INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – This past weekend, the Indy Fuel completed a weekend sweep on home ice with victories of 5-2 over the Iowa Heartlanders and 5-1 over the Kalamazoo Wings. These results boost the Fuel’s record to 5-1-0 to begin the season. In nine seasons of Indy Fuel hockey, this is the second-best start to a season, with the best being during the pandemic-shortened season of 2020-21.
In the past, the Fuel haven’t had much success in the Central Division, only reaching the postseason twice and routinely falling behind traditional divisional powers in Toledo, Cincinnati, and Fort Wayne. It’s still early in the season, but what has changed that has propelled the Fuel into the upper echelon of the division? Let’s dive into some thoughts.
One noticeable characteristic about this season’s team is the large number of familiar names on the roster. Nearly the entire roster entering October had played for Indy at some point in the past, most during the previous season. While Indy didn’t have the most successful 2021-22 campaign, familiarity seems to be an early advantage for the Fuel versus other teams who might still be working out their chemistry.
One of the key returnees to the Circle City acquired in the offseason was veteran forward Alex Wideman. He had played in Indy earlier in his career before recently spending several years over in Europe. His reappearance has been a revelation for Indy, and he currently ranks second in the league in scoring at 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists) in just six games. Another interesting statistic is that the Fuel currently have the top four scorers in the Central Division with Wideman, Jan Mandat, Mitchell Hoelscher, and Chad Yetman.
Strength of Schedule
One statistic to take into account is the strength of Indy’s opponents so far this season. The Fuel have played four different teams, and all of them currently have a losing record. While Indy assisted with that by defeating each one of them, the jury is still out on how good Indy really is. We should get our answers as soon as this weekend when the Fuel travel to Cincinnati to take on the Cyclones who hold a record of 5-0-1, good for first in the Central Division, one point ahead of Indy.
There are still 66 games to go in the Fuel season, but so far, things seem to be trending in the right direction after last year’s disappointing campaign. Indy has been able to get off to a solid start to the season due to their high scoring and experienced offensive ability. What will happen when Indy is faced with a trip to division leader Cincinnati or a weekend sellout at the Huntington Center in Toledo? Once the Fuel are battletested in these environments, we will be able to understand more about what this team really is.
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