By Reggie Edwards
During a week where Goaltender Matt Tomkins was named Goalkeeper of the Week by the CCM/ECHL, the Indy Fuel returned home Friday night for a second-straight game, looking to rebound from a tough loss to Fort Wayne the evening before.
On this night they were taking on another familiar face in Wheeling, who the Fuel led by 1 game in the Central Division and Playoff race and the Fuel came out ready to prove they’re still a strong Postseason contender and the 1st Period did just that, with a pair of Fuel goals- 1 thanks to Kevin Dufour and another courtesy of Alex Brooks.
The Fuel controlled the ice from the start, not allowing the Nailers near the goal on many occasions but the few times they did reach scoring territory, Tomkins was there to further show why he’s one of the top Goaltenders week in and week out, finishing the opening period with 9 saves.
The Nailers got things under control in the 2nd Period, cutting the Fuel lead down to 1 goal and holding the home team scoreless as well.
Emotions really started to boil over in the middle Period as well. During the 1st, things were getting physical but the teams were able to hold back but that wasn’t the case here, with three Roughing penalties that saw key players head to the penalty box but it didn’t phase anyone, with both teams playing strong and getting after each other, setting the stage for an intense 3rd Period.
The final Period saw Indy taking a more calculated and defensive approach, mainly trying to keep Wheeling from the goal but making sure to take advantage of any opportunity and open window the Nailers gave them, which happened at 11:17 with a beautiful Brett Welychka Power Play goal to extend the Fuel lead back up to 2 goals (3-1).
A late push by the Nailers saw one final goal be scored but it wasn’t enough as the Fuel shut the doors on any hopes Wheeling might have had as that final goal came with just a few seconds left in regulation.
In a game that saw top players Olivier Labelle, Matt Rupert and Anthony Collins on the inactive list, the Fuel needed big games from the rest of the team’s players and that’s exactly what they got.