Indy heads to Kalamazoo Sunday to try for weekend sweep

Jan 21, 2018

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GAME PREVIEW: FUEL AT WINGS

SUNDAY, JANUARY 21 - 3:00 P.M.

WINGS EVENT CENTER, KALAMAZOO, MICH.

BROADCAST INFO: 1070THEFAN.COMECHL.TV

The Story: Winners of three straight and eight of their last 11, the surging Indy Fuel (16-17-2-1) go for a weekend sweep Sunday afternoon as they visit the Kalamazoo Wings (20-13-2-2). Before the puck drops from Wings Event Center at 3:00 p.m., fans in Indianapolis are invited to Squealers Barbeque Grill in Castleton for the official watch party.

The Fuel enter Sunday on the heels of a pair of impressive wins on home ice to begin a stretch of three games in three days. After downing the Allen Americans 6-3 on Friday, Indy claimed a 3-2 triumph over the Cincinnati Cyclones Saturday in front of a sellout crowd at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. 

Michael Neal's tally late with 7:56 remaining in regulation broke a 2-2 deadlock and stood to be the game-winner as the Fuel improved to 3-0 over Cincinnati this season. Garrett Clarke and Robin Press recorded first period goals to give the home team an early 2-0 lead, before the Cyclones battled back to even the score midway through the second period. 

The two points brought Indy to 35 on the season, eight back of Cincinnati (43 points) which dropped to fifth place Saturday night. Leapfrogging the Cyclones for the last playoff spot in the Central was Kalamazoo, whose 44 points is one shy of the third place Kansas City Mavericks (45 points).

Coming into Sunday's matinee with at least a point in six of their last seven games (5-1-0-1), the Wings welcome Indy for the first of three meetings at Wings Event Center over the next eight days. Kalamazoo is coming off a stunning shootout loss Saturday night to Quad City on home ice, where the Mallards scored three times in the final three minutes of regulation to erase a 4-1 deficit.  

Nealed It: All-Star forward Michael Neal (12g, 13a) continued his torrid play Saturday, scoring on a 2-on-1 rush to put the Fuel on top against Cincinnati. The game-deciding tally gives the Indy captain points in four straight games (1g, 4a) and a total of 23 points (11g, 12a) over his last 22 outings since Nov. 24. Neal leads all Fuel skaters with 12 goals this season, while his 25 points ties him with Cam Reid (8g, 17a) for the team scoring lead.

At The Halfway Point: The second half of Indy's 2017-18 regular season schedule officially begins Sunday in Kalamazoo. The Fuel's mark of 16-17-2-1 (35 points) after 36 games is the club's best record at the halfway point in franchise history – a 10-point improvement over their 11-22-1-2 (25 points) a year ago. Indy's 16 wins in the first half matches the team's previous high set in 2015-16 (16-18-2-0).

Multi Point Inspection: Indy has a chance to pull back to .500 for the first time since Oct. 27 with a win on Sunday ... Goaltender Étienne Marcoux has started each of Indy's last 10 games following the holiday break, posting a 7-3-0 record alongside a .913 save percentage and a 3.11 goals against average ... The Fuel sit in the ECHL's top five in both special teams category, ranking fifth in power play efficiency (20.0%) and third on the penalty kill (86.5%).

Inside the Matchup: Sunday is the fourth of 10 meetings between Indy and Kalamazoo in 2017-18; the second of seven consecutive encounters at Wings Event Center. The Fuel have took two out of three from the Wings to start the season, including a 5-3 triumph from their previous trip to Michigan on Dec. 28. 

Fuel forward Darian Dziurzynski leads the season series with four points (2g, 2a) in two games against the Wings, while Kalamazoo forwards Tyler Heinonen and Aaron Irving have each tallied a goal and two assists in three games against Indy.

Scouting Report: Wings forward Brendan Bradley (9g, 17a) enters Sunday on a five game point streak, marking nine points (3g, 6a) over that span ... Josh Pitt (12g, 13a) has five assists over his last two games ... Rookie defenseman Aaron Irving (5g, 20a) is tied for third among all first-year players with 20 assists.

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