The Indy Fuel continues a five-game road swing on Friday night as they take on the Iowa Heartlanders at Xtreme Arena. This road trip, however, has had a bit of a different feel. This road swing that began on Sunday, will conclude this weekend with three games, in three different states and two different time zones.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that you’re going to spend a lot of time together,” said Fuel Head Coach Doug Christiansen. “I think it’s too early to tell what the tangible benefits will be but there’s no question in my mind that you have a little bit of a road trip this early in the season that you get to know each other in a little bit different ways.”
Entering Friday’s contest against Iowa, the Fuel haven’t been able to string together multiple wins. Christiansen thinks the largest contributing factor is the youth on his Fuel squad.
“Our compete is there, our habits are improving, the mistakes that we make are in some ways young mistakes,” said Christiansen. “We do have a really good D core that’s mobile and big, but they’re young. They’re significantly inexperienced in the day in and day out grind. They’re all being given opportunities to really thrive and grow and I think that that’s going to allow them to be an elite defense.”
Although the youth has caused a handful of defensive struggles, it has also shown flashes of brilliance this season. 21-year-old forward Chad Yetman currently leads the Fuel in points with seven points in his first five games.
“I think Yetman has done a really nice job. He’s gotten significantly better this summer and he’s come back confident and excited and he’s obviously a good player,” Christiansen said.
Playing alongside Riley McKay and Liam Folkes on Tuesday, Brent Gates picked up an assist on Indy’s first goal of the game. Through his first five games of the season, Gates has picked up two goals and three assists. His point production is no surprise to Christiansen and his staff.
Last season, Gates played four games for the Fuel tallying two goals and one assist before being signed to a pro-tryout agreement with the Rochester Americans. Seventeen players who donned the Fuel uniform throughout the 2020-21 season have appeared in a total of 191 American Hockey League games. This season, Christiansen has already seen two of his players join AHL teams.
“Well obviously you’re excited for the players, right? You want Spencer Watson and Adam Parsells to do well,” said Christiansen. “It’s not easy to lose good players but at the same time, that’s part of where we’re at in our league and where we are in the pecking order as a league. It also allows other players to step up. For us as a group we want our guys to be hungry as individuals and we want them to be able to have those opportunities.”
The Fuel will play three games in three days this weekend before returning home for three games on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Christiansen attributes some of the team’s early struggles to growing pains. Whether it’s players in bigger roles than last season or players getting to know their new teammates, he believes his team could become a force to reckon with at the end of the season.
“Sometimes you have guys who are playing in bigger roles than they did before there are growing pains and I think that we’ve experienced some of those,” said Christiansen “But at the same token that doesn’t take away from my confidence in their capabilities at all. What we’ve shown is we’ve done a really nice job limiting opportunities, we’ve done a nice job getting out of our zone when we’ve been following how we want to break out and i think that when we do that we’re going to be a really good hockey team.”