INDIANAPOLIS - Led by the first career professional shutout from Matt Tomkins, the Indy Fuel (21-18-2-1) rolled to a convincing 5-0 victory over the Fort Wayne Komets (21-17-1-2) Friday night at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The Fuel goaltender turned aside all 30 shots he faced, while Indy tallied goals in all three periods to pick up two critical points in the Central Division standings. With the win the Fuel pulled into a third-place tie with Fort Wayne at 45 points apiece, opening up a three-point cushion over the fifth place Wheeling Nailers, who fell to Brampton Friday.
The forward unit of Brett Welychka (1g, 2a), Connor Moynihan (1g, 1a) and Mathew Thompson (1g, 1a) combined for seven points Friday to lead Indy to its second straight win over the Komets, while Logan Nelson chipped in a pair of helpers. The shutout victory was the first in nearly two calendar years for the Fuel - the previous one coming when Jake Hildebrand stopped 45 shots in a 2-0 triumph over Rapid City on Jan. 27, 2017.
Indy opened the scoring at 12:02 of the first period when the Welychka/Moynihan/Thompson line connected in transition. Driving the puck down the left wing, Welychka slid a centering pass to Thompson just outside the goal crease. The rookie forward redirected the puck behind Fort Wayne netminder Lukas Hafner (14 saves) for his 10th goal of the season.
Ryan Rupert doubled the Fuel lead at 14:18 of the opening frame, capping off a fantastic individual effort from linemate Logan Nelson. After seeing his initial shot attempt blocked at the top of the left circle, Nelson stuck with the play and weaved around a pair of Komet defenders before finding Rupert for a tap-in off the right post.
Indy strengthened its hold on the game with two more goals in the second period, starting when Welychka tallied his ninth of the season at 10:22. In the waning moments of a Fort Wayne power play, Quentin Shore forced a turnover in the Komets end and found Welychka trailing close behind in the slot.
Connor Moynihan extended Indy's lead to 4-0 in the final minute of the middle frame. The forward beat Hafner from the slot after executing a give-and-go with Thompson upon entering the offensive zone. Welychka picked up the secondary assist on the play to complete his three-point night.
Fort Wayne had plenty of chances to find the back of the net in the third period, but Tomkins saved his best work for late in the game. The second year netminder made 14 saves in the final frame to keep the Komets at bay, including several quality stops on a pair of Fort Wayne power play chances.
Indy added one final marker with just under two minutes remaining, when Josh Shalla steered a back door feed from Nelson behind goaltender Eric Levine (4 saves), who entered the game in the third period in relief of Hafner.
The Fuel's top-ranked penalty kill turned in another perfect performance, finishing 4-for-4. Indy was scoreless on only one chance on the power play.
Now with points in six of their last eight games (3-2-2-1), the Fuel continue a three-game weekend Saturday as they open a home-and-home series with the Kalamazoo Wings at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. ET from the Circle City.
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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