The Indiana Farmers Coliseum looked a bit different the last time Alex Wideman skated around its rink.
Wideman was a lot different, too – a little younger, a lot smaller, but flashing the speed and skill that would make him a key piece at every stop – and cemented him a spot on the Indy Fuel’s top line.
He played in the final game before the Coliseum saw extensive renovations, and then in his first opening night with the Indy Fuel, Wideman scored two goals to lead the team to a 3-1 victory over Cincinnati. He currently leads the Fuel with three goals, and the line of he, Kevin Lynch and Tyler Currier has produced five of the team’s seven goals this season.
“It was pretty special,” Wideman said of opening a season with the Fuel. “I spent two really important years of my life here and I loved it. I love the fans, love the city. The new addition to the rink is really cool.”
Wideman stands 5-7, 150 pounds, but he’s able to use his speed and shiftiness to get to the dirty areas of the rink and create space for himself. Lynch – his lineman – has described him as a “high-end scorer,” and he’s delivered so far.
“I try to do a little bit of everything,” he said. “I’d say my best asset is my speed. I try to use that. That’s how I survive. I’m not the biggest guy, not the strongest guy. Speed kills. I try to keep that up and use it, it’s pretty difficult for opponents to stop you.”
His professional journey began in 2015, when signed an AHL contract with the Binghamton Senators. He played much of his first year in Evansville – where the IceMen were part of the Sens’ organization. Wideman actually scored his first pro goal against his future team while a member of the IceMen. He had 15 goals and 39 points in Evansville, playing in 58 games. Wideman has also played 11 AHL games in Binghamton.
But, with options heading into the 2016-17 season, having played in Indianapolis was a draw for the center.
“I loved it here the first two years I was here,” Wideman said. “I wanted to come back. I was excited to work something out here.”
From his two years with the USHL’s Indiana Ice, the St. Louis native took his talents just down the road to Miami University before graduating in 2015. He had 51 points in 105 games with the Ice – including a 27-assist season in 2010-11, and then tallied 56 points in 140 games from 2011-15 at Miami.
He’s far from the same player who was a standout with the Ice, where he played alongside future Fuel teammate Nick Mattson, as well as former Fuel forward Peter Schneider.
“It’s totally different because I was in high school at the time,” Wideman said. “I was getting up super-early, going to class, going to the rink after. The town is awesome. It’s a good hockey town.”
He’s grown – and grown up – since those days, especially during his four years at Miami, where he played alongside former junior teammates Blake Coleman and Sean Kuraly, both of whom are currently in the AHL.
“From when I played here in the USHL, I’ve gained about 45 to 50 pounds,” Wideman said. “I was really small. I was 17 years old, so a lot has changed since them. College was a huge stepping-stone for my career. I got a lot stronger, a lot better, became a more complete player in college. Since I’ve played pro, that’s transitioned pretty well.”
As a second-year pro, he’s learned the ropes quickly, as hockey is now a full-time job. He’s one of several Fuel players with pro experience entering the 2016-17 season – a different look than a typical rookie-heavy ECHL team. Having that year has also helped him see the biggest difference in the pro and college game.
“There’s guys that are fighting for your job, so you’ve always got to be on your toes,” Wideman said. “You’ve got to be playing your best, because people are going to be wanting to take your spot.”