INDIANAPOLIS – Greenville’s Max Martin was the hero on Friday night, as his goal in the opening stages of the third period would be all that was needed for the Swamp Rabbits to clinch a road victory in Indianapolis by a score of 2-0.
Early on, most would’ve predicted a higher-scoring affair due to the large shot volume for both teams. Greenville began the game with the first five shots, testing Indy’s Zach Driscoll early, who was up for the challenge. Then, it was Indy’s turn on the attack, and they gave Greenville’s David Hrenak all he could handle, but he slammed the door on any Fuel opportunities.
The deadlock moved its way into the second period and much of it remained the same. Indy added 15 shots to the 13 it had in the prior period and continued to test Hrenak, who stifled the Fuel offense. Greenville had a fair number of chances in the middle frame as well, usually stemming from an Indy turnover or winning the race to a loose puck. The game remained scoreless into the third, but it wouldn’t last much longer until one side would grab a stranglehold on the contest.
That is when the visitors from the South broke the ice thirty-seven seconds into the final period, with Max Martin skating down the left side and placing a shot just above the glove of Driscoll and under the goalpost to put the Swamp Rabbits in front. A loud gasp of disappointment from the home crowd only foreshadowed what would come next. Greenville kept the pressure up for the following few minutes, torturing a discombobulated Indy offense. Soon, Tanner Eberle would force a turnover in Indy’s defensive end and find Alex Ierullo all alone in front of the net, who fired a quick shot through Driscoll to put the Swamp Rabbits up two. From there, Greenville coasted, ruining any Fuel chances as well as killing off their only penalty to seal the victory tonight in Indianapolis.
“It’s not a situation where we are taking our foot off the gas. It’s more about making sure we are going in the right direction, and we are ready to go and dialed in when playoffs start.” Indy Fuel Head Coach Duncan Dalmao discussing the focus heading into the playoffs, now that his team has clinched a postseason berth.
The Goaltender Show
There was no shortage of goaltender heroics on the night, as both sides had some fantastic saves and kept their teams in it all game. Indy’s Zach Driscoll, despite the loss, finished the night with 30 saves, keeping the Swamp Rabbits off the scoreboard for over two periods, including at least four breakaway saves on the night. The winning goaltender, Greenville’s David Hrenak, finished with a 36-save shutout, with the majority of his work coming in the opening two periods. Both goaltenders put on a show Friday night, and it’s a shame one had to take the loss.
Contrast of Styles
This game featured an interesting difference in play styles. Greenville brought an attack based on speed, and it showed, as they zoomed past the Fuel defense on many occasions, especially early in the game, and forced Indy to adapt. In contrast, the Fuel played a much more physical game, using the body to slow down the Greenville attack, much similar to what other Central Division teams use. Both sides had advantages in their own ways, and the Swamp Rabbits did just enough to get the better of the Fuel and snatch victory on the road.
The Plague of Turnovers
All season, Indy has had lapses in their defensive zone where they give up a turnover or lose an assignment and surrender a goal. As Friday’s game tightened up, the Fuel continued to make mistakes in their own zone, and once they fell behind, it grew worse. Greenville’s second goal was based off one of these turnovers, ultimately putting the game out of reach for the Fuel. As the playoffs get closer, staying focused and composed in the defensive end will be essential for Indy to make any sort of run in the postseason.
As for the standings, barring a collapse, Indy is set for a third-place finish in the Central Division and a first-round playoff matchup against either the Cincinnati Cyclones or Toledo Walleye. The fourth-place Fort Wayne Komets sit ten points behind and twelve points ahead of the Wheeling Nailers for the final playoff spot. Indy will have two opportunities to regain momentum on home ice this weekend as they host the sixth-place Kalamazoo Wings tonight and Sunday afternoon to complete the weekend.
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