Tommy Olczyk doesn't need to put new headwear on his Christmas list.
The Indy Fuel forward brought a torrent of hats iceward Saturday night when he flung a 170-foot shot toward an empty net with eight seconds left to ice a 7-4 victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones.
Olczyk scored three times - all shorthanded - to net his first career professional hat trick in leading the Fuel to the victory. He became the fourth player in the ECHL's 30-year history to score a shorthanded hat trick.
“I didn't even realize the last one was shorthanded,” Olczyk said. “I knew they had an extra attacker. The guys told me it was shorthanded afterward. It's definitely something special, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter who's producing because winning is the bottom line for us.”
The victory sends the Fuel into the three-day holiday break on a high note in a game that featured more than just a league record. Anthony Cortese scored his first pro goal and Darian Dziuryzinski tallied two points in his first game with the Fuel. Matt Tomkins not only made 38 saves to win the game, he also won a fight with Cincinnati goaltender Anthony Peters.
“It was one of those really good team wins,” Fuel coach Bernie John said. “Everybody chipped in and did their part. The penalty kill was very good. We had good timely goals, good pace. It was one of those games that creates some energy for the team.”
Olczyk brings hats out of the stands when Santa heads down chimneys. His last hat trick came two years ago when he was a senior at Penn State - also in the final game before a holiday break.
Each of his first two goals came at critical junctures - with Cincinnati having cut a two-goal lead to one and threatening to tie the game on the power play. The first came early in the second, and was the result of a hard forecheck by Michael Neal, which jarred the puck loose from a Cyclones defender behind the net. Olczyk drove the net and scored to put Indy up 4-2.
“I was a half-second away from going to the bench, but I saw Nealer was maybe going to win that battle,” Olczyk said. “He did and made an unbelievable pass to put it through their defenseman's legs to me streaking through the middle. I got lucky there, but that doesn't happen without his hard work and his vision.”
He added the dagger in the third period, again with Cincinnati having scored to cut what had been a three-goal Fuel lead to one. After Matt Tomkins made a save, Olczyk jumped on a loose puck in his own zone, turned on the jets to outskate both defensemen, and ripped a puck into the top shelf to put Indy up 6-4.
“One of their players committed. I knew I could beat him to the puck. I got my head up when I got into the offensive zone,” Olczyk said. “I saw the whole left side of the net and it felt good enough to put it in.”
He'd then add an empty-netter with a shot from his own faceoff circle with eight seconds left - again, with a teammate in the box, to net the rare shorthanded hat trick. It was the first such hat trick in the ECHL since Fort Wayne's Shawn Szydlowski in March 2015.
Almost as rare as a shorthanded hat trick is the goalie fight, but that came, as well. Peters, who had relieved Jason Kasdorf in the Cyclones' net, began calmly skating away from a goalmouth altercation with 6:34left in the third.
Peters kept skating, casually crossing the red line and then slowly heading toward Tomkins before tossing down his gloves. Tomkins quickly recorded a takedown and got a few punches in as the two went to the ice. Both goaltenders were given major penalties, requiring Kasdorf to return for Cincinnati and Etienne Marcoux to come off the Fuel bench.
“I was trying to tell him to go to the back,” John said. “Their guy was obviously frustrated. He just came down and wanted to continue on with it. I thought Tomkins held his own and we told Marcoux to get ready. Those goalies practice and they love playing so much, if they have to go in for either guy, they can do that. Marcoux wanted to end the game and do it on a high note.”
The first period was one of firsts - Cortese ripping a wrist shot on the rush for his first professional goal, followed by Dziuryzinski scoring in tight in his Fuel debut in the final seconds of the frame. That came after the forecheck of Cam Reid and Johnny McInnis forced a turnover, giving Indy a 2-1 lead.
“Playing with those two guys, they're good players. They make the other players around them look good. Tonight was about going out there and getting some chemistry with them. We played well tonight,” Dziuryzinski said. “It was a simple forecheck and those two guys went in hard, disrupted the play. Luckily, they had a tough turnover because of the forecheck. It's a quick bang-bang play that's tough to stop.”
Indy gained distance with a flurry in the second, scoring three goals in four and a half minutes. McInnis scored 3:15 in to put the Fuel up 3-1. Cincinnati's Justin Danforth answered just over a minute later and the Cyclones then drew one of their six power plays.
