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Fuel Rewind: December 20 vs. Kalamazoo

Thursday, December 21st
Fuel Rewind: December 20 vs. Kalamazoo

Wednesday night's game started with the Indy Fuel shorthanded.

It ended with a furious push that fell just short.

A rare penalty before the opening faceoff put the Fuel on the penalty kill from the drop. The visiting Kalamazoo Wings scored on the ensuing power play, setting the tone in 2-1 Fuel loss.

Kalamazoo scored in the opening two minutes in each of the first two periods - beginning with Justin Taylor's deflection on the power play 1:26 into the game. The Fuel spent much of the game's second half buzzing the Kalamazoo net, but Wings goaltender Michael Gartieg made 37 saves.

Alex Wideman scored a second-period goal to spark the push for the Fuel, who dropped another close one-goal game. Indy plays one more game prior to the league-mandated three-day holiday break, Saturday at home against Cincinnati.

“That one stung a lot,” Wideman said. “We wanted to get two wins before the break and leave Indy on a good note heading into the holidays and spend time with our families. That power play goal gave them momentum for most of the game. We gave a push, but at the end of the day, it wasn't enough. We just didn't have enough time for that push to come all the way.”

The game started with an unusual pre-faceoff penalty. It's common for wings to jockey for position at the faceoff, but the jockeying became shoving between the Fuel's Reed Seckel and Kalamazoo's Jimmy Mullin. Seckel was sent off for roughing, putting Kalamazoo on the power play at the game's start.

On the ensuing power play, Taylor had a perfect deflection of Kyle Bushee's shot from the center point, putting Indy in a 1-0 deficit early.

The Fuel penalty kill was tested often early - Indy went shorthanded three more times in the first and six times in the game - but Indy weathered the storm in part due to goaltender Etienne Marcoux. He stopped 17 shots in the first and made 43 saves in the game.

Kalamazoo extended its lead in the opening minutes in the second with a rebound goal by Mackenze Stewart.

Indy began to turn the tide in the middle of the period - including a monster 90-second zone entry that began with Wideman leaping at the line to glove down and hold in a clearing attempt. The Fuel kept up the pressure, going through a complete change, on the tired Wings.

It eventually paid off, as Wideman scored on his next shift.

“We definitely played to our strengths at that point, and that's where the game started to shift in our favor,” Fuel assistant coach Ryan McGinnis said. “We're a good team 5-on-5 down low on the offensive zone. We understand that. We made a good change, we changed one at a time and got fresh legs out there, and hemmed them in their zone. The momentum shifted, we did score a goal shortly thereafter.”

Stephen Collins rushed the puck from the neutral zone up the right wing before feeding Wideman alone in the slot. Wideman fired the puck over Gartieg's blocker for his seventh goal of the year, and his first in 11 games.

“Collins really made the whole thing happen,” Wideman said. “He used his speed, he cut to the middle, he drew the defender to him, which gave me a little extra room to make a little move and a shot. I practice that shot quite a bit in practice. I'm happy it went in, but I still think I can do a lot more this year. There's still a lot of season left.”

The Fuel kept pushing - Nick Bligh hit a post on a rebound later in the period and Johnny McInnis dialed up a weak-side rebound that Gartieg slid over and covered. The third period saw Indy control play, with 14 shots and earning two power plays. The Fuel had a 4-on-3 in the final half of the period, and drew another with 2:31 left. With Marcoux pulled, Indy had an extended 6-on-4, which generated multiple good looks on the doorstep. In-between, Ryan Rupert's forecheck set up his twin brother Matt for an opportunity in the slot that was so good, Ryan began celebrating. But the puck was under the Wings' netminder

“We had two power plays under 10 minutes in the third, at home, down by a goal,” McGinnis said. “Those are great chances to come back. It's what do we do with that? It's paying attention to the detail, getting pucks to the net.”

It was a redemptive win for Gartieg, but another close loss for the Fuel. Indy has dropped four of its last five, but two were in one-goal games and the third was a one-goal game before a pair of late empty-netters.

“The last time Kalamazoo was in here, that goalie played and got pulled,” McGinnis said. “He's going to come hungrier, and that he did. We're going to need shots at the net, traffic at the net, and then some, because he wants revenge. We have to understand that. It's situational hockey. It's understanding we need more pucks, more traffic, more buzz.”

Marcoux made 45 saves and was also spectacular, none more than when he waited out Brendan Bradley all alone in front and smothered his backhand attempt.

“Their goalie played well,” Wideman said. “Our goalie played great - you can't say enough things about both of our goalies. We needed one more. If we could've gotten one at the end, we could've stolen two points.”

Boxscore: https://www.echl.com/stats/game-center/15272

3 stars

1. Michael Gartieg (KAL) 37 saves

2. Etienne Marcoux (Fuel) 43 saves

3. Justin Taylor (KAL) G, 7 shots


1. The Fuel have played better than their recent results. They've dropped four of five, with two one-goal games and a third game that was tied in the final half of the third and decided on an unfortunate bounce.

2. Alex Wideman found the net for the first time in an 11-game stretch, but it was a matter of time for the skilled forward. He had assists in his previous two games, so the goal extended his scoring streak to three.

3. Coach Bernie John made a tweak in his forward units, flipping left wings Wideman and Reed Seckel. Seckel skated with center Cam Reid, while Wideman played on Michael Neal's line. Wideman, Neal and Stephen Collins combined for the Fuel goal. “Seckel has done a great job getting Neal going,” McGinnis said. “It was about time to do the same for Reid. It's the first game of that. We'll see going forward.”

4. The Fuel were 0-for-4 on the power play. Kalamazoo was 1-for-6.


Reed Seckel-Cam Reid-Nick Bligh

Matt Rupert-Ryan Rupert-Johnny McInnis

Stephen Collins-Michael Neal-Alex Wideman

Nathan Noel

Jack Burton-Zach Miskovic

Nolan Descoteaux-Anthony Cortese

Garrett Clarke-Troy Vance

Etienne Marcoux

BU: Matt Tomkins

Scratches: Tommy Olczyk, Andrew Schmit, Riley Sweeney

Next up: The Fuel host Cincinnati at 7:35 p.m. Saturday in the final game before the three-day holiday break.

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