Fuel season in review: The highlights

This is the latest in a series of stories reviewing the Indy Fuel’s 2016-17 season

The Indy Fuel’s third season was one that started with a virtually new roster. Head coach Bernie John, in his first full season, saw a lot of roster turnover in the offseason, and spent much of the year building. After a strong early season that featured a six-game win streak, a combination of injuries, callups and struggles to score led to the Fuel suffering a 14-game winless streak in December, but John continued to build the lineup and had a team that was going toe-to-toe with, and often beating, the ECHL’s top teams in March and April. The Fuel had an 8-4-3 stint in those two months -which included a 5-0-1 stretch – to finish the year on a high note.

Here are some of the highlights from the 2016-17 season.

October 14: The Fuel opened the season in front of a crowd of nearly 5,000 at the Coliseum and it took just 92 seconds for Anthony Beauregard to put the Fuel on the board with a back-door tap-in. Alex Wideman scored twice and Jake Hildebrand was stellar with 33 saves in a 3-1 season-opening win over the Cyclones. Hildebrand would follow with a 23-save performance the next night in Cincy in a 2-1 win to sweep the opening weekend, with Tyler Currier scoring a shorthanded goal. Hildebrand was named ECHL Goaltender of the Week for the first of two times after stopping 56 of 58 shots over the weekend.

October 29: The Fuel played a wild game against the Allen Americans, falling 7-6 on Chad Costello’s overtime goal. Marek Tvrdon scored twice to rally Indy back from a two-goal deficit to a 5-4 lead in the third. Bryn Chyzyk tallied his first two pro points. Jake Marchment, who would join the Fuel later in the season, scored his first career pro goal for Allen.

November 11: The Fuel snapped a seven-game winless streak with a 3-2 shootout win in Alaska, with Randy Cure scoring the game-tying goal in the third period and the Fuel scoring twice in the shootout.

November 12: Jake Hildebrand stops 37 shots for his first shutout of the year, a 2-0 win in Alaska. Anthony Beauregard and Matt Rupert scored for the Fuel. Hildebrand would be named ECHL Goaltender of the Week for his performance, the second time he had won that honor in a month.

November 18: Marek Tvrdon (2G/A) and Patrick D’Amico (3A) each had three-point games as the Fuel beat defending Eastern Conference champion Wheeling by a 6-1 score. Jake Hildebrand stopped 29.

November 20: Tyler Barnes made his Fuel debut and set a team record with five points in a 6-5 win over Atlanta. He scores 94 seconds into the game on his first shift, and assists on goals by Alex Wideman (twice), Matt Rupert and Jonathan Carlsson.

November 23: Fuel complete a season-best six-game winning streak with a 5-3 victory over Kalamazoo. Marek Tvrdon scores twice and Alex Wideman has a goal and two assists.

December 17: Teddy Bear Toss night is a success as Alex Wideman brings out the bears with a first-period goal. Josh Shalla makes his Fuel debut – he drove in from Wheeling after being traded in the morning and suited up for the second period. However, Indy loses to Quad City 6-2.

December 27: Recently-acquired Josh Shalla scores four goals to lead the Fuel to a 6-2 lead. Fort Wayne’s Shawn Szydlowski also scores four to lead his team to a come-from-behind 8-6 win over Indy.

December 30: The Fuel snap a 14-game winless streak with a 3-2 victory over Cincinnati, rallying from two goals down to win. Patrick D’Amico had a goal, Kevin Lynch tied it and Ryan Keller scored the winner midway through the second. Jake Hildebrand made 19 of his 35 saves in the third period.

January 10: The Fuel snap an 11-game road winless streak with a 1-0 shutout of Wichita. Jonathan Carlsson scored with 7:14 left and Jake Hildebrand stopped 28 for his second shutout. It would kick off a three-game winning streak.

January 13: The Fuel score three goals in 2:17 of the second period to beat Quad City 6-3. Josh Shalla scored :58 into the period, Alex Guptill followed 18 seconds later and Paul Zanette scored at 3:15. Guptill had a goal and two assists in the game.

