The Indy Fuel came back to Indiana Farmers Coliseum to play the Fort Wayne Komets after a four-game road swing. This starts a part of the season that sees the Fuel play at home for five straight games and six of their last eight to finish the season. It was a tightly contested game, but the Fuel came away with the 3-2 victory in overtime.
It was a slow start to the game as neither team registered a shot on goal until about five minutes into the contest. It was clear, however, that this would be a very physical game between in-state rivals. Just over halfway through the opening frame, Kyle Hope got the Komets on the board first with his third goal of the season on a tap-in that beat Matt Tomkins. Three-and-a-half minutes later, Radovan Bondra found the back of the net for his ninth goal of the campaign to tie the game up at one.
Early on in the middle frame, Indy’s Braden Hellems got whistled for holding. On the resulting Fort Wayne power play, Sean Flanagan beat Tomkins for his third goal of the season. That put the Komets up by a goal. After three more penalties, including a set of coincidental minors, the Fuel’s Craig Puffer put home a beautiful feed from Mathew Thompson for his first professional hockey goal. This was Puffer’s fourth game with the Fuel since the team signed him from the University of Vermont. The newcomer’s tally tied the game at two. The Fuel had a chance to take the lead with about a minute of 5-on-3 time, but they could not capitalize. The teams headed to the locker room knotted at 2-2.
The third period was quiet for the first 15 minutes. The physical play continued, but it was clean and goal-free. With just under 90 seconds left, Tomkins came up with a big save from point-blank range to keep the game tied. With about five seconds left, Olivier Labelle laid a big hit on a Fort Wayne player and the Komets weren’t fans. There was a scrum, but nothing came of it. Sixty minutes was not enough — this game needed overtime.
From the opening faceoff of the extra frame, it was clear the Fuel would control the pace. Josh Shalla hit the post just seconds into overtime. He would be denied twice more on a breakaway and a rebound by Fort Wayne netminder Alex Dubeau. Matt Rupert tried his hand, but Dubeau stood tall. The third time was the charm for Shalla as he put home his 28th goal of the season and the game-winner at 2:01 of overtime to give the Fuel the 3-2 win.
The Fuel continues their five-game homestand with an afternoon matchup against the central division-leading Cincinnati Cyclones. The game is on March 24 and puck drop is at 3:05 pm ET.
3: FW – Justin Hodgman – 2 A
2: IND – Craig Puffer – 1 G
1: IND – Josh Shalla – GWG