TOLEDO, OHIO - Another two goal performance from forward Christian Hilbrich helped the Toledo Walleye seize a 4-3 victory over the Indy Fuel Saturday night in Game 2 of the Central Division Semifinals at the Huntington Center. Toledo takes a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven first round series, as the two teams shift to Indianapolis beginning with Wednesday's Game 3 at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
The trio of Hilbrich, Tyler Barnes (3a) and Kyle Bonis (2a) combined for seven points Saturday, while goaltender Pat Nagle kept a tenacious Fuel club at bay with 30 saves. Ryan Rupert picked up a goal and an assist for Indy, who staged a late rally but could not find the equalizer. Through the first two games of the series, Hilbrich has collected four goals and one assist.
The Toledo forward's first goal in Game 2 gave Toledo a 1-0 lead halfway through the first period, set up from Barnes and Bonis. Stepping out from behind the right post, Barnes found Hilbrich in a soft spot in the slot, who ripped a one-timer under the crossbar and behind Fuel goaltender Étienne Marcoux (26 saves) at 8:06 of the opening frame.
A Walleye penalty in the final seconds of the first set the stage for a two-goal surge by Indy early in the second period. Johnny McInnis converted on the power play to even the score 1:07 into the middle frame, knocking in a rebound left from a Brandon Anselmini point shot. Less than a minute and a half later, Nathan Noel gave the Fuel their first lead of the series on a net-front redirection. Fighting his way to the top of the Toledo crease, Noel got a piece of a Jack Burton drive, with Zach Miskovic picking up a secondary assist on the play.
The 2-1 lead lasted until the 16:10 mark of the middle frame, when the Walleye picked up a deflection goal of their own. Moments after Marcoux made a sprawling net-mouth save, Colin Jacobs got a piece of a Patrick McCarron shot between the hash marks.
With the contest in a 2-2 deadlock after 40 minutes, Hilbrich put the Walleye on top just 1:27 into the third, once again courtesy of a deft passing play from his linemates. Stationed on the right half-wall, Bonis found Barnes in the slot, who one-touched a feed to Hilbrich for a far-side tap in behind Marcoux. Austin Brassard stretched the Toledo lead to 4-2 at 17:35 of the third when he knocked home a loose puck in the slot.
Outshooting the Walleye by a 14-8 margin in the third, Indy generated several quality scoring chances down the stretch, but were stymied by another strong performance from Nagle. After nearly tying the game at three earlier in the third, Ryan Rupert tacked on a power play goal with 40 seconds left in regulation to pull Indy back to within one.
The Fuel power play - the ECHL's top-ranked unit during the regular season - finished 2-for-4, while Toledo came up empty on a pair of chances with the extra man.
It's time to #FindYourNextGear and cheer on the Indy Fuel during the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs! The Central Division Semifinals shift to Indiana Farmers Coliseum for Game 3 on Wednesday, April 18, as the Fuel take on the Toledo Walleye. Be part of the first playoff appearance in Fuel history by picking up your tickets at IndyFuelHockey.com or at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum box office. Don't miss a second of the action during the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs - follow the Fuel on Twitter and Instagram (@IndyFuel) and ‘Like' the Fuel on Facebook.
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