INDIANAPOLIS - Led by a spectacular night on special teams, the Indy Fuel (18-15-0-0) defeated the Wheeling Nailers (16-15-2-0) 3-2 on Friday night at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The Fuel finished 2-for-4 on the power play while pitching a clean slate on the penalty kill to secure the critical victory against a fellow Central Division opponent. Entering the game tied with the Nailers with 34 points apiece, Friday's victory gave Indy sole control of fourth place in the division standings, one point behind the Fort Wayne Komets.
Brett Welychka supplied the eventual game-winning goal halfway through the third period, while Alex Brooks (1g, 1a) and Ryan Rupert (2a) each logged multiple points to help the Fuel take a 3-2 lead in the season series with the Nailers. Indy has now won five of its last seven games, with the club's first triumph of 2019 improving its home record to 13-6-0-0.
Looking to bounce back from a home loss to Fort Wayne on Thursday night, the Fuel grabbed a 1-0 lead just 4:13 into play. After Alex Brooks found Mathew Thompson in the neutral zone with a breakout pass, Thompson saucered a pass to a streaking Kevin Dufour. Indy's leading goal scorer caught the pass in stride and slipped a backhand through the legs of Wheeling goaltender Jordan Ruby (24 saves) for his 17th marker of the season.
The first of Indy's two power play goals doubled the home team's advantage in the late stages of the opening frame. Ryan Rupert found Brooks at the point, who threaded a shot through a sea of bodies in front to pick up his fourth goal of the season at 16:52.
The Nailers cut the Fuel lead in half at 2:03 of the second period on a goal from Renars Krastenbergs. The forward stepped out from behind the goal line and snapped a wrist shot through the arms of Matt Tomkins (20 saves). Wheeling would struggle to build any momentum off the early strike, as Indy kept control of the contest - outshooting the Nailers 10-3 in the middle frame.
Hanging on to a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes, the Fuel's special teams took over in the third period to keep the Nailers at bay. After running into some penalty trouble early in the period, Indy's penalty kill responded by thwarting nearly six consecutive minutes of Wheeling power play time. The Fuel held the Nailers - who came into Friday's contest with the third-best power play in the ECHL - scoreless on seven chances with the man advantage.
Feeding off the shorthanded unit, Indy added a power play goal of their own to make it 3-1 at 11:17 of the third. Welychka collected a cross-ice feed from Radovan Bondra on the right wing, before roofing a shot from the left face-off dot short side on Ruby for his fifth goal of the year.
With Ruby pulled for the extra attacker, Wheeling made it 3-2 when Mark Petaccio found the net with 5.2 seconds left in regulation time.
The Fuel now will hit the road to look for some redemption against their in-state rivals, wrapping up their weekend Saturday with a rematch with the Komets at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. Indy's third game in three nights is slated for a 7:30 puck drop in Fort Wayne.
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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