TOLEDO, OHIO – Two games down, two to go for Toledo’s four-game road trip as it rolled into Indy. Coming off a victory over the Quad City Mallards in the final match up between the two teams, Toledo took on an Indy squad looking to rebound after being shut out in Cincinnati yesterday. Starting goaltenders for the contest were Matt Tomkins and Pat Nagle.
The Fuel came out swinging with early pressure against Nagle and the Walleye, putting up six shots in eight minutes. Although Toledo withstood the storm, it found itself in more trouble when Christian Hilbrich was sent to the box for interference after eight minutes of play. Indy would take advantage of the power play when former Walleye Josh Shalla put the Fuel out in front at the 8:34 mark.
Indy was not satisfied with one, however, as the Rupert twins would strike 26 seconds after the first Fuel goal. Matt Rupert would feed twin brother Ryan Rupert for the game’s second goal of the night to put Toledo down by two after nine minutes of action.
Now reeling, Hilbrich attempted to give Nagle some support with a shot on Tomkins but was unsuccessful. After a short reprieve, Toledo would once again come under assault as Indy went to work in the offensive zone. A familiar face would find the back of the net once again, as the Rupert twins would repeat their earlier feat with Matt assisting on Ryan’s second goal of the game to extend the Fuel lead.
Trailing by three after eleven and a half minutes of hockey, Toledo was unable to get on the board in the second half of the first period despite creating some good offensive zone pressure. The power play unit had a chance late in the period to make something happen, but the Fuel penalty kill stood tall. As the period ended, Toledo headed to the locker room still down by three.
The second period was chalk full of penalties from start to finish, with seven total called throughout the time frame. The Walleye found themselves on the wrong end of a 5-on-3 after two minutes of play. The penalty kill unit came up big, however, and not only preventing an Indy goal, but also drawing a Ryan Rupert slashing call to make it 4-on-4 briefly before a Walleye power play would begin.
Upon returning to full strength Toledo began to pepper Tomkins with shots in one of its best sequences of the night. Tyler Barnes finally got Toledo on the board as the power play neared its end, to get Toledo its first goal of the night and to pull his team within two. No other goals would occur in the second, despite 25 shots throughout the period and an additional four penalties after the Barnes power-play goal.
Similar to the second period, the third got off to a thrilling start thanks to Parker Reno and Mike Embach. After just 20 seconds of action, Reno ripped a shot from the blue line which Embach tipped past Tomkins for Toledo’s second of the night; just like that, Toledo had pulled to within one.
Following the goal, the physicality spiked as both teams started throwing big hits with a much greater frequency than the previous 40 minutes of play. Garrett Clarke and Colin Jacobs were both contributors to this shift in physicality, as each found himself involved in altercations time and time again after the whistle.
In the past Toledo has struggled when opposed by a physical opponent. Tonight was different though, as Toledo controlled the offensive flow of the third period. With less than two minutes left, it was Indy which remained ahead by a goal. As time began to run out Kyle Bonis led the attack on net with Nagle having been pulled for the extra attacker. After initially being stopped by Tomkins, Bonis continued to work and was rewarded with the game-tying goal with 1:19 left in regulation. The Fuel would attempt to respond but simply ran out of time, and the game went to overtime.
Indy had its back against the wall after allowing three unanswered goals to Toledo, who had all the momentum heading into extra time. As it would turn out, Toledo simply had too much momentum for Indy to handle.
It took just 16 seconds of overtime hockey to settle the game, as Barnes skated in and took a shot on Tomkins which he initially fought off. The rebound went right to the waiting stick of Kyle Bonis though, who buried the game-winning goal for a 4-3 Walleye victory. Though it was the Fuel who turned the ice green for St. Patrick’s Day, it was the Walleye who wound up the lucky winners.
Toledo has now won five straight road games to help maintain top spot in the Central Division. Nagle picked up his league-leading 32nd win and battled back nicely from a shaky first period to have a solid night. Ryan Rupert was the best Fuel player on the ice with his two goals in the first, but the player of the game has to go to Kyle Bonis for his single assist and two critical goals late in the game. Toledo travels to Cincinnati tomorrow to conclude its four-game road trip before coming back home for some well-earned rest until Saturday.