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Walleye edged by Fuel as third-period surge falls short

Sunday, January 12th
Walleye edged by Fuel as third-period surge falls short

TOLEDO, OhioJustin Buzzeo and Branden Troock scored during the third period as the Toledo Walleye mounted another late comeback bid on Saturday, but the home side was frustrated once again by the Indy Fuel in a 3-2 setback before a capacity crowd of 8,027 at the Huntington Center.

Trailing by a 3-0 count after two periods, the Walleye (20-11-3-1) carried the play for much of the final frame and made their initial breakthrough with 15:13 to go in regulation. After his backhanded pass intended for Kyle Bonis was blocked at the left circle, Josh Kestner quickly regained possession and went on to center the puck through the slot to Justin Buzzeo at the right circle for a wrist shot into the top right corner. 

The Walleye continued to throw pucks on goal, and were rewarded on a scramble around the net with 3:08 remaining in the third. Although Steven Oleksy’s rocket from the right point hit traffic in front and Buzzeo couldn't backhand the rebound inside the right post, the latter managed to steer the puck toward Troock at the edge of the crease for a one-timer over the right shoulder of Dan Bukala. 

Toledo’s late push appeared to stall when Brett Boeing was called for an illegal check to the head with 2:39 left, but was handed one last chance after Alex Rauter was penalized for tripping with 6.7 seconds on the clock. Despite holding a 6-on-4 advantage in skaters for the remainder of the contest, the Walleye were unable to generate another scoring opportunity as Indy held on to improve to 6-1 in the regular-season series.

Indy (19-16-1-0) found the net on its first shot 3:29 into the opening period. BGSU alumnus Connor McDonald, who made his professional debut for the visitors on Friday, was credited with his first ECHL point when his slapshot from the point was tipped in front by Jay Dickman and past the right pad of Billy Christopoulos.

The Fuel expanded their lead to 2-0 prior to the halfway point of the first frame. Liam Coughlin won a faceoff at the right dot which set up Joe Sullivan at the top of the circle for a sharp wrister into the top left corner.The game took a scary turn at the 13:59 mark when Alex Krushelnyski took a heavy, open-ice hit from Mike Moffat near the Toledo line and fell motionless to the ice. The Indy forward was immediately attended to by medical personnel and gave a 'thumbs-up' signal as he was carted off on a stretcher. Following a delay of approximately 10 minutes, the Walleye killed off the resulting interference major and game misconduct to keep the deficit at two heading into the intermission.

Indy went on to establish a 3-0 lead with a shorthanded goal 6:31 into the second period. Rauter was credited with what proved to be the game-winning tally when his pass thorugh the goal mouth was poked by Christopoulos before hitting the stick of in front and appearing to bounce off Rauter’s left skate and rolling past the left pad of the Toledo netminder. The Walleye outshot the Fuel 15-6 over the final 20 minutes, but could not muster at least a point for the second time in as many nights Indy failed to score on a pair of power play chances, while the Walleye were unable to cash in on any of their three opportunities. Bakala stopped 34-of-36 shots to earn the victory, as Christopoulos turned aside 28-of-31 in a rare regulation defeatWhat’s Next:The Walleye will conclude a stretch of three games in three days on Sunday as they square off against the Wheeling Nailers. Puck drop from the Huntington Center is scheduled for 5:15 p.m.

Three Stars:1. Indy – Alex Rauter (game-winning goal, assist)2. Indy – Dan Bakala (W, 34 saves)3. Toledo – Justin Buzzeo (goal, assist)

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