INDIANAPOLIS – Indy Fuel fans are finally getting to see a team that they’ve been waiting four years to see. A team that fights for every puck, competes to win and shows they belong in the playoff picture.
The last Fuel team to compete like this was the inaugural season team that had players like Garett Bembridge, Mike Duco, Kyle Stroh, and recent NHLer Justin Holl.
This season, the Fuel have seen consistency in the lineup. There has been a core of players that have stayed with the team and have created a winning atmosphere in the locker room. Captain Michael Neal has consistently shown all season why he deserves to wear the captain’s “C.” Both goaltenders, though mainly Matt Tomkins, have stayed consistent given the Fuel the ability to win night in and night out.
Tomkins spent around a month in Rockford playing for the Fuel’s AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs. In his time with the IceHogs this season, Tomkins played seven games, earning himself a .869 save percentage. Although Tomkins didn’t post the best save percentage in the American League, he was given valuable time to work with Blackhawks goaltending developmental coaches. Time with NHL developmental coaches is incredibly valuable to any player. Fuel fans hope that time spent working on his craft will translate into success with the Fuel.
Consistency in this year’s lineup has been a key factor in the Fuel’s winning ways. A solid core from last seasons team helped develop a winning attitude and keep some sort regularity in the lineup. That benefits the players in terms of chemistry as well as giving the fans the ability to get to know the same players over time.
As I stated, in the 22 remaining games for the Fuel, the majority of them are against the Central Division. Here is how Indy has stacked up against each team in the Central Division this season. As well as how many games they have remaining.
Fort Wayne 1-6-0-0 (2 remaining)
Toledo 0-5-0-0 (4 remaining)
Cincy 4-0-0-0 (6 remaining)
Kalamazoo 5-3-0-0 (2 remaining)
Kansas City 2-1-0-0 (2 remaining)
Quad City 4-2-1-1 (3 remaining)
What these records tell you is Indy belongs in third or fourth place in the division. They’ve beaten Cincinnati four times this season and nearly split with Kalamazoo. Kansas City hosted Indy this past weekend and dropped both games, narrowing the playoff gap to eight points.
With the majority of their games coming against Cincinnati and Toledo, the games against Kansas City, Quad City, and Kalamazoo are crucial. Assuming Indy either splits or falls in both of their games to Fort Wayne and does the same in Toledo, they can very easily win the rest, if not the majority their games against Central teams and land themselves in a playoff spot for the first time ever.
22 games remaining in the season, the Fuel only play three of them outside of the Central Division. Consistent scoring, strong goaltending can lead them to a playoff spot for the first time as an organization. Now is not the time to lose hope, the Fuel are not in the best position right now, but they also aren’t in the worst. Their destiny lies in their own hands.