While the NBA is wanting to do away with playing back-to-back nights, minor league hockey is taking the stance of playing two to three games in as many days. The Indy Fuel opened their first triple header of the season this past weekend, going 0-2-1. The Fuel started in Moline, Illinois against the Quad City Mallards and finished with two home games against the Wheeling Nailers and Toledo Walleye.
It was an unusual start for the Fuel against Quad City, as they recorded a penalty mere seconds into the game. The Mallards capitalized and it was the Fuel chasing the game. While down 2-1 with a few minutes remaining in the second period, Indy was given a boost by Matt Rupert, Ryan Rupert, and Nick Bligh giving the Fuel a 3-2 lead heading into the third. The Fuel were unable to sustain the lead in the third frame as the game pushed right on through overtime and onto the shootout. The Fuel lost but come back to Indy having gained one point on the road.
The only thing going for the Fuel on Saturday night was there promotion of Paws and Pucks Night. While the Fuel’s point followed them back to the Circle City so did their slow start. Another quick penalty by the Fuel to start the game saw them go down 2-0 quickly against Wheeling. While the Fuel still had hope of making a comeback in the second period, Wheeling fired three nails of their own to make it 5-0. Even Andrew Schmit’s and Garrett Clarke’s fights could only grab a consolation goal by Tommy Olczyk. The Fuel outshot the Nailers 42-36 but an unorganized attack, their inability to clear the puck from their own zone, and 42 penalty minutes doomed the Fuel.
For the third day in a row the Fuel were once again plagued by a slow start. The heroics of Étinenne Marcoux kept the Fuel in the game as they trailed by one after the first period. The Rupert brothers delivered the goods in the second period on a shorthanded goal. But a mental lapse by the Fuel with seconds remaining in the second frame saw Toledo regain the lead and the Fuel chasing once again. Toledo made it 3-1 just five minutes into the third period but the Fuel’s Michael Neal closed the gap to a one goal game with six minutes remaining. However, the Fuel’s comeback fell short and they ended the weekend winless.
Goalie: Rookie Étinenne Marcoux made his Fuel debut on the road Friday against Quad City. He was given a loss in the decision, but made several big saves to keep the Fuel in the game. On Saturday, Marcoux replaced Colin Delia to stop the bleeding, making 16 out of 16 saves. Sunday Marcoux was impressive making 27 saves and did so at times with no structure in front of him. With Matt Tomkins out because of injury and Delia going up to Rockford on a routine bases, Fuel fans maybe seeing Marcoux more often and will enjoy his style of goalkeeping.
Leadership: The Fuel’s biggest needs this offseason was size and veteran leadership. Head coach Bernie Jon was able to convince Geoff Walker, a 6’3 236 pounder with 15 years of professional experience to come to the Fuel. In just six games with the Fuel, Walker recorded 2 goals and 4 assists and was forming a top line with Alex Wideman and Cam Reid. But Walker was suspended by the team on Friday and it was evident in their games this weekend that it will take a while for the Fuel to recover from Walker’s absence.
Twinning: The play of Matt and Ryan Rupert was on full display this weekend. Ryan finished the triple header with two assists and a goal, while Matt recorded one goal and one assist. Bernie Jon continues to start the dynamic duo and they have scored 5 goals and 5 assists so far this season.