INDIANAPOLIS – It was a rare sight for Fuel fans on the opposing bench at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum Friday night. Not only was it an eastern conference opponent, but in particular, the Reading Royals, who were making their return to the Circle City for the first time since 2015. In contrast, the Indy Fuel continued their three-game homestand, looking to build off a 2-1 win Thursday morning against Kalamazoo.
It appeared that Reading had missed playing at the Fairgrounds, scoring on their first shot of the game, when Trevor Gooch fired a shot that seemed to confuse Indy goaltender Justin Kapelmaster for an early 1-0 lead. But the bleeding didn’t stop there. The Royals continued their efficient play, scoring on their second and third shots of the period. First, Brayden Low took a pass from Garrett Cecere, immediately firing the puck below the far circle and into the net. The third goal was scored by Thomas Ebbing, who was all alone in front and capitalized on the opportunity. Reading only totaled three shots in the period, resulting in Kapelmaster finishing the first without a save.
The second had a much better start for the Fuel, protecting their goaltender and locking down Royals forwards. Indy also managed to get on the board when Bryan Lemos fired a transition shot low blocker side on Reading goaltender Logan Flodell to cut into the lead. The goal wouldn’t mean much as Dominic Cormier rebuilt the three-goal advantage with a low shot zipping past Kapelmaster to make it 4-1 heading into the final period.
Gooch began the third the same way he started the first, finishing a three-on-one transition rush to extend the Royals lead to 5-1 just minutes into the third period. The game became 6-1 on another Reading transition chance when Anthony Gagnon cleaned up a breakaway save alone in front of the net. Indy added another one when Spencer Watson beat Flodell top shelf, but the Fuel wouldn’t get any closer that night, falling 6-2 at home.
“We haven’t played a team that’s punished mistakes like that in a long time, and they’re a really good team,” Indy Fuel Head Coach Doug Christiansen commented on his team’s loss against division leading Reading.
This pertains to two main things: first-period efficiency and transition success. As previously stated, the Royals scored on all three of their first-period shots. While three shots is quite a low number, Reading had plenty of zone time in the period, but most of their shots just missed wide of the net; however, when they got to the net, they found their way in. Regarding transition, the Royals scored four of their goals off of odd-man rush opportunities, mainly developing from an Indy turnover.
Where’s the Defense?
As stated earlier, Kapelmaster finished with zero saves in the opening period. Reading this would make most fans believe that he had an awful game, and while he had his fair share of mistakes, twice he was left with a Royal forward wide open in front of the net all alone, both of which resulted in goals. There were also numerous occasions of Reading players out skating Fuel defenders, beating them to certain areas on the ice, and leading to chances. There just seemed to be defensive lapses all night that damaged the probability of a comeback.
Indy’s discipline was an issue for most of the night, costing them throughout. It started from the beginning, when captain Keoni Texeira went to the box under two minutes into the game, leading to the first of six goals for the Royals. The Fuel committed the first four penalties of the night, including two inexcusable calls, such as delay of game and too many men. They also were called for back-to-back penalties in the middle of the second as they were trying to climb back into the game.
He was my player of the night. He had two goals, which were the most by any player in the game, but more important was the timing of the two tallies. First off, he started the scoring on the evening, putting the Fuel in an early hole less than three minutes into the game and setting the tone. His second goal was also an early period score, just over two minutes into the third, to give Reading their largest lead of the game and destroy any momentum from the intermission that Indy had gained. Gooch’s goals allowed Reading to jump out to an early lead and gain a stranglehold on the contest.
It was a disappointing game against an unfamiliar opponent. Reading proved that they are a threat for the Kelly Cup crown with their offensive savviness and ability to take advantage of opportunities. Indy, however, will have to refocus quickly as they finish their three-game homestand Saturday night against the Wichita Thunder. At this point in the season, it’s time for the Fuel to get a winning streak going, or the playoffs will be too far out of reach.
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