FUEL INSIDER PRESENTED BY IVY TECH
When Doug Christiansen became the head coach of the Indy Fuel, his goal was to develop the best players while building a winning culture in what he called a “sleeping giant” in the city of Indianapolis. In his first two seasons as an ECHL head coach, Christiansen developed players like Chris Driedger, Austin Strand and Daniil Miromanov, all of them have gone on to either sign National Hockey League contracts or appear in NHL games.
Heading into the 2020-21 season, Christiansen’s numbers were among the best in the ECHL when it came to AHL call-ups. “I think it shows a commitment to adding value to players’ careers,” said Christiansen. “Not everybody in their profession can double or triple their salary in a day. We’re in a business where you can. We want to support guys in that endeavor.”
Prior to the 2020-21 season, Doug Christiansen had 38 players called up to AHL teams. No playoff-bound coach has had more AHL call-ups in the last two seasons. This season has been no different. Seventeen players who donned the Fuel uniform throughout the 2020-21 season have appeared in a total of 191 American Hockey League games.
In this week’s Ivy Tech Insider, we take a look at each Fuel contract that joined an AHL team this season.
Billy Christopoulos - Rochester Americans
Christopoulos signed three American Hockey League pro-tryout agreements (PTO) this season, eventually getting playing time with the Rochester Americans. The 2020 ECHL All-Rookie goaltender appeared in five games for the Americans earning a 6.03 goals-against average and a .815 save percentage.
Brent Gates - Rochester Americans
Appearing in four games after being acquired by the Fuel from the Tulsa Oilers, Gates signed a PTO with the Americans on April 12. The second-year pro skated in 12 games with the Americans tallying two goals and six assists. No stranger to the American Hockey League, Gates has appeared in 40 games over his first two years of pro hockey.
Alec McCrea - Rochester Americans
Signing with the Fuel in late January, Alec McCrea skated in eight ECHL games before signing his PTO with the Americans (seeing a trend here?) in early February. The 26-year-old defenseman has played 42 games over his two-year professional career earning six assists. Skating in 14 games for the Americans this season, McCrea earned one assist and four penalty minutes.
Patrick McGrath - Rochester Americans
After agreeing to terms with Indy prior to the 2020-21 season, McGrath played seven games in a Fuel uniform earning 27 penalty minutes. The veteran forward signed his PTO with, you guessed it, the Rochester Americans on January 28 before playing in 11 games and earning one goal and one assist.
Peter Krieger - Manitoba Moose
Joining the Fuel after spending his first professional season in the Swedish Allsvenskan, Krieger played 20 games and put himself atop the Indy Fuel points list. After tallying six goals and 10 assists through his first 20 ECHL games, Krieger earned himself a PTO with the Winnipeg Jets affiliate Manitoba Moose. Appearing in 14 games with the Moose, Krieger tallied one goal and six assists.
Derek Barach - Texas Stars
While waiting for the American Hockey League to begin their season, Derek Barach signed with the Indy Fuel and appeared in seven games registering three goals and four assists. Sitting at the top of the Fuel scoring list, Barach signed a one-year contract with the Texas Stars prior to the start of the 2020-21 AHL season. The 5-foot-8, 165-pound center skated in 31 total games earning three goals, four assists and a minus-9 rating.
Diego Cuglietta - Chicago Wolves
Joining the Fuel via a trade with the Utah Grizzlies, the Indy Fuel received a speedy winger who has cemented himself in the first two lines. Through 28 games in a Fuel uniform, Cuglietta has registered nine goals and nine assists, earning him a one-game PTO with the Chicago Wolves.
Cliff Watson - Rockford IceHogs
In his second season with the Indy Fuel, defenseman Cliff Watson was named the 7th captain in Fuel franchise history. Splitting his time between Indy and the Rockford IceHogs this season, Watson has played in 36 games for the Fuel earning one goal and 12 assists. Through multiple call ups to the IceHogs, Watson has earned one assist in eight games.
Connor McDonald - Cleveland Monsters
Although the Fuel traded his ECHL rights to the Utah Grizzlies, Connor McDonald was one of several players that earned AHL PTO’s with Doug Christiansen at the helm. Prior to joining the Monsters for the remainder of the season McDonald skated in eight games for the Fuel earning one assist. The 25-year-old defenseman appeared in eight games for the Monsters this season earning two assists and a plus-3 rating.
This season has certainly been a wild one for the Indy Fuel. Seeing 62 different players on the roster in one season due to injuries and call-ups can be tough on a team in terms of consistency and chemistry. But the Fuel's relationship with the AHL is what makes the team unique and Head Coach Doug Christiansen has found balance between building a strong core of players while developing a winning culture in Indianapolis.