INDIANAPOLIS – Jared Thomas was the overtime hero as the Indy Fuel edged the visiting Iowa Heartlanders in overtime 4-3. A crowd of over 4,000 raucous fans energized the Fuel to victory Saturday night on Hockey Fights Cancer Night. The Fuel wore special cancer-themed jerseys that were auctioned off following the contest.
Indy started the night off with a bang as Jan Mandat took a shot from the blue line that made its way through a maze of defenders and into the back of the net just 4:12 into the contest.
In response, Iowa would strike quickly with a pair of goals from Connor Graham and Jake Smith to take the lead in the middle stages of the first period. Graham took a pass from Jeff Solow, who drove toward the net from the right side and fed the puck into the slot for Graham to finish off with a goal. Just over a minute later, Smith failed to keep the puck in the offensive zone but retrieved it at center ice, deked out two Fuel defenders, and sent a shot over Indy goaltender, Mitch Gillam and into the back of the net for the lead. The Fuel would have a chance to counter late in the period with a couple of odd-man rush opportunities, but came up empty.
Similar to the first period, the Fuel struck quickly in the second. Ryan Zuhlsdorf scored his first goal of the season less than two minutes into the middle frame on an Iowa turnover. His shot from the slot beat Heartlander goaltender Corbin Kaczperski‘s glove side to even the game at 2-2. The Fuel retook the lead late in the second on Mandat’s second goal of the night, a breakaway goal that beat Kaczperski over the shoulder.
The third period was filled with chippiness and heavy hits into the boards by both sides. A fight also broke out early on with Craig Wyszomirski taking down Kaid Oliver after a post-whistle collision. Iowa struggled much of the period offensively despite having a 5-on-3 opportunity, which they were never able to truly set up on. Indy had their fair share of chances to put the game away but couldn’t capitalize, leaving the door open for Iowa to tie it. But late in the period, Heartlander defenseman Adrien Beraldo let a shot go from the corner near the blue line that took an unnatural bounce and squeezed past Gillam to tie the game and ultimately send it to overtime.
Thomas put Iowa away for good on an odd-man rush, patiently waiting for the goalie to make a move and deking the puck behind Kaczperski for the victory.
“Tonight was an important night. We got back to .500, and we need to build from there,” Indy Fuel Coach Doug Christiansen was pleased with his team Saturday night and looks to continue to build on their recent success as the season continues.
Indy outshot Iowa 39-19 for the game. It’s important to note that Iowa goaltender Corbin Kaczperski kept the Heartlanders in the game for most of the night, totaling 35 saves. Also, Indy’s Jan Mandat kept up his hot streak, scoring two more goals on the night.
The same two teams will battle it out again this afternoon at 3 p.m. at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The Fuel will look to get their third win in three nights and inch closer to a playoff spot in the central division.
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