The roar went up quickly across the Indiana Farmers Coliseum as the announcement was made … “Indy Fuel goal, his third of the game and 12th of the season, scored by #11, Kyle Stroh.”
It got almost deafening as it was announced as the first hat trick in the Indy Fuel’s history, and after Saturday’s 4-1 win over the Evansville IceMen, Stroh and goaltender Shane Owen were in the lobby for nearly an hour signing autographs with happy Fuel fans.
Stroh hasn’t even flipped the calendar a month on his days with the Fuel, but he’s already become a fan favorite.
That’s easy to do when you’re scoring, as Stroh had done, piling up six goals and six assists in a seven-game stretch that saw the Fuel go 6-0-1 as a team. That streak was snapped Wednesday night in the 3-2 OT win over Gwinnett, but he’s solidified himself as a scoring threat, especially around the goal.
Stroh is a quiet leader on the ice, but his play is anything but quiet.
“He’s a quiet, positive influence on the team,” Fuel coach Scott Hillman said. “He always has a smile on his face. He’s not going to say a lot, but he plays hard, he goes to the hard areas, he scores goals, he contributes in a lot of different ways. That’s great leadership for us.”
“I like to lead by example,” Stroh added. “I’m not that much of a talker. As long as I do my part on the ice, the guys will respect that and follow.”
Stroh has managed to make some history with the team. Last Saturday, he became the first-ever player on the team to tally a hat trick – scoring three goals from right in front of the goal. The next night, he became the first to score an overtime goal as the Fuel rallied to beat Evansville 2-1. A week before, he had a goal and three assists, the second four-point game in Fuel history, in a 4-2 win at Greenville.
While he’s enjoyed scoring goals, the individual honors don’t matter as much as the fact that the team has been on a hot streak since Jan. 11. Even after he scored his first professional hat trick, Stroh was more concerned about the fact that the three goals led to a win.
Since coming to the Fuel, Stroh has six goals, six assists and is +9 in 11 games.
“He’s an exciting player. He’s got a major-league release. He’s played with confidence. He’s enjoyed every minute since being here,” Hillman said.
Stroh followed an interesting path to pro hockey. The 26-year-old from Vibank, Saskatchewan played three years of Junior A hockey in his native Saskatchewan, and then played four years of NCAA Div. III hockey at St. Norbert College in Minnesota. He had 65 goals in three seasons of junior hockey, and tallied 49 goals and 54 assists at St. Norbert, including 41 points in 29 games as a senior.
He signed with Rapid City – then of the CHL – and played in the playoffs following his senior season in 2013. Last year, his first full pro season, he had 13 goals with the Rush. He had seven goals and seven assists in Rapid City this year, but after an early-January trade has found a niche in Indy as a player with point-a-game potential.
Stroh came to the Fuel in a trade, and filled a need of being the player who can make things happen in tight. On his hat trick night, he buried one from the top of the crease by flipping a rebound over the goaltender. He then scored from just to the right of the net from Justin Holl, and registered the hat trick by one-timing Pete Massar’s pass from below the goal line into the net from in tight.Even when not scoring, he generates chances – he had four shots in Wednesday’s win over Gwinnett.
“We were trying to get a centerman that goes to the net a little harder than what we’re seeing,” Hillman said. “Kyle was a guy we targeted for that. He’s doing what we were hoping for.”
Stroh has come to a team with a lot of young players – and he’s one of the team’s second-year pros – but he’s enjoying the sense of energy the team has.
“I think it’s going in the right direction,” Stroh said. “Guys are excited to come to the rink. As long as we can keep a positive attitude, we’ll take a lot of steps in the right direction.”