INDIANAPOLIS - With two goals and an assist from Josh Shalla, and a gritty defensive performance down the stretch, the Indy Fuel (32-29-3-1) claimed a 3-2 victory over the Fort Wayne Komets (42-18-4-1) Friday night at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. With the win, the Fuel move into a fifth-place tie with the Kansas City Mavericks in the Central Division standings, trailing the Kalamazoo Wings by two points for the division's fourth and final Kelly Cup Playoff berth.
After Shalla's three-point night helped Indy build a 3-0 lead after two periods, the Fuel withstood a furious comeback attempt from the Komets to pick up their second straight victory. A pair of third-period tallies from ECHL-leading scorer Shawn Szydlowski brought Fort Wayne within one, but Indy held firm - led by 17 third period saves from goaltender Étienne Marcoux and a game-saving penalty kill that thwarted an extended 5-on-3 Komets advantage.
Shalla tallied both of his goals in the first period, spotting the home team a two-goal cushion through 20 minutes. The veteran forward opened the score at 3:18, when he picked off a Fort Wayne breakout pass between the hashmarks, beating goaltender Michael Houser to the glove side.
The Fuel used a Komets penalty to double their advantage in the final moments of the first frame. After winning a puck battle along the boards, Michael Neal dropped a pass to Ryan Rupert on the left half wall, who fed a perfect pass to a wide-open Shalla on the right circle. The native of Oshawa, Ontario converted for his 20th goal of the campaign, and his eighth tally in five games this season against Fort Wayne.
Indy's top-ranked power play unit connected again five minutes into the second period to increase the lead to three. Following a successful offensive zone draw, Shalla found former Komet Logan Nelson for a one-timer, which trickled between Houser's legs.
Szydlowski got Fort Wayne on the board early in the third period with a power play tally of his own, beating Marcoux on the third or fourth swing on a loose puck. Nelson soon appeared to restore the Fuel's three-goal lead, but the play was called back due to goaltender interference. Less than a minute later, the Komets completed the two-goal swing when Szydlowski forced a turnover and threw his 30th of the season inside the far post.
Fort Wayne would get no closer, as Marcoux and the Indy defenders clamped down for the final 14 minutes of regulation time. The Fuel shorthanded unit came through with a massive penalty kill midway through the period, holding the Komets scoreless on a two-man power play that lasted over a minute.
Marcoux picked up his 18th victory of the season, stopping 38 of 40 Fort Wayne offerings. Houser suffered the loss, turning aside 38 of 41 shots.
With win No. 32 on the season, the Fuel matched their previous club single-season record, with seven games left to play. Indy finished with a 32-36-4-0 mark back in 2015-16.
Indy now heads north of the border for a Sunday afternoon matinee with the Brampton Beast at Powerade Centre, before returning to home ice for a pair of critical Central Division tests next weekend. Sunday's game in Ontario is slated for a 2 p.m. ET start time.
Single game tickets are now available for the entire 2017-18 Fuel season at Indiana Farmers Coliseum! Fans can also take advantage of a wide variety of ticket plans by calling 317-925-FUEL or visiting IndyFuelHockey.com. Don't miss a second of the action during the 2017-18 season - follow the Fuel on Twitter and Instagram (@IndyFuel) and ‘Like' the Fuel on Facebook.
-- INDYFUELHOCKEY.COM --