Six minutes in Thursday night, the Indy Fuel had to climb a pretty significant mountain, trailing by three goals.
But one of the team's newcomers provided a spark, and led by the ECHL's top power play unit, the Fuel turned that mountain into an avalanche.
Indy scored six times in the second period - including three on the power play - to rally back from that early deficit and beat the Quad City Mallards 8-7 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
“It seems like there's a game like that every couple of years where it seems everything goes in the net,” said Fuel forward Darian Dziurzynski, who had two goals and two assists. “It was one of those games. Luckily, we came out on top.”
The victory vaulted the Fuel past Kansas City into fifth place in the ECHL's Central Division. With a 25-24-3 record and 53 points, the Fuel are now five points behind fourth-place Cincinnati and six behind third-place Kalamazoo. The top four teams in each division make the playoffs.
Thursday's game was much like the season - the Fuel had an early hole, but stormed back to erase it and take a lead.
“We just talked about confidence in our dressing room,” Dziurzynski said. “You get down 3-0, but it starts from the coaches to the players, everybody is so positive. We were saying ‘get the next goal, get the next goal.' It's a good characteristic for a hockey team to be resilient like that, and we showed it tonight.”
Dziurzynski launched the second-period rally with a goal, he drew the Fuel even midway through the period with another, and helped cap the rally with an assist on Robin Press' power play goal in the final minute. He and linemate Josh Shalla each had four-point nights in the victory.
The Fuel roster had undergone a significant makeover since Tuesday's 3-2 victory over Cincinnati. Defenseman Jaynen Rissling and forward Logan Nelson were acquired via two separate trades. Forward Matt Iacopelli was assigned from AHL Rockford. Defenseman Brendan Mitchell was signed from SPHL Evansville. All four were in the lineup Thursday for the Fuel, who were playing with 15 skaters - one short of a full lineup. Rissling and Iacopelli each had multi-point nights. Nelson added an assist.
“They're guys who can play,” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “Nelson can play. Rockford sent Iacopelli who can play. Rissling helps on the back.”
“When you get guys like Nelson and Dziurzynski and McInnis and Iacopeli, they know where to go to score, and that's the front of the net. That's what we'd been missing a little bit. Now, we've got a lot of perimeter scorers like Shalls and Wides, and now we've got guys who will go to the dirty areas to find the second and third chances.”
The wildness began early, with Quad City's Brayden Low scoring on a shorthanded breakaway 2:05 into the game on the Mallards' first shot. Tristan King and Low then converted on odd-man rushes on the visitors' next two shots to extend the lead to 3-0.
The spark came from Rissling, who blasted a shot from the center point midway through the period on the power play to draw Indy to within two at 3-1.
“There's a good group of forwards on this team,” Rissling said. “They're really skilled, they know what theyr'e doing with the puck. For a guy like me, I have to just get open and put it on net. On the goal tonight, I went to an area and Dziurzynski made a great pass. These guys have some skill and it's nice to play with them.”
The Fuel would draw close, but Quad City would answer each time. Three times, the Fuel drew within a goal, and three times, Quad City answered. Matt Rupert made it 3-2 with 6:25 left in the first, Quad City's Alex Globke took advantage of a mishandled puck 19 seconds later. Dziurzynski opened the second with a power play goal, but Gergo Nagy answered. Iacopelli scored on a breakaway to draw the Fuel to 5-4, but King responded with his second goal.
Every one of those plays could have popped the balloon. Instead, the Fuel kept coming, and two two-goal waves turned the game.
“It was one of those nights, where four or five of the six goals, (Matt) Tomkins couldn't do anything about - we gave up a breakaway right off the hop, an odd-man rush, the fourth one we put in ourselves - but we were on the right side of it, so that's a good thing,” John said. “There's a lot of positives on the night.”
Midway through the second, Wideman hit Shalla with a stretch pass in the offensive zone. With a defenseman back, Shalla waited and then hit the trailer, Zach Miskovic, streaking into the center lane to again cut the deficit to one. This time, Indy rode the momentum. Twenty-eight seconds later, Michael Neal won a puck in the corner and fed Dziurzynski for the tying goal.
