It took just 92 seconds for the Indy Fuel to spark the 2016-17 season.
Rookie Anthony Beauregard tapped a back-door feed into an open side to give the Fuel the first goal. While that might have set the tone for a 3-1 Fuel victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones, it was validation from two intense weeks of training camp.
“I really think the tone was set in training camp,” forward Alex Wideman said. “We worked really hard in camp. It was a grueling schedule. Guys were sore, but it really paid off. We had a really good win for the fans tonight.”
Wideman scored twice in the last half of the first period to break a 1-1 tie, and goaltender Jake Hildebrand made 33 saves for his first victory as a member of the Fuel.
“It’s always good to start with a win,” coach Bernie John said. “Everybody stepped up to a T. Maybe we didn’t get the shot totals we wanted, but we had really good puck management, we controlled a lot of the puck. Heck of a job by not just our D, but everybody blocking shots and allowing Hildy to see the puck.”
The Fuel were outshot 34-21 in the contest, but limited the Cyclones’ chances throughout much of the contest, especially after establishing a lead. All of the scoring took place in the first period.
Wideman’s first goal came with 9:28 to go in the first, as he jammed at a rebound after the puck flipped over Cincinnati goaltender Mark Visentin and into the crease. With 1:17 left in the first, he scored again on a jam in front, again assisted by Currier. The trio of Wideman, Currier and Kevin Lynch was plus-2 on the night.
“I gotta give a lot of credit to Lynch and Currier,” Wideman said. “They did all the work. I was there to put it in. They’re great players, they work hard, they’re skilled, they’re tough.
“It was forecheck, get on them hard on the goals. They do a good job taking the body and creating room for me down low.”
Beauregard’s goal came on the Fuel’s first shot of the game, as Matt Rupert got Visentin to commit to the angle and fed the puck across the crease off the rush, where Beauregard only had to tap it into the gaping net. Cincinnati’s Eric Robinson answered with a snipe over Hildebrand’s shoulder into the top corner of the net three minutes later, but Indy seized momentum rapidly even despite the game-tying goal.
“The biggest thing was to get the first goal, to get the crowd into it, get everyone pumped up,” Wideman said. “We had a steady pace the whole game.”
From there, it was Hildebrand’s time to shine, as he made several big saves – including 13 in a strong second period. Cincinnati surged in the second, often trying to swing wide past the defensemen and cut to the goalmouth. His most impressive stop came after a defensive-zone turnover, that led to a 3-on-1 with all three Cyclones on the doorstep. Hildebrand lunged out of the net to smother the puck after a tic-tac-toe pass at the goalmouth. He also robbed Justin Vaive twice on drives to the crease, and another dangle to the crease from Troy Vance.
“There were some ESPN Top 10 saves there, which was awesome,” Wideman said.
The Fuel’s best defensive work came in the final minute of the second. Nursing a two-goal lead, Indy had to kill a 5-on-3 for 1:06 after a delay-of-game penalty to Drew Schiestel. They allowed a three-shot flurry, but kept the puck out of the net. The Cyclones’ best chance came early in the third just as the first minor was expiring, when power play specialist Nick Huard popped free on the weak side, but hit the side of the net with his shot.
Indy was a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
“I thought our penalty kill won us the game,” Hildebrand said. “We were up by two goals late in the second, they get a 5-on-3 for a full minute. (Jonathan) Carlsson had a bunch of huge blocks. We really came together and started moving forward from there.”
Indy played a tight defense in the third, allowing Cincinnati seven shots to preserve the lead and the victory. Schiestel and Carlsson were both +2 on the day.
“Our defense was playing well,” John said. “They had good puck management, they made simple plays. At this level, if you can have that, you will do pretty well.”
The two teams will meet again Saturday night in Cincinnati, beginning a three-game road swing for the Fuel that will see games in Missouri and Tulsa next week.
“It’s their home opener,” John said. “They’re going to be ready to go. They’ve got some high skill – they’re a good hockey club. It was a good game tonight. We’re focusing in on what we’ve got to do. It was Game 1, we’ve got some things to iron out.”
- Jake Hildebrand (Fuel) 33 saves
- Alex Wideman (Fuel) 2G, +2, 3 shots
- Tyler Currier (Fuel) 2A, +2
Alex Wideman-Keivn Lynch-Tyler Currier
Marek Tvrdon-Anthony Beauregard-Matt Rupert
Cody Sharib-Patrick D’Amico-Brady Ramsay
Drew Schiestel-Jonathan Carlson
Dillon Fournier-Zach Miskovic
Nick Mattson-Matt Stanisz
BU: Eric Levine
Scratches: Kyle Shapiro, Randy Cure, Justin Hussar, Raphael Corriveau
- Not enough can be said about the Fuel’s 5-on-3 penalty kill, which kept Cincinnati to the outside and didn’t allow any clean chances. At the end of the game, Indy also had to kill a 6-on-4 advantage for the final 1:27, as the Cyclones pulled Visentin with the power play. It, too, saw few prime scoring chances. “Power plays, they swing momentum both ways,” Hildebrand said. “If you score on the power play, everybody’s going, that could’ve changed the game completely. To get a big kill, the crowd was going nuts at the end of (the 5-on-3), that brought everybody up. That was huge.”
- The Wideman-Currier-Lynch line was on the ice for two goals, but their forecheck was relentless in producing both and driving puck possession. They also generated two strong scoring chances for Wideman late in the third as he looked for the hat trick. The Fuel want to push the pace in transition, but forecheck hard in the offensive zone. “That’s huge. The more you can do that – we talk about is getting a hit or a bump, every time you get a bump and get on the forecheck, it makes their D tired,” John said. “We can force them to make bad plays just because of our forecheck.”
- John was pleased with players throughout his lineup. Earlier in the week, he said there’s not a first, second or third line, but a 1A, 1B and 1C because of the team’s depth. “Every line was playing. Beauregard was all over the ice, Rupert was great. The other line we have with (Sharib) was blocking shots and playing well.”
- Indy’s defensemen took the opportunity to jump into the rush and create a four or five-man attack, getting open shots from the point and driving them on net to create chances and rebounds. The blue line had nine of the Fuel’s 21 shots on goal, including four from Zach Miskovic and three from Nick Mattson. They also had quite a few other drives that didn’t count in the shot total. “We keep track of shot attempts,” John said. “We had quite a bit of shot attempts that either missed the net or were blocked, but that’s the type of game we want to play. We want them to activate, get up, get into the play and make some plays.”
- Zach Miskovic was named the team’s captain for the second year earlier in the week. Kevin Lynch and Tyler Currier wore the alternate captain’s As Friday. Drew Schiestel will also serve as an alternate captain this season.
- Cincinnati’s roster included a couple of familiar faces. Defenseman Saverio Posa has returned to the ECHL. He played with the Fuel in 2014-15 before playing last season in Italy. Cyclones forward Rob De Fulviis played for the Fuel briefly at the end of the 2015-16 season, but was not in Friday’s lineup.
- Beauregard’s goal was the first of his career. He was a 30-goal scorer for Val D’Or in the QMJHL last season in junior hockey. He is the youngest member of the Fuel at age 20.
Next up: The Fuel travel to Cincinnati for a 7:35 p.m. game Saturday, then hit the road next weekend to visit Tulsa and Missouri. Indy returns home Oct. 28-29 to face Tulsa and Allen.