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Game Recap/Analysis

Nailers Steal Victory over Fuel

#ECHL | After wins over two divisional rivals, the Central Division-leading @IndyFuel returned home for a tilt with the @WheelingNailers. @FPHFuel has the recap.

Nailers Steal Victory over Fuel

INDIANAPOLIS – After wins over division rivals Cincinnati and Fort Wayne earlier in the weekend, the Central Division-leading Indy Fuel returned home for an afternoon tilt with the Wheeling Nailers. Indy looked to build on its four-game winning streak and seven-point division lead on the second-place Cyclones.

Early on, it seemed that both teams were fatigued from their previous contests over the weekend. Both sides struggled to cleanly connect passes and finish scoring chances. It was a defensive period for both, with blocked shots and stick-checking being the dominant traits of the period. Indy led the way with just five shots in the opening period to Wheeling’s four, with most of those coming on a late power-play opportunity in the frame.

The second period belonged to the Fuel, who totaled 17 shots in the period and gave Nailers goaltender Brad Barone a workout. Despite the high shot total, the Wheeling defense was critical in protecting the goal crease from Fuel rebound opportunities. There were several times in the period where an Indy goal seemed inevitable until a Wheeling defender made a goal-saving play to keep the game level. The Fuel finally broke the ice just past the halfway point of the match when a Nailer defensive zone turnover led to a pass out in front. Cameron Hillis fired the puck past Barone to go up 1-0. Indy continued to apply pressure late in the period and drew two penalties but came up empty on both power plays. 

In the third, the Nailers picked up the pace again, but the Fuel, in defensive mode, made life difficult for the visitors. As the period continued, the Fuel became prone to defensive turnovers, and while goaltender Zach Driscoll had bailed out the mishaps, the Nailers eventually capitalized. Similar to Indy’s lone tally, Wheeling forced a Fuel turnover, and a pass from behind the net found Chase Zieky alone out front, who beat Driscoll to tie the game at one with just under eight minutes remaining. Following the goal, Indy showed a sense of urgency, but it was evident that there was still a disconnection with the team tonight, and the Nailers would take advantage of this.

Wheeling continued to challenge the Indy defense, and a heavy rebound found its way to Davis Bunz‘s stick, who gave the Nailers the go-ahead goal with a shot from the right circle that beat a sliding Driscoll with just over four minutes remaining. From there, Wheeling controlled the rest of the contest, and a late empty-net goal by Samuel Tremblay would seal the road trip for the Nailers with a 3-1 victory.

Key Points

Third Frame Falter

This was a rough game for the Fuel to swallow, as they had taken control of the game in the second period with their 17 shots and a 1-0 lead, but in the third period, they sat back defensively and only totaled two shots. This allowed Wheeling to gain momentum, and when they took the lead, it was too late for the Fuel to come back. 

Special Teams

One bright spot for the Fuel tonight was their penalty kill, which killed off all four Wheeling opportunities. The Nailers struggled to set up the power play with the aggressive Indy stick-check, and Indy even had a few shorthanded chances but could not find the back of the net. As for Indy’s power play, the Fuel finished the night scoreless on three opportunities. However, they were able to set up and test Barone on all of them. The Fuel even had one power play that featured the duration of the entire man advantage in the offensive zone, but no goal was found.

Brad Barone

The Nailers can thank Barone for the two points tonight. His heroic goaltending in the second period helped Wheeling stay within a goal heading into the third period despite a number of spectacular Indy chances late in the period. Also, his rebound control, coupled with his defense’s quick stickwork, kept second-chance opportunities away from the Fuel throughout the night.

Overall, it was a successful weekend for the Fuel, who captured four of six points versus divisional opponents, including a key win over second-place Cincinnati on Friday. It’s just unfortunate that they let two points get away from them on home ice. Indy will face another three-game weekend slate next week as the Jacksonville Icemen make their way north to the Circle City for contests on Friday and Saturday. After that, Indy concludes the weekend with a Saturday afternoon game at Kalamazoo.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2023 season!

    Josh Neireiter covers the Indy Fuel for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @FPHFuel.

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