The Fuel return home this weekend to open the 201-2020 season and it’s a very different team this season. Aside from a huge change at Head Coach (Dan Christensen is in and Bernie John is out), it’s a younger, more aggressive team and, they come home tied for the lead in the Central Division with 4 points.
What’s different this time around:
For one, this is a completely different team and roster. While team staples Zach Miskovic, Josh McArdle, Matt Rupert, Dmitri Osipov, and Alex Brooks return this year, many fan favorites (Josh Shalla, Ryan Rupert, Olivier Labelle, Anthony Collins) from 2018-2019 are gone.
Perhaps the most noticeable departure was strong Goalkeeper Matt Tomkins but taking his spot Friday was Charles Williams, who allowed only one goal- a lucky one too.
All three Fuel goals were scored by newcomers and they weren’t afraid to shoot the puck, either. Last year, aggression was an issue with the Fuel- not to say they weren’t aggressive, but they didn’t hit often and played more conservative overall. This year’s team isn’t afraid to lay a strong hit on the opposition and they shoot often and shoot well.
The confidence of this Fuel team is undeniable. When on defense, they aren’t weak and they communicate while on the ice- something that was missing last year.
What stood out:
The Fuel’s defense was strong, not letting the Cyclones’ offense get into scoring position often and what shots were on goal from Cincy were stopped easily by Williams.
We’re in for a hell of a ride this year from what it looked like on Friday. Granted, the team dropped the following night to finish Preseason play 1-1 but this was a much more exciting team to watch and they have a lot to build on from a squad that finished just short of Playoff play last year.
The Fuel open the season on the road Friday, when they travel to Wichita for two-night series, following that with a two-game trip to Wheeling (Oct. 19 and 20) before they return home on Oct. 25 and 26 to open the home season against Cincinnati again.