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Indy kicks off road trip Wednesday in Allen

Morellis Cleaners Game Preview: Fuel at Americans

Game 50

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

8:05 p.m. – Allen Event Center, Allen, Texas

Broadcast Info: CBS Sports 1430, ECHL.TV@IndyFuel

Looking to snap a seven game winless streak, the Indy Fuel (14-31-2-2) hit the road for three straight, beginning Wednesday night against the Allen Americans. The first of a two-game series at Allen Event Center is set for a 8:05 p.m. ET face-off, with coverage starting live at 7:50 p.m. on CBS Sports 1430 and ECHL.TV. Fans back in Indianapolis can also get live in-game updates by following the Fuel on Twitter (@IndyFuel.)

Searching for their first win since Jan. 27 against Rapid City, the Fuel embark on a tough stretch that sees them play five of their next six games away from Central Indiana. After clashing with the two-time defending Kelly Cup Champions on Wednesday and Friday, Indy caps off their week-long trip Saturday with a visit to BOK Center and a showdown with the Tulsa Oilers. The road has not been particularly kind to the Fuel, who have only won two of their last sixteen games abroad since the beginning of December (2-12-1-1.)

Indy’s current skid extended to seven games after coming up empty from a three-in-three stretch last weekend. The Fuel fell 5-4 in overtime Friday in Fort Wayne before suffering a 4-3 setback Saturday in Kalamazoo. On Sunday, Indy built a 4-3 lead over Brampton, only to see the Beast score four times in the third period to rally for a 7-4 victory at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Matt Rupert scored twice for the Fuel, who also received goals from Chris DeSousa and Alex Wideman before the visitors took over the game down the stretch.

Sunday’s loss followed a similar script to a handful of recent hiccups for Indy, which remains at the bottom of the Central Division standings. The club has used its firepower up front to build leads, but a depleted defensive contingent has been unable to maintain them – especially late in the game. The Fuel have been ahead in four of their seven consecutive losses, but have been outscored 17-6 in the third period during the skid. Playing with as few as four defensemen in the lineup at times has taken its toll, as Indy has surrendered an average of 5.57 goals per game since their last victory.

Shoring up their own end will be even more critical this week as the Fuel take the league’s second-most potent offense in Allen. The Americans’ 3.94 goals scored per game trails only Toledo, and is bolstered by two of the ECHL’s top offensive weapons in Chad Costello and Greger Hanson. The San Jose Sharks affiliate seems poised for a run at its third straight Kelly Cup and its fifth straight overall league championship, coming into Wednesday winners of three straight and with points in 22 of its last 25 games since mid-December (19-3-1-2.)

Entering Week 19 of the ECHL schedule with 68 points, a win Wednesday would vault Allen into first place in the entire ECHL. The Americans currently are tied for the Mountain Division lead with the Colorado Eagles, and trail the Toledo Walleye by one point in the Western Conference standings. Allen swept the Rapid City Rush in a three-game series in South Dakota last weekend, outscoring the Rush 20-12 over the tripleheader.

Inside the Matchup: The Fuel and Americans meet Wednesday night begin a two game set at Allen Event Center. Allen has won the first three legs of the six-game season series, including a two-game sweep in Texas on Jan. 7-8. After wrapping up their doubleheader on Friday, the two clubs will square off one last time at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on March 12.

ECHL-leading scorer Chad Costello leads the season series with nine points (3g, 6a) in just three games, tallying a goal and three assists in the Americans’ 5-3 victory over the Fuel on Jan. 8. With four assists, forward Alex Wideman leads all active Fuel players in scoring against Allen.

Who to Watch: Forward Tyler Barnes enters Wednesday riding a five-game point streak, tallying three goals and two assists since being reassigned to the Fuel in early February. The former ECHL Rookie of the Year now has 12 points (4g, 8a) in nine games with Indy this season … Alex Wideman (17g, 22a) has found the net in three of his last four games … Rookie forward Nick Bligh (5g, 5a) has two goals and two assists over his previous four games.

Forward Chad Costello continues to put up astronomical numbers for the Americans, nearing the 100-point plateau for the third consecutive season. Costello’s 95 points (28g, 67a) are 33 more than the next-highest player in the ECHL scoring race; his 67 assists are more than any other player’s point total this season. The ninth-year pro has tallied eight straight multi-point games, racking up five goals and 18 assists over that span … Greger Hanson (28g, 32a) ranks fourth in league point scoring (60) and is tied for the ECHL lead with 11 power play goals. The forward has accumulated six goals and seven assists during his current six-game point streak, tallying five points during a 9-3 win in Rapid City on Friday … Defenseman David Makowski (10g, 29a) has points in nine consecutive games (6g, 13a), and sits in second among all league blueliners with 34 points in 2016-17.

Worth Noting: The Fuel have lost third period leads in three of their last four games, and have held outright leads in four straight contests entering Wednesday … Allen is 24-2-1-1 this season when scoring the game’s first goal … Five of Indy’s next six games are on the road … The Americans lead the ECHL with a +42 goal differential in the third period … Fuel forward Chris DeSousa (1g, 2a) has marked a point in all three games since being assigned to Indy from AHL Rockford last week … Averaging 21.04 penalty minutes per game, Allen is the league’s most penalized team … Forward Josh Shalla leads all Indy skaters with 155 shots on goal, registering at least one shot in all 48 games played this season … Americans goaltender Riley Gill leads the ECHL in goals against average (2.19), save percentage (.936) and shutouts (5).