INDIANAPOLIS – Needing to rebound from a disastrous defeat yesterday, the Indy Fuelran into a streaking Reading Royals team that flew past the visibly frustrated Fuel in a 3-1 outcome. It was the Royals sixth straight road victory and ninth win in their last 11 games.
With less than a minute remaining in the second period, Matt White committed a holding penalty which forced the Fuel PK back to work. From there, Reading’s Sean Wiles wasted no time rushing the net and forcing his second stuff attempt past Mac Carruth, who was alone with the Royals forward. The goal broke a tie and gave Reading a 2-1 lead which they would not relinquish.
The penalty kill, which is now last in the league in efficiency, has allowed six power play goals in their last five games. They finished tonight 2-for-3 while Indy’s power play was shut out on two chances.
“You feel like you’re getting it, it’s frustrating.” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said following the loss. “Exact same guy that does it perfect one day screwed it up, the same play, today to cost us. That’s the inconsistency that’s so frustrating right now, one guy does it correct today and wrong tomorrow.”
Not unlike yesterday, Indy was able to start the game well and somewhat even possession. The team’s energy line started, and overall back-checking was improved as the first period wore on. Indy’s penalty kill made their first stop of the night and Carruthlooked aggressive early.
A failure to clear moments later; however, yielded the first goal of the game. Veteran AHL defenseman Michael Caruso bested Carruth high and to the glove side to give Reading a 1-0 lead. His seventh point in 23 games, the strike was Caruso’s first goal of the year.
As the first wore on, physicality increased with Nick Bruneteau and Mike Duco both contributing to a pair of coincidental minors as the period wore on. Nonetheless, Indy entered the first intermission down a goal and is now 3-12-1-2 when surrendering the first strike.
The second period, Indy’s best in terms of goal differential, started rough with a Bruneteau delay of game penalty just seven seconds in. The Fuel recovered; however, and evened possession following the early penalty kill.
“Absolutely (we have the personnel),” Duco, the team captain, said post-game of his penalty kill. “Like I’ve said all along, I believe in the guys in this room. Once you stop believing, that’s when we’re going to fall apart. I hope everyone in there thinks the same thing as I do and thinks the same thing the coach does. We all believe we have the personnel to do it, it’s just a matter of putting it all together.”
Garett Bembridge was the first Fuel skater to best Royals goaltender Martin Ouellette, rushing the net hard and collecting an Anders Franzon rebound from the point. Dan Ford, the former Royals blue-liner, registered the secondary assist on the goal which evened the score 1-1.
The pace quickened as the second stanza continued, with Indy’s transition defense holding against Reading and forcing cycled plays in Reading’s offensive zone. The Fuel defensemen were aggressive tonight in the defeat.
“We can always be more physical,” Hillman said of his defensive group. “I think what we saw way more of than we’ve seen recently is guys up on a tighter gap, even in the offensive zone, disrupting plays before they can get anything. Not good by any means yet, but that’s a tough skill to learn. It’s a confidence thing. There’s one thing our defensemen do well it’s skate, we should be able to play with more confidence to play that style.”
Carruth played well in front of his net, although he aided a few Royals chances with his play handling the puck behind the net. The Fuel starter finished with 26 saves on 28 shots faced. Royals captain Bryant Molle potted the empty net goal that finished the Fuel.
Mathieu Brisebois, playing his second straight game at forward, recorded a +1 rating, while Bembridge led Indy with five shots on goal. Pete Massar and Kirill Gotovets were the scratches for Indy tonight, two talented goal scorers who sat for performance reasons.
“Could one of those guys have gotten us a spark? Yeah.” Hillman said of his personnel decision. “But, guys are going to learn that they’ve got to work, work, work or they’re not going to play.”
“There’s a number of things we want to do to bring a franchise to this community and have something we can be proud of. First thing is we want to be a hard working team. Second, we want to develop players that love to be here and want to be here and represent this city and make sure they’re good people.
Believe me, we’ve had some great hockey players résumés come through the door the last month that I would have loved to jump on, but they have character flaws. We’re not going to risk doing that with our community. I’d rather keep more irons in the fire. Obviously it’s taking longer than we wanted, than we hoped. Every day it falls on me, that’s the way it is.”
Michael Guzman is the Indy Fuel Beat Writer for the Indiana Sports Report. Follow him and ISR on Twitter.
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