The Indy Fuel and Tulsa Oilers are quickly becoming one of the more bitter rivalries in the ECHL. Dating back to two chippy affairs last season and this season’s Fuel home opener, the teams built grudges that came to a head tonight in Indianapolis.
In a heated 59-penalty minute first period, the tension boiled over at the 15:15 mark. Tulsa’s Conner Bleackley and Kale Kessy took exception to a hit by Indy, and a near line brawl broke out. Bleackley and Kessy each received a 10 minute misconduct in addition to other penalties, while Indy’s Matt Rupert was charged with fighting en route to an 11 PIM game. The Fuel’s Alex Wideman– normally not a big penalty minute player, received a game misconduct for a cross-checking penalty only minutes later.
Other players finishing with more than one penalty included Indy’s Garrett Clarke (now the ECHL’s leader with 80 PIM on the season), and Tulsa’s Joey Sides (six PIM) and Connor Schmidt (nine PIM).
The Fuel ultimately won the gritty contest 4-3, thanks to goals by Wideman (Clarke, Nick Bligh), Zach Miskovic (Robin Press), Bligh (Nolan Descoteaux, Miskovic) and Cam Reid (Stephen Collins, Bligh). Tulsa received goals by Eric Drapluk (Schmidt, Vladimir Nikiforov), Charlie Sampair (Alexandre Ranger, Christophe Lalancette) and Chris Joyaux (Nikiforov, Adam Pleskach).
In goal, Indy’s Etienne Marcoux turned in his second solid performance in as many nights. He followed up last night’s 45-save effort in Indy’s 6-2 win over Kalamazoo with 33 saves tonight. Marcoux made numerous tough saves, and now owns a .943 save percentage through four games played. Marcoux returned from a short loan to AHL Laval Friday. For Tulsa, Devin Williams took the loss, allowing four goals on 25 shots.
The Fuel improve to 4-7-2-1, for 11 standings points– seventh in the Central Division. After starting the season with five out of their first six games against Wichita and Florida, each tough matchups as current leaders in their respective divisions, the Fuel face four division rivals in their next four games. If they play Fort Wayne, Kansas City, Quad City and Toledo the way they played this weekend– physical with improved passing and quality scoring chances, they have a chance to make up some points in the standings. The Fuel could still improve their passing accuracy and keep untimely penalties to a minimum, but they could have turned the corner this weekend as a +5 goal differential over two games is a welcome sight in the circle city.
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