Mathew Thompson scores third-period equalizer but Nailers eke out home victory
WHEELING, W.V. – The Indy Fuel (29-28-2-2) gained an important standings point Tuesday morning, but it was the Wheeling Nailers (28-25-6-2) who picked up the win in a 2-1 shootout decision at WesBanco Arena. Yushiroh Hirano scored in regulation and added the game-winner in the breakaway competition, while Nailers goaltender Jordan Ruby was stellar down the stretch to help the hometown team earn the extra point.
The Nailers used goals from Hirano and Zac Lynch to take a 2-1 victory in the shootout, while Ruby stopped three of four Fuel attempts in the tiebreaker. Josh Shalla scored to give Indy a 1-0 lead in the first round of the shootout, but the Wheeling netminder shut the door the rest of the way.
After tying the game at one in the third period with a strike from Mathew Thompson, the Fuel had several chances to win the contest in overtime. Indy held a 6-1 shot advantage during the 3-on-3 period, but Ruby bailed his team out with several key stops, including a breakaway save on Thompson with less than a minute left on the clock. Ruby finished the contest with 37 saves – 17 of them coming in the third period and overtime.
In what was a school day game at WesBanco Arena, the home team opened the scoring with a first-period power play marker. Lynch threaded a pass through the slot to Hirano just below the left face-off dot, who cranked a one-timer over a sprawling Matt Tomkins at the 7:06 mark of the period.
Special teams played a major role in the opening frame, with both teams combining for seven minor penalties in the period. Following Hirano’s tally – coming on Wheeling’s first chance with the extra skater – the Fuel penalty kill tightened up, finishing 4-for-5 in the first period and 8-for-9 on the game.
Even though they were kept out of the net, Indy began to generate more offensive pressure in a scoreless second period, outshooting the Nailers by a 14-7 margin. The Fuel finally broke through 7:09 into the final frame, when Thompson evened the score with his 14th goal of the season. A point shot from Zach Miskovic hit a body in front and caromed into the right corner, where Thompson hammered the loose puck through Ruby on the short side.
Indy ended the contest with a 38-27 edge in the shot column, while the club’s power play was scoreless on five opportunities.
With the loss, the Fuel now trail Wheeling by two points in the Central Division standings with two head-to-head matches left this season. The overtime point did pull Indy within four points of the Kalamazoo Wings for possession of the Central’s final playoff berth.
The Fuel continue a four-game road swing this weekend with a two-game set with the Reading Royals beginning Friday night at Santander Arena. Puck drop in Pennsylvania is set for 7:00 p.m. ET.
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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