Fuel 2017-18 Season in Review – Part 2
Highlighting the best performances from the past seasonApr 24, 2018
It is hard to argue that 2017-18 was the most successful season the Indy Fuel have had since joining the ECHL. In their fourth season of play since joining the league in 2014-15, the team earned its first trip to the Kelly Cup Playoffs, hosted the ECHL's premiere midseason event, saw a pair of former players make their NHL debuts, and set numerous individual and team records.
In Part 2 of our Season In Review series, we'll be breaking down the statistics while highlighting all of the record-breaking performances from the 2017-18 Fuel campaign.
SETTING A NEW STANDARD
Saying that the 2017-18 squad was the best Indy Fuel team to date is not just hyperbole, they have the numbers to back up the claim. In his second full season as head coach, Bernie John helped the Fuel break club single-year records in wins (36), total points (78), road wins (16), goals scored (242), while matching the club's previous high mark with 20 home victories.
A number of players broke single-season records as well in 2017-18. Forward Josh Shalla set a new franchise high mark with 28 goals, eclipsing Garett Bembridge's previous mark of 25 (2014-15), while playing in 27 fewer games. Defenseman Robin Press established new club records in power play points (20) and blue line point scoring (44). Goaltender Étienne Marcoux capped off a brilliant first full season in the pros by tallying 22 wins, breaking Jake Hildebrand's mark of 18 set in 2016-17.
2017-18 FUEL SINGLE-SEASON RECORDS (TEAM)
|Statistic||2017-18 Record||Previous Record|
|Most Wins||36||32 (2015-16)|
|Most Points||78||73 (2014-15)|
|Fewest Losses||30 (Tie)||30 (2014-15)|
|Most Home Wins||20 (Tie)||20 (2015-16)|
|Most Road Wins||16||14 (2014-15)|
|Most Goals Scored||242||197 (2014-15)|
|Power Play Percentage||22.8%||20.1% (2014-15)|
|Power Play Goals||61||58 (2014-15)|
|Shorthanded Goals||13||5 (2014-15)|
2017-18 FUEL SINGLE-SEASON RECORDS (INDIVIDUAL)
|Statistic||Player (Record)||Previous Record|
|Goals||Josh Shalla (28)||24 (Garett Bembridge, 2014-15)|
|Points (Defenseman)||Robin Press (44)||38 (Nick Bruneteau, 2014-15)|
|Penalty Minutes||Garrett Clarke (259)||143 (Dylan Clarke, 2015-16)|
|Game-Winning Goals||Michael Neal (5 - Tie)||5 (Several Tied)|
|Power Play Points||Robin Press (20)||19 (Garett Bembridge, 2014-15)|
|Shorthanded Goals||Ryan Rupert (4)||2 (Two tied)|
|Wins (Goaltender)||Étienne Marcoux (22)||18 (Jake Hildebrand, 2016-17)|
POWER PLAY PROWESS
One of the reasons why the Fuel posted historic offensive numbers in 2017-18 was their lethal power play unit. Indy led the entire ECHL with 61 power play goals, with its 22.8% success rate over 2.5 percent better than second-place Cincinnati (20.1%). The Fuel were even more lethal with the man advantage on home ice, converting on a staggering 26.1% of their opportunities (36-for-138).
Seven different skaters notched at least five power play goals over the course of the season, with Josh Shalla, Alex Wideman, Robin Press and Ryan Rupert who all tying for the team lead with seven apiece. Press' seven power play goals were tied for second-most among ECHL defenseman in 2017-18, while the blueliner set a new Indy franchise record with 20 points with the extra man.
The Fuel were a threat to score even when the other team was on the power play. Led by four from Ryan Rupert, Indy tallied a club-record 13 shorthanded goals in 2017-18. Tommy Olczyk also chipped in three shorthanded goals – all coming from one game. The Fuel forward became only the fourth player in ECHL history to tally a shorthanded hat trick when he completed the feat during the Fuel's 7-4 win over Cincinnati on Dec. 23 at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
EARNING THE LEAGUE HARDWARE
A number of Fuel players earned ECHL recognition over the course of the 2017-18 season. Matt Tomkins was named the CCM/ECHL Goaltender of the Week from Dec. 4-10 after stopping 88 of 91 shots over a pair of Indy wins on Dec. 8 and 9. Just a few week's later, Tomkins' creasemate took the spotlight when Étienne Marcoux earned CCM/ECHL Rookie of the Month honors for December.
After finding the scoresheet in 12 of 14 games over the month of February, defenseman Robin Press became the first blueliner to be named ECHL Player of the Month in 15 years. Finally, forward Josh Shalla was tabbed as the ECHL Player of the Week from March 26 to April 1, following two straight multi-goal games.
