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Second-Period Struggles Doom Indy Against Toledo

#ECHL | The second period proved to be the undoing of the @IndyFuel Friday as the @ToledoWalleye took control with a flurry of goals in a 4-1 win. @FPHFuel details how it developed

Second-Period Struggles Doom Indy Against Toledo

INDIANAPOLIS – Friday night featured a pivotal Central Division contest in the Circle City. The Fuel, losers of 8 of their last 13 games and their division lead vanished because of it, hosting the surging Toledo Walleye, winners of seven straight and tied with Indy for second place, just two points behind Cincinnati. It was evident that this weekend was the beginning of a dogfight until the end of the season between these three clubs. With their division lead in the rearview mirror, it was time to see what Indy was made of. The Fuel lost 4-1 as Toldeo blew up a scoreless game in the second period. 

The opening period featured both goaltenders stealing the show, coming up with important saves throughout to keep the match scoreless. Toledo brought pressure early and challenged Indy’s Zach Driscoll. Still, a pair of Walleye penalties switched the momentum in favor of the home team, and soon it was Toledo’s Sebastian Cossa’s turn to face the brunt of the work. The Fuel had an open net late in the period on a pass to the front of the net, but the shot drew iron, and Cossa recovered for the rebound to stay perfect.

The second period was less than ideal for Indy. After controlling the early parts of it, one chance is all it took for the Walleye to break the ice. A failed one-timer led to a battle against the boards that found Drew Worrad feeding a quick pass to Gordie Green just outside the blue paint, who beat Driscoll for the 1-0 lead. Just under three minutes later, Simon Denis sent a pass from the blue line that found Brett McKenzie all alone in front, who turned and flipped the puck into the back of the net to double the lead. Brandon Hawkins finished the scoring barrage after zipping a one timer low past Driscoll on an odd man rush to make it 3-0. The Walleye scored their three goals within a 3:39 span and completely turned the tide in their favor, leaving the Fuel scrambling for answers heading into the third.

The lead proved too much for the Fuel to overcome in the third. With Toledo’s stout defensive effort, Indy never came close to cutting into the deficit. A Trenton Bliss tap-in goal from an odd man rush raised the score to 4-0 and put the game out of reach for good. The Fuel did manage to beat Cossa late on a shot from the blue line by Kirill Chaika that was redirected by Chad Yetman for the tally, but it was too late, and the Fuel fell at home 4-1.

Key Moments 

Sunk in the Second

After a fairly even first period and early stages of the second, fans in attendance seemed destined for a down-to-the-wire finish, but those dreams were quickly wiped away when Toledo made their run of three goals in just over three and a half minutes. Prior to that, the Fuel had actually outshot the Walleye, and up until that point, Toledo was shotless in the period. Despite all this, Toledo took advantage of the minimal opportunities early in the second period and capitalized. After that, the momentum for the game tipped in their favor and they never looked back. Indy never recovered from the first goal, and by the time they settled back in, they faced a three-goal deficit.

Cossa’s Play

The former first-round draft choice had himself a night, collecting 28 saves, including 12 in the third period, and holding Indy off the scoreboard for nearly 54 minutes. His key saves included desperation saves in the goal crease, fighting off rebound chances from hungry Fuel forwards stressing to get back in the contest, but Cossa refused. His skillful play Friday night was a difference maker contributing to the visiting Walleye leaving Indy with two points.

Special Teams 

Despite both teams having their power play and penalty kill units ranked in the top 8 in the league, one of those had to give tonight, and it was the man advantage. Both teams finished the night 0-for-6 with blocked shots and tipped passes, largely carrying their units to success. One of Indy’s strengths on the penalty kill has been their ability to score shorthanded, but this wasn’t a factor on Friday.

This was a critical loss for the Fuel on home ice. Indy has had a rough few weeks, and through that time, they have seen themselves drop from first to third in the Central Division standings. On a positive note, the Fuel host first-place Cincinnati on Saturday night with a chance to stay within a game of the Cyclones and the top spot in the division. After leading the way for most of the season, the Fuel are now in chase mode with fourth-place Fort Wayne also creeping up behind them, looking to crash the party. The rest of the season from here on out should be a war because now it’s anyone’s division.

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

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