INDIANAPOLIS – Continuing on their six-game homestand, the Indy Fuel faced off against the Wheeling Nailers on Wednesday night, hoping to remain in the Central Division playoff picture.
The night didn’t begin in the Fuel’s favor when Wheeling’s Matt Alfaro skated all alone into the slot and fired a wrist shot glove side past Indy goaltender Mitch Gillam to snag the early lead. Though, it would not last long. Tanner Butler retaliated just over a minute later, driving to the goal crease and jabbing at goaltender Louis-Phillip Guindon before punching the puck in for the tie. Late in the period, multiple Indy turnovers led to odd-man rush opportunities for Wheeling, but Gillam sprawled out each time to keep the game even.
Indy turned the pressure on in the second period and broke through at the halfway point when Chase Yetman found Seamus Malone alone in front of the net, who drove home a one-timer past Guindon to give the Fuel a 2-1 lead. Late in the period, Wheeling stormed the crease on a shot that led to an official review, but no goal was determined, giving Indy the lead heading into the final period.
Just over nine minutes into the third, Spencer Watson gave the Fuel a 3-1 advantage on a counter-attack in which Jan Mandat sent him a pass in the slot for a quick shot that beat Guindon once again. Indy added two penalty kills in the latter half, but the Nailers could not capitalize on either try. Wheeling pulled their goalie with two minutes remaining, but Bryan Lemos iced the game with an empty netter in the final minute to seal a 4-1 victory for Indianapolis.
Newcomers and returnees make their mark
Both Alfaro and Butler made an impact on Wednesday night’s contest. Alfaro made his return from Manitoba of the American Hockey League, and his goal put Wheeling on the board early in the game. Butler scored his first-ever ECHL goal in just his second game in the opening frame and started the Fuel run of four straight goals on the evening.
Gillam vs. Guindon
Gillam won the goaltending battle on the night, stopping 24 of 25 shots for Indy. He seemed to improve as the game went on, especially as the defense began to lock down on Wheeling’s scoring chances. On the other hand, Guindon turned aside 25 of 28 Fuel shots, resulting in 3 goals against. There were numerous times throughout the game when he struggled to control rebounds and loose pucks behind the net, but overall, he kept his team in the game until the end.
Watson stays hot
Spencer Watson scored his 27th goal of the season, continuing his four-game point streak. His goal on the night doubled the Indy lead to 3-1 and put the game out of reach for Wheeling. Watson continues to be one of the top goal scorers in the entire ECHL.
Chase Lang injury
Just under a minute into the game, Indy Fuel forward Chase Lang was helped off of the ice following a heavy hit into the boards. No penalty was assessed as it was a legal hit. Lang returned to the bench later in the first and skated for several shifts before heading back to the locker room for the night.
The Fuel will conclude their six-game homestand against the Fort Wayne Komets on Friday night. Indy will return home on Sunday for a rare 5:00 pm start versus the Kalamazoo Wings. The regular season is coming to a close. Will the Fuel be able to make a last-minute push for the postseason?
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