The Indy Fuel defeated the Evansville IceMen three to one on Saturday night in Evansville. The IceMen started strong in the first period and created some solid scoring chances. Indy, who played into overtime on Friday, weathered the storm and scored the first goal of the game in the second period. Alex Lavoie scored at 12:11 of the second period and the Fuel never looked back. Kyle Stroh added the eventual game-winning goal at 1:05 of the third period. Evansville did respond with a power play goal from Joe Zarbo at 15:04 but Indy sealed their victory with an empty net goal at 19:43.
The Good – There were many positives that Evansville can take away from this game. Due to players being assigned from the AHL affiliate and some late preseason trades, this game was the first time the team got to play together. There was a significant improvement in terms of stick handling and puck movement from last years’ team. Matthew Zay played a strong two-way game and flashed breakaway speed that lead to a great scoring opportunity.
It’s positive that Evansville scored a power play goal and was not shut out at home in their opener. Being shut out is emotionally defeating and the longer the team would have went without scoring, the more it would have weighed on them. Evansville plays again next Saturday and that’s a long time to let that stew in the brain of the players. As long as Evansville continues to get shot totals into the 30s, goals will happen more often than once per game.
The Bad – Evansville’s power play went 1-6 on Saturday night and at times was completely ineffective. The IceMen fell into the same trap many teams do: always going for one more pass. Once the power play got set up in the offensive zone, the search for the perfect shot often turned into a game of keep-a-way that killed off their own power play.
As part of the push to be aggressive offensively, defenseman Chris Carlisle repeated jumped into the play in the offensive zone. At times it helped the Fuel break out of their own end and create opportunities in the Evansville zone. The IceMen want to push the pace and the trade-off is that a defenseman jumping in the play is a lot easier to be flanked.
The Ugly – Nothing
Final Thoughts – No team wants to lose opening night. Evansville did play a very solid team game and created many strong scoring chances. Scott Greenham was good in net and the defense repeatedly moved the puck out of the zone well. The IceMen have many positives they can take from the game. It didn’t translate to victory, but it’s a strong foundation for the year.