Fuel begin three-game weekend Friday in Cincinnati

FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL AT CYCLONES

Feb 28, 2019
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FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL AT CYCLONES

FRIDAY, MARCH 1 - 7:35 P.M.

U.S. BANK ARENA,  CINCINNATI

BROADCAST INFO: ECHL.TV

THE MATCHUP: The Indy Fuel (26-25-2-1) kick off a critical three-game weekend Friday with a trip to U.S. Bank Arena to take on the ECHL-leading Cincinnati Cyclones (38-9-4-3). The first of seven consecutive games against Central Division opponents for Indy is slated for a 7:35 p.m. puck drop, with coverage available via ECHL.TV.

After four straight games against the Wichita Thunder, the Fuel return to divisional play this weekend looking to climb back into the playoff picture in the Central. Indy enters Friday's action in sixth place with 56 points, just four back of the Fort Wayne Komets in the race for the fourth and final postseason berth in the division.  

Finishing their four-game set with the Thunder with six of a possible eight points, the Fuel look to carry that momentum into a crucial stretch that sees them play seven divisional games in 12 days. After Friday's visit to Cincinnati, Indy hosts the third-place Kalamazoo Wings for a Saturday night battle in Indianapolis, before heading back on the road Sunday to take on Toledo. 

In order to start the weekend with two points, the Fuel need to do what only one team has been able to do this season – defeat the Cyclones on home ice. Cincinnati has been nearly unbeatable at U.S. Bank Arena in 2018-19, winning each of its last eight home games with an overall record of 22-1-2-2. The Cyclones have picked up at least a point in 12 of their last 13 outings dating back to Feb. 1 (11-1-1-0), and hold a whopping 13 point lead over the next closest team in the Western Conference standings.

Indy holds a 3-4-0-1 record against Cincinnati this year, with four games remaining against each other over the final five weeks of the regular season. The Cyclones have won four of the last five meetings with the Fuel, including a 5-0 thumping during Indy's last trip to the Queen City on Feb. 13. Cincinnati forward Jesse Schultz leads all skaters in the season series with 10 points (1g, 9a) in eight games, while Ryan Rupert's four goals and three assists tops all Fuel skaters. 

LAST TIME OUT: In front of the second-largest crowd in franchise history, the Fuel used four unanswered goals to defeat the Thunder 4-3 on Wizard Night at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Indy scored twice in each of the first two periods to bounce back from an early deficit, before holding off a late Wichita push. Matheson Iacopelli tallied a pair of goals, while Josh Shalla added a goal and an assist for the Fuel, who snapped a two-game losing streak on home ice. Matt Tomkins made 20 stops to pick up his league-leading 21st victory of the season.  

INTO THE HOME STRETCH: With just 18 games remaining on their schedule, the Fuel are officially at the three-quarter mark of the 2018-19 regular season. Head Coach Bernie John's club is just two points off the pace the team set a year ago at this point, before earning the first Kelly Cup Playoff berth in team history. Indy's final 18 outings are split evenly down the middle between home and road games, while all but three of the Fuel's final contests come against Central Division opponents. Over the next six weeks the Fuel will play four games against the Cyclones, three each against Kalamazoo, Fort Wayne and Wheeling, and a pair against the Toledo Walleye.

WHEELING AND DEALING: The Fuel roster saw plenty of change following Saturday's win over the Thunder, starting on Sunday night when the Chicago Blackhawks dealt Fuel forward Matheson Iacopelli to the LA Kings for forward Spencer Watson, who reported to AHL Rockford. Another move followed on Tuesday, when Indy shipped forward Quentin Shore to Wichita in exchange for the ECHL rights to defenseman Travis Brown, who was assigned to Indy from AHL San Antonio on Friday. 

OTHER NOTABLES: Forward Josh Shalla is two points away from reaching the 300-point plateau in his ECHL career, scoring 154 goals and 144 assists over 356 career games in the league ... Indy goaltender Matt Tomkins leads the league in victories with 21, while Cincinnati's Michael Houser ranks second with 20 ...  Houser ranks first in the ECHL in both goals against average (2.00) and save percentage (.928) ... Fuel defenseman Alex Brooks has points in four straight games (1g, 3a).

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