(Photo courtesy of Zack Rawson / Wheeling Nailers)
WHEELING, W.V. - Kevin Dufour scored with just over a minute left in overtime to lift the Indy Fuel (23-19-2-1) to a 3-2 triumph over the Wheeling Nailers (20-20-3-1) Friday night at WesBanco Arena. With the win, Indy regains sole possession of third place in the ECHL's Central Division standings, holding a two-point edge over the Fort Wayne Komets.
Indy knotted up the 2018-19 season series with the Nailers at four games apiece when Dufour capped off an odd-man rush in the late stages of the extra frame. An errant Wheeling shot attempt led to a 2-on-1 rush for the Fuel, with Logan Nelson sliding a centering pass to Dufour, who beat goaltender John Muse (29 saves) on the backhand for his 19th goal of the season. Nelson finished the night with a pair of assists, extending a personal point scoring streak to nine games.
In a game that gradually took the form of a goaltenders' battle, the Fuel's Matt Tomkins outdueled Muse with a 31-save performance, including 14 saves in the third period. The league's reigning Goaltender of the Week has now led his team to at least a point in eight straight starts, going 5-0-3 over that span.
Entering Friday's game with four straight wins over Indy at WesBanco Arena, the Nailers jumped out to an early 1-0 lead with a goal from Alec Butcher at the 3:44 mark of the first period. Michael Phillips intercepted a pass in the Fuel defensive end before finding Butcher alone in the slot, who beat Tomkins to the glove side with a quick wrist shot.
Indy evened the score in the final minute of the opening frame, when Mathew Thompson tallied his 11th goal of the season. Dufour made a pass through center ice to set up Thompson on a short breakaway, which he converted with a shot over Muse's glove.
Both teams traded goals just 30 seconds apart from one another in the second period. Defenseman Robert Powers put Indy up 2-1 at 12:37 of the middle frame, taking a drop pass from Radovan Bondra at the blue line before ripping a shot just inside the left post for his third goal of the season. Wheeling answered right back, with Winston Day Chief getting a net-front redirection on a Troy Josephs centering pass to tie the contest at 2-2 at 13:07.
Tomkins and Muse saved their best work for a scoreless final stanza, combining to turn aside 24 shots to send the game into overtime.
Each team finished the night 0-for-2 on the power play.
Finishing up a rare one-game week, the Fuel will get some rest before playing four games in five nights starting Wednesday in Kalamazoo. Indy makes one stop on home ice during the busy stretch, hosting the Wings Friday night at Indiana Farmers Coliseum before heading to Toledo for a Saturday-Sunday doubleheader.
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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