The Indy Fuel are returning to the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Words that Fuel fans have waited three seasons to hear have never rang so purely. After a worldwide pandemic halted Indy’s playoff push in 2019-20, the Fuel returned with a vengeance this season to earn a spot in the 2021 Kelly Cup Playoffs.
The last Indy Fuel team to clinch a spot in the Kelly Cup Playoffs saw the likes of Michael Neal, Darian Dziurzynski, Josh Shalla, Zach Miskovic and Alex Wideman leading the charge. Earning their spot in the final game of the season, the 2017-18 team would go on to get swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Toledo Walleye.
This season, Matt Marcinew, Nic Pierog, Willie Raskob and Jared Thomas have taken reins and sent the Indy Fuel on a playoff run for the second time in franchise history.
In this week’s Fuel Insider, we take a look at the similarities and differences from the first two Indy Fuel teams that have made it to the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Both teams saw a strong pair of goaltender lead them to the glorious battle. In 2017-18, Etienne Marcoux and Matt Tomkins backstopped the Fuel to a combined 3.21 goals against average and .915 save percentage. Marcoux skated in 38 games for the Fuel in 2017-18 registering a 2.94 goals against average and a .918 save percentage.
This season, the Fuel have been led by Dan Bakala and Billy Christopoulos who have played in a combined 54 games. Appearing in 36 games this season, Bakala has put together a 2.88 goals against average and .907 save percentage. After spending the majority of the season on three different American Hockey League PTOs, Christopoulos has returned to put together a 2.52 goals against average and a .896 save percentage.
Skating in 52 out of Indy’s 72 games during the 2017-18 season, Robin Press was the Fuel’s highest scoring defenseman. Tallying 10 goals and 34 assists through 52 games, the Swedish defenseman had his second highest point total in his career. Serving as Indy’s power play quarterback, Press led the team in both power play assists and points. Splitting the season with the Rockford IceHogs, Press played seven games for the IceHogs where he earned two penalty minutes.
Earning Indy’s ironman award this season Willie Raskob has skated in 66 games earning 13 goals and 25 assists. Joining the team in early October, Raskob cemented himself early as the Fuel’s number one power play quarterback, earning five goals and nine assists on the man advantage. Tallying 38 points in 66 games for the Fuel, Raskob has put himself in 2nd all-time in points per season among defensemen. The only player ahead of him, the 2017-18 power play quarterback, Robin Press.
LEADING THE WAY
This season, the Fuel have dealt with more injuries compared to the 2017-18 team. Indy’s leading scorer has played in 10 less games than the 2017-18 Fuel team. Appearing in 66 games for the Fuel, Michael Neal tallied 20 goals and 32 assists. Putting together a career high in points, the veteran center earned a spot in the 2018 ECHL All-Star Classic alongside goaltender Etienne Marcoux.
The 2017-18 goals leader is a different story. Beginning the season in the UK’s EIHL, Shalla returned to the Fuel in January. The Oshawa, Ontario native skated in 42 games during the 2017-18 season and finished ahead of Darian Dziurzynski for the goals lead with 28 tallies.
This season, the race for first place has been highly contested. With both players dealing with injuries at some point throughout the season, Matt Marcinew and Nic Pierog have remained neck and neck at the top of the points race. Although only skating in 57 and 61 games this year, Matt Marcinew and Nic Pierog are currently tied for sixth place on the Fuel’s all-time goals per season list. Tallying a career high 48 points (23g, 25a) Matt Marcinew has scored seven game winning goals this season breaking the Fuel franchise record previously held by Kevin Dufour.
The 2020-21 season has certainly been one for the record books. In the most stressful season in franchise history, Doug Christiansen has built the franchise’s most successful team. With the Kelly Cup Playoffs beginning on Tuesday, the Fuel are poised to make a deep run.