Smith Douses Fuel with Late Tally, 2-1
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – Jake Smith continues his hot run, scoring with just 68 seconds left in the contest to give the Iowa Heartlanders a 2-1 victory over the Indy Fuel on Sunday afternoon. Indy may be the Fuel, but it is Smith who is scorching of late, scoring his eighth goal in his last five games. Corbin Kaczperski was spectacular, stopping 28 of 29 shots. The Heartlanders earned a point for the fifth straight game (2-0-3), establishing a franchise record.
This was a rather tentative affair through the first 20 minutes as Indy outshot Iowa 9-6 in the first frame, but there were a limited number of scoring chances or odd man rushes. Things began to turn in the second, as the Heartlanders got the better of the play. That helped the team take the lead 6:19 into the second period on the first goal of the season by Derek Whitmore, his first professional goal in nearly five seasons.
It was a great individual effort by Whitmore that created the goal. Cole Stallard passed the puck to the forward, who slowed his momentum with a great toe-drag as he went across the crease, then tucked a backhander through the legs of Thomas Sigouin to give Iowa a 1-0 lead.
Kaczperski made that lead stand for over 48-minutes, but Indy tied the score 12:20 into the final period on C.J. Eick’s seventh goal of the year. Craig Wyszomirski made a great cross-ice pass to Eick, who buried the one-timer by the Iowa netminder to make it a 1-1 game.
This contest looked like it was headed to an extra session, but Smith broke the hearts of the Fuel crowd, scoring at the 18:52 with what proved to be the game-winner. Smith was near the goal line and looked like he did not have much of an angle, but decided to go for the shot, sneaking it through Sigouin to put his team on top.
The Fuel tried to mount a feverish rally in the last minute, but Kaczperski stopped the only attempt he faced in the final 60 seconds, preserving the 2-1 victory. The goaltender moved to 2-3-0 with the win, dropping his goals against average to 2.10. Smith has been an absolute nightmare for opposing goaltenders of late, recording eight goals and five assists in his last five games.
The Heartlanders will be off until Friday when they travel to Toledo to take on the Walleye. The puck drops at 6:15 Iowa time.
By Robert Pannier