INDIANAPOLIS - Forward Josh Shalla scored just over two minutes into overtime to lift the Indy Fuel (31-30-2-2) to a critical 3-2 victory over the Fort Wayne Komets (31-23-4-6) Saturday night in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 6,423 at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
After hitting a post and nearly scoring on two other chances in the first minute of 3-on-3 overtime, Shalla converted a feed from Logan Nelson at 2:01 of the extra frame to secure two points for the Fuel. The game-clinching goal was the veteran forward's team-leading 28th of the season, matching his own franchise record set last season.
Shalla's walk-off winner provided a thrilling conclusion to a fierce back-and-forth battle between the Hoosier State rivals. Indy erased deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 over the first two periods, before a scoreless final frame led to overtime. Goaltender Matt Tomkins turned aside 21 shots to record his 26th victory of the season, while Fort Wayne's Alex Dubeau carded an impressive 35-save outing in what was his professional debut.
The Komets opened the game's scoring at 11:02 of the first period when Kyle Hope steered a centering pass from Justin Hodgman to finish a 3-on-2 rush. Indy found a quick answer, as a strong forecheck from Ryan Rupert led to Radovan Bondra's ninth goal of the season at 14:34. Rupert chased down a negated icing call and beat a Fort Wayne defender to the puck, before sliding a one-time pass to Bondra in the slot.
Fort Wayne regained the lead at 2:53 of the middle frame, courtesy of a power play strike from Sean Flanagan. Hodgman notched his second helper of the night, finding the defender on the blue line for a seeing-eye shot that found its way through Tomkins.
The Fuel were again able to even the score before the end of the period, with Craig Puffer providing the equalizer. Mathew Thompson found the rookie forward with an incredible no-look pass from behind the Komets net, before Puffer beat Dubeau five-hole for his first professional goal.
Neither team was able to break the 2-2 tie in the third period, though Indy had several quality chances to pull away late in the frame. The Fuel outshot the Komets 10-5 in the final frame, forcing Dubeau to make several strong saves to keep the game tied. Indy finished the contest with a 38-23 overall advantage in the shot column.
Indy was scoreless on four opportunities on the power play, while Fort Wayne was 1-for-4 thanks to Flanagan's marker.
With the Kalamazoo Wings' victory over the Wheeling Nailers on Saturday, the Fuel remain six points back from playoff position in the Central Division with seven games left to play in the regular season. Indy continues a season-long five-game homestand Sunday afternoon as they host the Central-leading Cincinnati Cyclones.
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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