INDIANAPOLIS – It has certainly been an exciting week for the Indy Fuel. The last week and a half have shown a team building chemistry and turning themselves around. Players are buying into Head Coach Bernie John’s systems and playing as a team. Several roster moves have led to this current team and this team is putting in the work to get back on the winning track.
Prior to this weekend, Indy played the Wichita Thunder in a defensive showcase. Both teams traded chances throughout the entire game but it would take until almost 13 minutes into the final period when Jonathan Carlsson scored the only goal of the game. Goaltender Jake Hildebrand made 28 saves en route to his second career shutout.
The win over the Thunder was the first of three in a row for the Fuel.
The Fuel began their weekend on the road, heading to Moline to face the Quad City Mallards. Paul Zanette and Adam Phillips both played their first games for the Fuel on
Friday after being traded on Thursday afternoon. Josh Shalla began a four-game point streak, scoring a wraparound goal on Mallards goaltender CJ Motte. Alex Guptill had a busy game tallying a goal and two assists, including an assist on Zanette’s game-winning goal. Hildebrand made 39 saves on 42 shots on Friday night.
Saturday was by far one of the most exciting Fuel games all season. In front of the largest crowd in franchise history (6,549) Indy continued their winning streak over the Tulsa Oilers. It was Blackhawks Night at Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Blackhawks legend Denis Savard, Jim Cornelison and other Chicago hockey personalities were in attendance on Saturday night.
Jim Cornelison got the crowd going with his signature national anthem but Tulsa started the scoring early. Indy controlled the first period but couldn’t seem to get anything past goaltender Colin Stevens. In the second period, the Fuel scored three straight goals in a span of 6:47 to take a 3-1 lead. Josh Shalla continued his four-game point streak with a goal and two assists on Saturday in front of a sellout crowd. Hildebrand made 34 saves and earned his third straight victory.
Looking to continue their win streak, Indy headed to Fort Wayne to take on Central Division rival, Fort Wayne Komets. For the second night in a row, Indy was down 1-0 after the first period. In the second period, Indy began to rally with a goal from Kevin Lynch but the comeback was shut down when Fort Wayne scored two in a row.
Indy wasn’t going to go down easy in the final period when Fort Wayne took a 4-1 lead, Josh Shalla continued his scoring streak cutting the Komets lead to two. After Shalla’s goal, Mike Cazzola scored two in a row to complete a hat-trick. Playing in his third game in three nights and fourth straight, Hildebrand stopped 40 shots but Indy fell 6-2.
The Indy Fuel is a completely different team than they were in December. Much of the credit goes to Head Coach Bernie John, who made several moves to shake up the roster. After Saturday’s game, Josh Shalla was asked about buying into the system.
“I think we’re working harder, we’re committing more to our defense. Bernie’s saying that a lot and we’re committing to it. Everybody is just battling for each other because everybody wants to turn it around.”
Three straight wins for Indy lifted a massive weight off of players’ shoulders. It is obvious in the play that they are enjoying playing together and buying into the system together. Saturday night after the final buzzer went off, players were hugging and jumping up and down.
The loss to Fort Wayne can be chalked up to three games in three days. That kind of schedule is exhausting mentally and physically on players. Josh Shalla enters the all-star break riding a four-game point streak with eight points (3g, 5a).
Indy will have four days off before playing another three straight at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The first, against Toledo then a back-to-back against the Cincinnati Cyclones.
Quotes courtesy of Indy Fuel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1iOBIBJTYo