But Olczyk answered with his first goal, and defenseman Troy Vance followed at 7:38 of the second with a goal to put the Fuel up 5-2.
It also chased Cincinnati goaltender Jason Kasdorf - for a time. He'd return after Peters and Tomkins were forced to leave after their third-period altercation. Vance and Cortese gave the Fuel two goals by defensemen.
“We've been preaching finding that fourth man's ice, get up, control our gaps, be more aggressive and make it hard for teams to get up the ice,” John said. “Cortese scores, Vance gets the game-winner. It's nice to get some contributions from our defense.”
Again, Cincy drew close, with Jesse Schultz scoring off a faceoff midway through the second and then surging afterwards, forcing Tomkins to make several strong saves. Shawn O'Donnell drew the visitors one closer 2:24 into the third, but Olczyk's second shorthanded goal two and a half minutes later took the wind out of the Cyclones.
“At the end of the day, the most important thing to myself and the guys in that locker room is that we got the win,” Olczyk said. “We wanted win both games going into the Christmas break. We lost a tough one Wednesday, but the boys beat a good Cincinnati team. We can go into the break feeling good about ourselves, get some rest, enjoy some time with our families and then come back ready to go for the second half of the season.”
1. Tommy Olczyk (Fuel) 3G
2. Johnny McInnis (Fuel) G/A
3. Darian Dziuryzinski (Fuel) G/A
1. Olczyk's hat trick tied an ECHL record for the most shorthanded goals in a game. The previous three were done by Birmingham's Jamey Hicks on Jan. 27, 1998; Colorado's Chad Costello on Dec. 12, 2012; and Fort Wayne's Shawn Szydlowski on March 21, 2015.
2. The three shorthanded goals were also a Fuel team record for most shorthanded goals in a game. The ECHL record is four, last done by the Florida Everblades on Jan. 5, 2007. Thirty-one teams have scored at least three shorthanded goals in a game.
3. Dziuryzinski was acquired earlier in the week via trade. He quickly made an impact with a goal, an assist and five shots. “Any game you can come out and have a good game and a positive impact, that's what we get paid to do,” Dziuryzinski said. “Those guys made it easy tonight. Everyone in the dressing room is such good guys. I already feel welcome and I've only been here two days. It's such a first-class organization. I'm glad to be here.”
4. Dziuryzinski and linemate Johnny McInnis each had a goal and an assist. Their center, Cam Reid, had two assists. The trio combined for 11 shots, with each of the two winners getting five on goal. It was McInnis' first multi-point game with the Fuel and Reid's fifth this season. “With Cam, who's a playmaker who likes to have the puck on his stick, we put him with those two guys who like to shoot the puck,” John said. “We're trying to create some more balance in our lines. (Alex Wideman) has picked it up the last three or four games. He's playing with (Michael) Neal who can create some more space for him.”
5. Wideman had an assist on Cortese's goal, giving him points in four straight games.
6. In addition to scoring three times, the Fuel penalty kill was a perfect 6-for-6 in the game. Indy was 0-for-1 on the power play, but only had 26 seconds of power play time in the game.
7. Vance's game-winner was his first goal since Oct 14, and his second of the season. It was his first point in a span of six games.
8. Tomkins' fight with Peters wasn't the only one in the ECHL Saturday night. A familiar face - Jake Hildebrand, now playing for Tulsa - was also involved in a scrap with Allen's Stephon Williams in their game.
9. Saturday's game was the first of 10 between the two teams, who meet again in seven days at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. “Tonight was a big game because it was a division game, and we play them nine more times,” John said. “We know it's going to be a battle every time we play them, because they've got a very good team over there.”
Darian Dziuryzinski-Cam Reid-Johnny McInnis
Reed Seckel-Ryan Rupert-Matt Rupert
Stephen Collins-Michael Neal-Alex Wideman
Jack Burton-Zach Miskovic
Anthony Cortese-Troy Vance
Nolan Descoteaux-Riley Sweeney
Scratches: Nathan Noel, Andrew Schmit, Garrett Clarke
Next up: The Fuel return from the holiday break with two road games - Wednesday at Toledo and Thursday at Kalamazoo. Indy's next home game is a rematch with Cincinnati Dec. 30.