January 14: A franchise-record 6,549 fans see Blackhawks Night and a 3-2 Fuel win over Tulsa. Josh Shalla scored and assisted on tallies by Bryn Chyzyk and Chris Williams, the latter of whom was playing forward. Jake Hildebrand stopped 34 in the Fuel’s third straight win.

January 18: The Fuel and ECHL announce Indy will host the 2018 ECHL All-Star Game.

January 21: Jake Hildebrand stops 46 shots to post his third shutout in a 3-0 win over Cincinnati. Bryn Chyzyk had a goal and an assist and Josh Shalla two assists.

January 27: Jake Hildebrand posted a shutout for the third straight weekend, making 45 saves to beat Rapid City 2-0. Patrick D’Amico and Alex Guptill scored the two Fuel goals. It was Hildebrand’s fourth shutout of the year.

February 12: Josh Shalla tallies his 200th career point with a goal – his 99th career goal – in a 4-3 Fuel loss at Kalamazoo.

February 19: The Fuel explode offensively for a 6-2 win over Tulsa. Kenny Ryan has a goal and two assists and Eric Levine stops 52 shots in the Indy net. Josh Shalla scores his 100th career goal.

March 10: The Fuel post their first victory over Fort Wayne of the season, beating the Komets 6-5. Indy had to hold on when Fort Wayne scored three goals in 90 seconds in the final three minutes. Josh Shalla has a goal and three assists as six different Fuel players score goals.

March 12: The Fuel fall to Allen 5-3, but a furious third-period comeback is led by Michael Neal, who scores two shorthanded goals in the third period.

March 17: Michael Neal tallies a hat trick, scoring the game-winner with 2:17 left to beat Kalamazoo 6-5 and disappoint an overflow crowd in the Michigan city.

March 19: The Fuel and Quad City play one of the wildest games of the year, an 8-7 Indy victory. Indy scored six goals in the first period, but the game wasn’t decided until Kenny Ryan’s empty-netter that made it 8-6 with 1:25 left. Ryan tallied a hat trick, as did Quad City’s Sam Warning. Ryan scored two goals in 32 seconds in the first period. Recently-acquired Jake Marchment had a goal and two assists, as did Josh Shalla and Nick Bligh. Another recently-acquired player, Kenton Helgesen, had three assists.

March 26: The Fuel beat South Carolina 4-1, posting their second straight 4-1 victory on the road trip, as they beat Greenville by the same score the night before. Josh Shalla scored his 20th goal in a Fuel sweater and his 30th of the season in the win. On the two previous nights, Matt Rupert and Alex Wideman also became 20-goal scorers, giving the Fuel three 20-goal scorers for the first time in their history.

March 31: Fuel extend their winning streak to three road games with a third straight 4-1 win, this time against the eventual Brabham Cup champion Toledo Walleye. Troy Vance and Paul Zanette scored nine seconds apart in the second period and Woody Hudson scored his first pro goal. Eric Levine makes 32 saves and would eventually become the ECHL’s Goaltender of the Week for his play.

April 1: Michael Neal continues an impressive streak – his fourth straight multi-point game. He tallies two goals and an assist in a 5-4 shootout loss to Fort Wayne.

April 4: Alex Wideman puts the Fuel on top with a goal 10 seconds in – the fastest in franchise history – and Indy beats Quad City 6-3. Nick Bligh has a hat trick and newcomers Filip Rydstrom tallies two assists and Austin Hervey one for their first pro points. The victory gives the Fuel a 5-0-1 record in a six-game finishing stretch.

April 7: Alex Wideman scores his 22nd goal and becomes the Fuel franchise leader with 55 points in a 3-2 loss to Toledo that closes the home schedule. Austin Hervey scores his first career pro goal in the loss. The Fuel would finish the season the next night and finish with a 23-42-7 record, sixth in the Central Division.

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