and had a physical presence that drew the Komets’ ire. It did so especially after Dennis Kravchenko lined Anselmini up for an open-ice hit, but the Fuel blueliner saw the hit coming, braced for it, and ended up delivering the worst of the contact to his opponent.
5. Indy was 0-for-4 on the power play, while Fort Wayne was 1-for-8.
6. This was the first of nine meetings between the teams this season. They will next meet Dec. 15-16 in a home-and-home that begins in Fort Wayne the first night, then returns to the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Alex Wideman-Cam Reid-Nick Bligh
Stephen Collins-Michael Neal-Matt Rupert
Tommy Olczyk-Reed Seckel-Nathan Noel
Garrett Clarke-Brandon Anselmini
Nolan Descoteaux-Zach Miskovic
Jack Burton-Robin Press
BU: Collin Delia
Scratches: Johnny McInnis, Ryan Rupert, Riley Sweeney, Troy Vance (IR), Anthony Cortese (IR), Radovan Bondra (IR), Matt Tomkins (IR)
Next up: The Fuel return home to the Indiana Farmers Coliseum Saturday to face the Kansas City Mavericks at 7:35 p.m. for Star Wars Night.