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Fuel go for home-and-home sweep of Wings in Indianapolis

Morellis Cleaners Game Preview: Fuel vs. Wings

Game 62

Saturday, March 18, 2017

7:35 p.m. – Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Indianapolis

Tickets: Ticketmaster, Indiana Farmers Coliseum Box Office

Broadcast Info: COZI TVCBS Sports 1430, ECHL.TV@IndyFuel

After starting the weekend with a come-from-behind victory in Michigan, the Indy Fuel (17-38-3-3) go for two in a row against the Kalamazoo Wings (32-27-1-3) in Saturday night’s rematch at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The Fuel will don specialty jerseys for the third annual Pink in the Rink game, which will be auctioned off live after the game with proceeds going to I.W.I.N Foundation, The Pink Ribbon Connection, and Susan G. Komen of Central Indiana. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum box office.

The Fuel followed up what was a strong showing last weekend with another spirited performance on Friday, grabbing two points in a wild back and forth affair at Wings Event Center. Indy scored twice in the last five minutes of regulation to seize a 6-5 victory in the first of a home-and-home set with Kalamazoo; a game that saw the lead change hands four different times. Forward Michael Neal recorded a hat trick to lead the Fuel offense, his third goal completing the comeback with 2:17 left in the third period. Ten different Indy skaters got their names on the stat sheet, with Matt Rupert (1g, 1a), Travis Armstrong (2a) and Brady Ramsay (2a) all logging multi-point outings.

The win continued the Fuel’s recent momentum as the 2016-17 season turns toward the home stretch. Indy has now earned a point in three of their last four games and four of previous six, after earning only three points in a 13 game span from Jan. 28 to Feb. 26. The Fuel’s offense has found its stride as of late, scoring a total of 17 goals over their last four outings (4.25 goals per game). With two home games in two days on the schedule, Indy will look to find more success before embarking on a four game road trip next weekend.

Completing the two-game sweep will not be easy, as Kalamazoo has not lost back to back games since Feb. 18-20. The Wings are 8-3 over their last 11, and have been one of the ECHL’s hottest teams in the second half of the season. The AA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Syracuse Crunch has entrenched itself in a playoff position, and are now threatening the Quad City Mallards for the Central Division’s third seed. Coming into Saturday with 68 points, Kalamazoo trails the Mallards by only four points with nine games left to play, while holding a 10-point cushion over the fifth place Tulsa Oilers.

Inside the Matchup: The Fuel have won two of three against the Wings in 2016-17 heading into Saturday’s season finale between the Central Division foes. Both teams held serve on home ice earlier in the season before Indy’s victory at Wings Event Center on Friday night. The Fuel and Wings are tied with five wins apiece in the all-time series, with Indy showing a 4-0-1-0 record at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.

Fuel forward Josh Shalla paces all skaters in the season series with nine points (5g, 4a) in five games against the Wings this season, which included three as a member of the Wheeling Nailers. For Kalamazoo, 2015-16 Indy forward Peter Schneider has marked two goals and two assists in two games against his former team.

Who to Watch: With his hat trick on Friday, Indy forward Michael Neal (7g, 4a) has tallied five goals and one assist in his last two games. The veteran has eight points (6g, 2a) over his last four contests and 11 overall in 13 games since joining the Fuel in mid-February … Matt Rupert (16g, 9a) has two goals and two assists over his last four outings, and ranks third on the Fuel roster with 16 goals … Josh Shalla (28g, 23a) has found the back of the net in four of his last six games.

Wings forward Peter Schneider (13g, 25a) enters Saturday with 15 points in his last 10 games (7g, 8a), and has recorded a goal in four straight contests. Schneider’s 38 points on the season are good for third on the Kalamazoo roster, behind Justin Taylor’s 54 and Lane Scheidl’s 43 … Forward Cameron Darcy has found the scoresheet in nine of 11 games (3g, 11a) since being reassigned to the Wings from AHL Syracuse … Josh Pitt (13g, 11a) has scored a total of four goals over his last four games.

Worth Noting: Neal’s three-goal performance on Friday was the second hat trick from a Fuel player this season, and the third in franchise history. Josh Shalla found the net four times in Fort Wayne on Dec. 28, 2016 and Kyle Stroh recorded the club’s first hat trick against Evansville on Jan. 24, 2015 … Friday was the Fuel’s second victory this season when trailing after two periods of play … Fast starts are key for Kalamazoo this season; the Wings are 19-3-1-2 when scoring the first goal of the game, and undefeated in regulation when holding a lead after 20 minutes (14-0-1-2) … Jake Marchment (goal), Troy Vance (assist) and Shawn Hulshof (assist) each marked their first points in a Fuel uniform on Friday night. For Hulshof, the assist was his first professional point in his pro debut … Friday’s loss snapped a seven game winning streak for Kalamazoo goaltender Nick Riopel … The Wings’ road power play ranks tied for 26th in the ECHL at 10.1%.