INDIANAPOLIS – After a strong start to last season that saw them at the top of the Eastern Conference, the Fuel faded in the back-half of the season, falling all the way to third and an early playoff exit. Months later, the Fuel look to build off what went right last season and make a deep run in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Last season, the team finished 37-24-8-0 good for 82 points on the season. They made the playoffs but were eliminated in the first round three games to one by the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Matt Marcinew led the team in scoring last season, picking up 48 points (23G, 25A) on the season.
Overall, the Fuel scored 204 goals last season while letting in 109. Indy ranked seventh in goals for while also ranking seventh for goals against.
When it comes to the power play, the Fuel ranked third last season with 51 power-play goals, good for an 18.3% conversion rate. However, when it came to the penalty kill, they sat 12th in the league, allowing a whopping 55 goals when the other team was on the power play, equating to an 81% kill rate.
- Rookie Forward Quin Foreman – After three seasons with Dartmouth College, Foreman joins the Fuel for his first season of professional hockey. His numbers aren’t stellar by any means, but they’re worth noting coming out of college. In 2017-18, he collected eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points in 33 games. The very next season, he improves those totals to 13 goals and 15 assists for 28 points in 34 games. His numbers then dipped slightly in 2019-20, but take into consideration he played in three fewer games than the prior season. In total, he picked up 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points in 31 games. While there’s sure to be a bit of a learning curve coming to the professional ranks, if he can at least get somewhat close to that consistency when it comes to putting up points, look for him to be a regular on the scoresheet.
- Defenseman Aaron Atwell – Here’s an interesting player who has spent time in two independent leagues in the US, the SPHL and FPHL. At first glance, you might not pay him much attention, but look closer. Something happened last season with the FPHL’s Danbury Hat Tricks where he was able to breakout and collect three goals and 18 assists for 21 points in 26 games. For a defenseman, that’s good. Defensemen aren’t typically relied upon to be big point producers, but if he can continue that tear from last year, he’s someone to keep your eye on.
- Goalie Mitch Gillam – Again, like Atwell, a bit of an interesting player with his stats so far, but he is coming off a season-ending injury last season. He comes to Indy with a career record of 63-52-11, a 2.80 goals against average, a .916 save percentage, and eight career ECHL shutouts.
- Forward Terry Broadhurst – Broadhurst spent 21 games with the Fuel last season picking up six goals and 13 assists for 19 points. While that didn’t necessarily equal out to a point in each game played, he contributed consistently. Unless the Fuel can find a guy such as Foreman to fill that hole, they’re going to miss those points.
- Forward Nic Pierog – Pierog was a big contributor offensively for the Fuel in 61 regular-season games played, picking up 24 goals and 21 assists for 45 points. The consistency he had in those games with the Fuel will be greatly missed. Unless they have somebody who can contribute offensively as he did, they might find themselves scrambling to figure out how to fill the hole he leaves behind.
- Defenseman Willie Raskob – It’s clear when you look at the roster for the Fuel that they don’t have nearly the amount of defensemen this season as they did last season. But one thing’s for sure, they’re going to miss the contribution that Raskob provided. Again, defensemen aren’t expected to produce big-time offensively, but Raskob contributed consistently enough, that the hole left by him will be noticed. In 66 regular-season games played, Raskob picked up 13 goals and 25 assists for 38 points before grabbing a goal and two assists for three points in four playoff games. With the number of defensemen the Fuel have going into this season, the offensive production will definitely be a question mark, especially with Raskob not returning to the Fuel.
2021-22 Schedule Breakdown
The Fuel open the season on an interesting note, with their first two games against the Cincinnati Cyclones, who took last season off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So this means we drop back to the 2019-20 season where the two teams split their meetings with each side winning five games. However, it should be noted that with the exception of three games, the other seven were decided by one goal with a few of those ending in overtime. It’ll be interesting to see how Cincinnati bounces back from not having a season last year, but if they’re anything like they were in 2019-20, expect a pretty even season series between the two teams.
The Fuel also face the Toledo Walleye a handful of times, but like Cincinnati, the Walleye opted out of last season. However, back in 2019-20, the Fuel pretty much controlled the season series, with the Walleye only winning one game by a score of 6-2. However, the scores weren’t too lopsided between them with multiple one-goal games and a few ending in overtime or a shootout.
Another team that opted out last season are the Kalamazoo Wings. In 2019-20, the two teams split their matchups pretty evenly with Indy claiming just one more victory than Kalamazoo by a total of three games to two. However, unlike other teams, the Fuel and Wings never had any games decided by a single goal, each one was by two or more. So it’ll be interesting to see how they stack up against each other this season.
Now for the battle of Indiana with the Fort Wayne Komets. During the 2020-21 season, Fort Wayne took nine of the 13 games played between the two teams. The scores were all over the board, but it seems the Komets are a tough matchup for Indy.
With the Wheeling Nailers last season, Indy took ten of the fifteen matchups. However, a good handful of the matchups were decided by two goals or less with a few going into overtime, but if last season is any indication, the edge goes to Indy here.
In two games against the Wichita Thunder last season, Indy dropped both contests by one goal, so expect close games between these two this season.
The Fuel played six games against the Kansas City Mavericks last season and took four of the matchups. However, it should be noted that multiple games went into overtime and even one went to a shootout. The teams have multiple one-goal games last season with only one game being decided by more than one goal when Kansas City won by three in one of the matchups.
Top Storylines for 2021-22
- Surviving the Central – The Fuel play in a competitive division and it’s not going to be easy for them. But if they’re able to gel well early and string together some wins to push themselves to the top of the division, that’ll be key. But one team they need to do better against this season for that to happen is the Fort Wayne Komets, who won the championship last season.
- Man the defenses – The Fuel had quite a few more defensemen last season, so each one of them will need to step up this season to fill that missing depth. The offense will also need to step up and contribute more to help offset the losses on defense.
- The league and division are whole again – With teams returning from opt-outs due to COVID, there will be an increased competition this season and the return to normalcy. The league will see the return to divisions from the conference format they had last season. Fans will see old rivalries renewed and a bigger variation of who they play. For the fans, this will be a fun experience seeing a bigger variation of teams and for players, they’ll have a chance to face teams they didn’t last season. This is sure to make for an interesting season.
Prediction Sure to Go Right
With the players Indy has, the scoring they can produce as well as if the defense and goaltending step up, it seems Indy has put the right pieces together for this season for a playoff run. But for this to for sure happen, the defense must step their game up from last season and see an increase in production from the offensive side.
Prediction Sure to Go Wrong
The Fuel have a good team, if their defense steps up and we see in contribution from the offensive side and solid goaltending on a regular basis, this team is primed for a deep run to the championship. They’ve also added some key players that will be motivated to show what they’re made of in hopes of moving up to the AHL and beyond. That hunger and drive are key motivating factors in what could be a miracle on ice season. The team has shown they’re capable of winning, but there are some hurdles to jump through to go all the way, such as the Fort Wayne Komets, but if this happened, it’d make for a heck of a story.
How do you think the Fuel will do this season? Will they miss the playoffs in shocking fashion, cruise their way to an early playoff exit or maybe storm their way to a Kelly Cup? Let us know below!
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