Wings Hang on to Complete Two-Game Sweep over Fuel
INDIANAPOLIS - A late go-ahead goal from Kyle Thomas proved to be the difference as the Kalamazoo Wings (24-20-0-2) eked out a 4-2 victory over the Indy Fuel (23-21-2-1) Friday night in front of a crowd of 5,910 at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The Fuel drop both halves of a home-and-home doubleheader with Kalamazoo, and fall to a tie for fourth place in the ECHL's Central Division standings.
Five minutes after Mathew Thompson scored to bring the Fuel to a 2-2 tie halfway through the third period, Thomas put the visiting Wings back on top with a pinpoint wrist shot from the right circle. Brendan Bradley one-touched a stretch pass from defenseman Ben Wilson to Thomas in the neutral zone, who beat Indy goaltender Matt Tomkins (22 saves) inside the far side post to stretch a goal-scoring streak to eight games.
Reid Gardiner tacked on an empty net goal in the final minute of regulation to seal what was Kalamazoo's third straight win over the Fuel, and fifth consecutive overall.
Robert Powers recorded a pair of assists for Indy while forward Josh Shalla tallied a power play goal in the loss. The Fuel now head back on the road for five straight games away from Central Indiana over the next two weeks, starting with a Saturday-Sunday doubleheader against the Toledo Walleye.
Former Indy forward Michael Neal found the net just 31 seconds into his first game in his old building, giving the Wings an early 1-0 cushion. Gardiner picked up a drop pass from Tanner Sorenson behind the Fuel net, before finding Indy's 2017-18 captain open in the slot for the finish.
Shalla brought the large hometown crowd to their feet at 4:31 of the opening frame, tying the game with his 19th goal of the season. The Fuel sniper picked up a feed from Robert Powers at center ice before beating a Kalamazoo defender at the blue line and firing a snap shot under the crossbar and behind netminder Jake Hildebrand (27 saves).
Indy had several quality chances to take the lead early in the second period, but Hildebrand kept the score tied with a series of incredible stops. The third-year goaltender's best save of the night came when he robbed Ryan Rupert with a sprawling pad save to deny a Fuel 3-on-2 rush.
After weathering the early storm, the Wings regained the lead at 14:50 of the middle frame with a strike from Bradley. Retrieving the puck behind the net on the cycle, Kyle Blaney slid a pass from the corner to Bradley, who squeaked a shot through Tomkins.
The Fuel again used a power play to find an equalizer, this time evening the score at two with a goal from Thompson at 10:09 of the third period. With just seconds remaining on the man advantage, Radovan Bondra cut off a clearing attempt from Hildebrand on the right wall, giving Thompson possession of the puck. The rookie pulled the puck around a Kalamazoo defender and flipped a backhand over Hildebrand's glove for his 12th marker of the season.
Thompson's goal was credited as a power play goal, giving the Fuel a perfect 2-for-2 mark with the extra skater. The Wings were held scoreless on three power play attempts.
Indy opens the two-game set in Toledo with a 7:15 p.m. ET puck drop on Saturday night, before a 5:15 rematch on Sunday afternoon.
Single-game tickets are now on sale for the Fuel's 5th anniversary season at Indiana Farmers Coliseum! Lock up your seat for every second of the action at Indiana Farmers Coliseum with a Fuel Ticket Plan - grab yours by heading to IndyFuelHockey.com or by calling the Fuel front office at 317-925-FUEL. Don't forget to follow the Fuel on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (IndyFuel) for news, updates, contests and much more throughout the 2018-19 season.
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