Fuel return home to open doubleheader with UtahMar 3, 2018
GAME PREVIEW: FUEL VS. GRIZZLIES
SATURDAY, MARCH 3 - 7:35 P.M.
INDIANA FARMERS COLISEUM, INDIANAPOLIS
TICKETS: TICKETMASTER, INDIANA FARMERS COLISEUM BOX OFFICE
BROADCAST INFO: 1070THEFAN.COM, ECHL.TV
The Story: The Indy Fuel (27-26-2-1) try to end a two game skid Saturday night as they open a two-game series with the Utah Grizzlies (23-23-6-5) at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Tickets for the Fuel's annual Racing Night presented by Indiana Farmers Insurance are still available, and can be purchased through Ticketmaster or at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum box office.
Since finishing a perfect 4-0 on home ice last week, Indy has dropped a pair of tight contests to Central Division opponents. The Fuel fell 4-3 to the division-leading Toledo Walleye on Tuesday in Indianapolis, before succumbing to the Cincinnati Cyclones Friday by the same score at U.S. Bank Arena. Four unanswered Cincinnati goals – including a hat trick from Winston Day Chief – negated an early 2-0 Indy lead, as Indy dropped its first game of the season to their neighbors to the east. Josh Shalla marked a goal and two assists for the Fuel, while defenseman Robin Press tallied a pair of helpers.
Thanks to a Kalamazoo loss at Brampton Friday, the Fuel (57 points) remain only two points back from Wings (59 points) for possession of the final Kelly Cup Playoff berth in the Central Division. However, the Kansas City Mavericks (58 points) leapfrogged the Fuel into fifth place, after defeating Fort Wayne 3-2 last night.
The Grizzlies also find themselves in the thick of a heated race for playoff positioning in the Mountain Division. In a near carbon copy of the Central Division picture, Utah enters the weekend in sixth place with 57 points, just one point behind the fifth place Allen Americans and two points back from the Tulsa Oilers for the final playoff berth.
Also in similar fashion as the Fuel, the Grizzlies have propelled themselves into playoff contention with strong recent play. The Anaheim Ducks affiliate has picked up points in seven straight games heading into Saturday, though a six game winning streak was snapped Friday in a 7-6 shootout loss in Quad City.
Marquee Matchup: This weekend's series pits two of the hottest players in the league against one another, as Indy defenseman Robin Press meets Utah forward Austin Ortega. Press was named February's CCM/ECHL Player of the Month on Friday, becoming the first blueliner to win the award since the Columbia Inferno's Chris St. Croix in 2003. Press is riding a Fuel franchise record 10-game point streak, collecting four goals and 11 assists since Feb. 14. Ortega is the reigning Sher-Wood Hockey/ECHL Player of the Week and the CCM/ECHL Rookie of the Month, amassing 23 points (8g, 15a) over his last 12 contests.
Multi-Point Inspection: Indy's top-ranked power play has scored at least one goal with the man advantage in six straight games ... Robin Press' 32 points (9g, 23a) ranks 15th among ECHL defensemen ... Forward Darian Dziurzynski (21g, 16a) has four goals over his previous five games.
Inside the Matchup: Meeting for the first time in nearly two calendar years, the Fuel and Grizzlies open a two-game set in Indianapolis Saturday night. The two clubs have only met once before, a 2-0 Utah shutout win at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on March 4, 2016.
Scouting Report: Forward Austin Ortega (16g, 21a) has points in nine straight games (7g, 12a), and has tallied multiple points in each of his last six outings ... Defenseman Taylor Richart (13g, 21a) enters Saturday on a seven game point streak, marking three goals and seven assists over that span ... Utah has played in 17 games this season that have ended in overtime or a shootout, more than any other team in the ECHL.