The Indy Fuel’s hot start continued Friday night as they took down yet another Central Division opponent in the Cincinnati Cyclones by a final score of 4-1. The Fuel are now 2-1 to start the season after playing three different divisional opponents.
In those three games, the Fuel have averaged just over four goals per game. Despite averaging four goals per game, the Fuel are averaging only 24 shots per game.
“Even if you listen to the NHL guys, it’s not all about shots,” Indy Fuel Head Coach Bernie John said. “It’s about getting grade-A chances and we’re getting grade-A chances. Do we want more shots? Yes, we want more shots. We want to get pucks to the net, put pressure on goaltenders to make saves and on teams to defend but we like our chances when we get the right grade-A’s.”
It’s not just forwards that are scoring for the Fuel either. Rookie defenseman Robert Powers has four points in three games for Indy, which puts him tied for second in defenseman points and tied for third among rookie scorers in the ECHL. The offensive defenseman has found himself in on the rush while doing his job defensively to allow goaltender Matt Tomkins to play his game.
Tomkins has looked greatly improved since last season, most notably putting up a 39-save performance in their Friday night victory and earning the first star of the game. Tomkins wasn’t quite ready to take all the credit for his performance, though.
“Yeah, that was huge,” Tomkins said when asked about how his defense contributed to his performance. “Obviously, we were on our heels a little bit to start the game there but once we got rolling it was good.”
The first period has not been the Fuel’s friend to start the season. In their first three games, the club has been outscored 4-3 and outshot 32-22 in the opening frame.
“[It’s been] two games in a row where we’ve laid an egg a little bit in the first period and then we come back [in] the second and third and it’s more of an even game and it’s a little bit better,” John said.
The Fuel’s power play has been far from stellar as well, but their penalty kill has proved to be a key reason for their recent success. The power play has gone 3-for-15 (20.0%), with all three goals coming in their 8-4 rout over the Kalamazoo Wings. The penalty kill, on the other hand, has gone 17-for-19 (89.5), which is second behind many teams that have yet to allow a power-play goal.
The Fuel have even started to see an edge to their game that they haven’t seen in previous years. Big bodies, such as Anthony Collins, Connor Moynihan, and Dmitry Osipov were brought in to protect some of their young studs.
“We’ve got a couple of big boys, we got a lot of guys who like to stand up for the team, and that’s huge because it gives us other guys that are a little softer some extra space,” Fuel forward Josh Shalla said.