ALL-STARS SHINING IN INDIANAPOLIS
On January 15, the Fuel welcomed the rest of the ECHL to Indiana Farmers Coliseum for the 2018 CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic. Hosting the league's midseason showcase for the first time, Indy welcomed hockey legend Wayne Gretzky back to the city where he began his professional career, as well as some of the brightest young talent in AA hockey.
Bringing an exciting new 3-on-3 format to the ECHL All-Star Classic, a pair of hometown heros took the ice in front of a bustling crowd of 4,795 – albiet for different teams. Fuel captain Michael Neal earned his first All-Star nod as a member of the Central Division team, while Étienne Marcoux was selected to backstop the North Division All-Stars.
Unfortunately, neither Fuel representative was able to advance out of the semifinals, with Marcoux's North Division team falling 3-1 to the South Division, before Team Central bowed out to the Mountain Division 5-2 (though Neal tallied a goal and an assist in the loss). In the end the Mountain Division claimed the All-Star title with a thrilling 6-5 shootout win over the South.
MOVING ON UP
In addition to acheiving a new level of success in Indianapolis, the Fuel also moved more players up the ladder in 2017-18 than in any previous season. In all, Indy advanced a franchise record 12 different players to the American Hockey League, with eight seeing time with the Fuel's AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs.
Indy graduated five different goaltenders (Collin Delia, Matt Tomkins, Étienne Marcoux, Colton Phinney, Adam Carlson) to the AHL in 2017-18, including all three netminders that were on the club's Opening Night roster. Through four years of existence, a total of 32 different players have reached the AHL after spending time in Central Indiana, with 23 of them skating for the IceHogs.
The Fuel also saw a pair of former players make their debuts in the NHL this season. Justin Holl – Indy's Defenseman of the Year in 2014-15 – became the first Indy graduate to play in an NHL game when he suited up for the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 31. The native of Tonka Bay, Minn. scored a goal in each of his two games with the Maple Leafs before being reassigned to the AHL's Toronto Marlies.
After starting the 2017-18 campaign with the Fuel, goaltender Collin Delia became the first Indy player to suit up for the Chicago Blackhawks since the two teams began their affiliation in 2014-15. Delia stopped 25 of 27 shots to pick up the victory in his NHL debut on March 29, before returning to Rockford where the rookie netminder led the IceHogs to a Calder Cup Playoff berth.
2017-18 FUEL PLAYERS IN THE AHL
|NAME||POSITION||AHL TEAM(S)||DATE OF AHL DEBUT/RETURN|
|Brandon Anselmini||D||Rockford||12/12/17, RFD vs. CHI|
|Adam Carlson||G||Hershey||3/28/18, HER at BRI|
|Collin Delia||G||Rockford||11/9/17, RFD at IA|
|Matheson Iacopelli||F||Rockford||3/11/18, RFD at CHI|
|Étienne Marcoux||G||Wilkes-Barre/Scranton||3/3/18, WBS at RFD|
|Nathan Noel||F||Rockford||2/13/18, RFD vs. CLE|
|Tommy Olczyk||F||Rockford||1/20/18, RFD at GR|
|Colton Phinney||G||Manitoba||3/17/18, MAN at TEX|
|Robin Press||D||Rockford||12/9/17, RFD vs. GR|
|Matt Tomkins||G||Rockford||12/30/17, RFD at CHI|
|Alex Wideman||F||Rockford||1/10/18, RFD at ONT|
The 2017-18 season was also the Fuel's best year to date at the ticket office. Through 36 regular season games at Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Indy averaged a four-year high of 3,913 fans – up 9% from their 2016-17 average of 3,591.
The Fuel welcomed two of the three biggest crowds in franchise history during a pair of sellouts early in the new year; drawing 6,542 on Feb. 3 against Toledo just two weeks after a crowd of 6,528 watched Indy defeat Cincinnati on Jan. 20.
As Indy began to push up the standings on the ice, fans began to respond in the stands. In 19 home games after the ECHL All-Star Classic, the Fuel averaged 4,385 fans, drawing a crowd of 5,000 or bigger six times.
The club continued its great work around the Indianapolis community as well. In addition to other contributions to local civic and charitable foundations throughout the season, the Fuel organization donated $100,000 to youth hockey thanks to a pair of Shoot the Puck grand prize winners.
Mac Perkins of the 16U Junior Fuel became the first Fuel Shoot the Puck contestant to hit the middle target on Jan. 5, before 14U Junior Fuel player Max Fultz repeated the feat during Game 3 of Indy's first round series with Toledo.