INDIANAPOLIS - A downpour of stuffed animals was just the beginning of a wild night at Indiana Farmers Coliseum, as the Indy Fuel (13-12-0-0) completed a two-game sweep of the Tulsa Oilers (13-8-4-2) with a 5-4 victory during the club's annual Teddy Bear Toss game. Matt Rupert and Kevin Dufour each tallied a goal and an assist, as five different players found the net to help the Fuel secure back-to-back wins for the first time since late October.
In what has become a heartwarming hockey tradition around the holidays, the sizable hometown crowd of 5,333 launched an avalanche of stuffed toys when Josh Shalla opened the scoring for Indy at 8:55 of the opening period. Quentin Shore won an offensive zone draw straight back to the Fuel's leading scorer, who snapped a quick one-timer behind Tulsa goaltender Devin Williams (17 saves) for his 10th goal of the season. A lengthy delay ensued as a team of volunteers and staff members collected the droves of stuffed animals that were thrown to the ice. All of the donated critters will benefit local kids through the RTV6 Toy Drive.
After the ice was finally cleared, it took the Oilers only 31 seconds to find an equalizer off the stick of Adam Pleskach. The forward deflected a point shot from Dylan Bredo under the crossbar and behind Fuel netminder Matt Tomkins to tie the game at one. Logan Nelson put the Fuel back on top at 13:55 of the opening frame, taking a centering pass from Matt Rupert and beating Williams over the glove with a perfect shot from the right face-off dot.
The Fuel would build on their lead in the second period, beginning at 14:10 when Olivier Labelle tallied his 10th goal of the year. Driving down the left wing, the veteran forward put a harmless shot on net from a sharp angle, which took an arching bounce and trickled across the goal line.
Matt Rupert tacked on a shorthanded goal in the final minute of the middle frame to stretch Indy's lead to 4-1, with Shore picking up his second assist of the night on the play. Tulsa again had a quick answer, cutting the deficit to a pair when Kyle Rhodes scored on the power play moments before the buzzer sounded to end the period.
Looking to erase a 4-2 deficit, the Oilers came out firing in the third period. Despite being outshot by a wide margin in the opening stages of the final frame, Indy restored its three-goal lead at 9:07 when Kevin Dufour picked a corner from the slot, becoming the third forward to reach the 10-goal plateau on Saturday.
Pleskach narrowed the Fuel lead back to two at 12:56 with his second goal of the night, swatting a centering pass from Ryan Tesink behind Tomkins. Bredo made it 5-4 with just four seconds remaining in regulation, but Indy was able to hang on to improve its home record to 10-3-0-0 on the campaign.
Even with the high-scoring affair, Tomkins was brilliant between the pipes for the Fuel, stopping a season-high 43 shots while recording his fourth consecutive victory. The Oilers outshot the Fuel by a final tally of 47-22 on the night, including a 36-13 margin over the final two periods.
In what was a physical, penalty-filled contest, Indy finished 1-for-5 on the power play while holding Tulsa to one goal on seven opportunities.
The Fuel return to Central Division play next weekend as they close out a three game homestand at Indiana Farmers Coliseum Friday night against the Toledo Walleye, before visiting the Kalamazoo Wings Saturday in the club's final game before the ECHL's holiday break.
Single-game tickets are now on sale for the Fuel's 5th anniversary season at Indiana Farmers Coliseum! Lock up your seat for every second of the action at Indiana Farmers Coliseum with a Fuel Ticket Plan - grab yours by heading to IndyFuelHockey.com or by calling the Fuel front office at 317-925-FUEL. Don't forget to follow the Fuel on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (IndyFuel) for news, updates, contests and much more throughout the 2018-19 season.
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