INDIANAPOLIS – The Indy Fuel and the Iowa Heartlanders concluded a pair of weekend games on Sunday afternoon with a two-game split. After Saturday night’s overtime thriller, Sunday’s contest focused more on defense and the heroics of the goaltenders. Unfortunately for the home side, the result was not the desired outcome.
The Heartlanders came out ready to play, pressing the Fuel defenders and forcing them into early mistakes. Indy had recently been feeding off of early goals to gain momentum; however, the Iowa adjustments left the Fuel struggling for answers. A mid-period power play helped energize the Indy offense, but Iowa goaltender Corbin Kaczperski continued his stellar play from the previous night, keeping the Fuel off the scoreboard. Iowa’s offense was only able to total six shots in the opening frame, struggling to test the Indy defense and goaltender Thomas Sigouin in his first start.
Indy started off the second period on the wrong foot by giving Iowa an early power play. The Fuel fed off of their penalty kill with multiple breakaway transition chances, each foiled by Kaczperski. The Heartlanders broke the ice nearly midway through the second period as Derek Whitmore capitalized on an odd-man rush in which he backhanded the puck past Sigouin for the lead. Iowa controlled the rest of the frame, outshooting the Fuel 10-7 and holding puck possession for the majority of it. It was the only period all weekend that the Heartlanders outplayed the host Fuel.
The Fuel began the final period with aggression, pushing for an early goal to tie the contest. Kaczperski made several saves, sprawling from side to side to get a clear look at Indy shots. After failing to convert on a power play, the Fuel finally were able to find the back of the net. C.J. Eick’s one-timer from the blue line found its way through a heap of players past Kaczperski’s shoulder to tie the game. Indy fed off the brief momentum by pressuring Iowa into mistakes in their defensive zone until a Fuel penalty bailed out the Heartlanders. Iowa’s offense sputtered throughout the final frame, putting just one shot on goal in the period through seventeen minutes. All seemed to be trending towards overtime until Iowa’s Jake Smith sent the puck on net from a sharp angle that bounced off of Sigouin’s leg and into the net with just 1:08 remaining. The shocking development forced the Fuel to call a timeout and pull the goalie to have a chance. Indy was able to get a few shots late but was unable to tie the game, giving Iowa the 2-1 victory on the afternoon.
“We didn’t have our best game last night or tonight. Last night, we found a way to win. Tonight, we didn’t,” Indy Fuel Head Coach Doug Christiansen commented on his team’s performance over the weekend doubleheader versus the Iowa Heartlanders.
Despite the loss, Indy seized 4 of 6 possible points over the three-game weekend. The Fuel remains in sixth place in the central division heading into the all-star break. They will host Cincinnati and Kalamazoo next weekend at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively.
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