The other turning point came with 2:48 left in the second, when Quad City's Triston Grant received a match penalty for boarding. On the ensuing power play, Wideman scored on a one-timer from the high slot to give Indy a lead, and Press followed with a goal 36 seconds later as the man advantage continued. Indy was 4-for-8 on the power play.
“We got that one goal, we know the next one's coming, especially when we get a power play,” Dziurzynski said. “Our power play is clicking right now, and we're really confident in it. The more we can get on the ice with the power play, the better chance our team has to win.”
Etienne Marcoux came on in relief of starter Tomkins and stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced to help nail down the victory. Quad City had 22 third-period shots - seven coming on two power plays in the first half of the period - but Marcoux got them all except a late point shot by Jake Bolton.
“When you're down 3-0 five minutes in, it's tough to get the morale back and bounce back, but we did a great job,” Rissling said. “It seems like we're a high-flying team. It's my first game, but to put up eight, we can't think we're ever out of it. Down three, we came back, we know we can do it.”
1. Darian Dziurzynski (Fuel) 2G/2A
2. Josh Shalla (Fuel) 4A
3. Jaynen Rissling (Fuel) G/2A
1. The six second-period goals tie a Fuel record set March 19, 2017, when Indy scored six times in the opening period of an 8-7 win over Quad City. The starting goaltender for Quad City in both games was C.J. Motte. The eight goals scored by the Fuel also tied a franchise record set that day.
2. The Fuel added some skill up front with the addition of Logan Nelson and Matt Iacopelli. Nelson had been playing in Fort Wayne, while Iacopelli talied 17 points in 40 games with Rockford. Rissling adds both offensive skll and a physical component to the back end. Mitchell saw limited action during the contest. “With the moves we made yesterday, we got better as a team,” Dziurzynski said
3. Iacopelli scored on a shorthanded breakaway where he got a step on the defender and beat C.J. Motte over the right shoulder. Nelson also got on the scoresheet with an assist. “The coaches (in Rockford) know his high-end skill is there,” John said of Iacopelli. “They wanted him to focus on the other side of the game, which he did. He competed for pucks, he was good defensively and he did all the little things. He blocked a shot, got a breakaway and scored a shorthanded goal. That's going to help him get back up (to the AHL). I thought Nelson played well. He was finishing hits.”
4. Rissling had a three-point game in his Fuel debut. Not only did he score on the power play in the first period, he sprung Iacopelli's shorthanded breakaway and had an assist on Press' power play goal. ““Rissling's got offense, but he's got some meanness and toughness. He plays a hard, heavy game,” John said.
5. The Fuel power play continues to be lights out. Indy has tallied multiple power play goals in a game 11 times this season. The four PPGs were a season-high, eclipsing the previous mark of three. Indy has improved to 22.6 percent with the man advantage. Our power play has been really good. It's feeling it,” John said. “Our penalty kill was still good. We didn't give them too much. Our special teams have been good, but we're finding ways to score 5-on-5.”
6. Robin Press' goal gives him a seven-game scoring streak. He has points in 12 of his last 14 games. With a goal and an assist, Wideman extended his scoring streak to five games.
7. Indy is now 5-2-2 against Quad City with two more games coming up this weekend.
8. The game started with an oddity - a rare clipping penalty on Quad City's Triston Grant as he delivered a low check on Michael Neal. According to ECHL Rule 44.1, clipping is “the act of throwing the body, from any direction, across or below the knees of an opponent.”
Darian Dziurzynski-Michael Neal-Josh Shalla
Alex Wideman-Logan Nelson-Matt Rupert
Matt Iacopelli-Reed Seckel-Johnny McInnis
Jack Burton-Zach Miskovic
Jaynen Rissling-Riley Sweeney
Robin Press-Brendan Mitchell
Scratches: Cam Reid, Brandon Anselmini, Tommy Olczyk, Ryan Rupert, Garrett Clarke
Next up: The Fuel and Mallards play the middle game of a three-games-in-three-nights set at 7:35 p.m. Friday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.