KALAMAZOO, MICH. - The Indy Fuel (23-20-2-1) rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie the game in the third period, but the red-hot Kalamzoo Wings (23-20-0-3) responded with four straight goals to seize an 8-4 victory Wednesday night at Wings Event Center. Now separated by just one point in the Central Division standings, the Fuel and Wings will complete a home-and-home series Friday night in Indianapolis.
The streaking Wings used goals from seven different skaters to pick up their fourth straight victory, and their sixth in seven games. Kalamazoo forward Eric Kattelus scored twice in the third to cap a three-point night (2g, 1a), while eight Wings players registered at least two points as they handed the Fuel a season-high mark in goals allowed. Ryan Rupert logged a goal and an assist for Indy, while defenseman Alex Brooks notched a pair of helpers in the loss.
Opening a stretch of four games in five nights, the Fuel struck first at 6:32 of the first period with a goal from Quentin Shore. The forward redirected a shot-pass from defenseman Zach Miskovic, beating Kalamazoo goaltender Jake Hildebrand (20 saves). The Wings answered just at 12:46, when Michael Neal recorded his first goal in a Kalamazoo uniform in his first game against his former team. The 2017-18 Fuel captain deposited a loose puck in front of netminder Matt Tomkins (24 saves) to even the score on the power play, before picking up a second point less than three minutes later with a helper on a goal from Reid Gardiner (1g, 2a) to make it 2-1 Wings.
Both teams chipped in a pair of goals in the second period, beginning with a strike from Kyle Thomas (1g, 1a) which stretched Kalamazoo's lead to 3-1 just over a minute into the frame. Indy defenseman Robert Powers cut the lead to one with a seeing-eye shot from the right point at 4:58 of the period, but Chad McDonald converted a centering pass from Luke Sandler to restore Kalamazoo's two-goal cushion at the 11:42 mark. A power play blast from Ryan Rupert trimmed the Wings advantage to 4-3 with just over two minutes left in the frame. Logan Nelson picked up a secondary assist on Rupert's 14th goal of the season, extending his point streak to 10 games.
Down by one after 40 minutes of play, the Fuel found the equalizer just 2:32 into the third period with a goal from Radovan Bondra. The forward took a feed from Brooks and fired a one-timer past Hildebrand from the right face-off dot. The tie was short lived, as the Wings regained the lead just 80 seconds after Bondra's strike with a short-side snipe from Brendan Bradley (1g, 1a).
Kalamazoo would not relinquish the lead, taking control of the contest with three more tallies in the final frame to reach the lopsided final score. Zach Saar made it 6-4 at 6:29, forcing a turnover in the Fuel end before executing a give-and-go with Kyle Blaney. The Wings wrapped up their big offensive night with a pair of goals from Kattelus in the final 11 minutes of regulation, the latter coming via a 5-on-3 power play.
Coming into the game with a perfect 25-for-25 mark over their last seven games, the Fuel's top-ranked penalty kill unit was finally solved, as Kalamazoo scored two goals on five power play opportunities. Indy finished the night 1-for-3 with the extra skater.
The Fuel will return to action Friday as they kick off a three-in-three tripleheader with a rematch with the Wings at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Indy then finishes the weekend slate with a trip to the Huntington Center and a pair of tilts with the Toledo Walleye on Saturday and Sunday.
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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