Fuel host Wings with Kelly Cup Playoff berth on the lineApr 8, 2018
GAME PREVIEW: FUEL VS. WINGS
SUNDAY, APRIL 8 - 3:05 P.M.
INDIANA FARMERS COLISEUM, INDIANAPOLIS
TICKETS: TICKETMASTER, INDIANA FARMERS COLISEUM BOX OFFICE
BROADCAST INFO: 1070THEFAN.COM, ECHL.TV
The Story: It all comes down to Game 72. The Indy Fuel (35-30-5-1) wrap up their regular season schedule against the Kalamazoo Wings (34-30-4-3) Sunday afternoon at Indiana Farmers Coliseum, with a trip to the Kelly Cup Playoffs at stake.
The winner-takes-all battle for the fourth seed in the Central Division is slated for a 3:05 p.m. puck drop, and tickets are still available at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum box office and through Ticketmaster. As part of Family Fun Day in Indianapolis, fans are invited to stick around after the game for a free open skate with the Fuel players.
After a week full of watching the out-of-town scoreboard and considering different clinching scenarios, the situation leading into Sunday's game could not be more simple. The winning team will advance to face the Toledo Walleye in the Central Division Semifinals, beginning next weekend at Huntington Center.
Kalamazoo holds the tie-breaker in the case the two teams finish with the same number of points, so either team can clinch fourth place with a win of any kind. The Fuel are searching for their first playoff appearance in franchise history, while the Wings are looking to set up a rematch of last year's first-round series with the Walleye.
Indy picked up a point on Kalamazoo in the standings on Saturday night by virtue of a thrilling 5-4 overtime loss to Toledo at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Forward Josh Shalla recorded his second hat trick of the season for the Fuel, but A.J. Jenks scored with 15 seconds remaining in regulation to force the game into the extra session.
Patrick McCarron found the game-winner for the visitors 1:31 into overtime, but the result of Saturday's game was more-or-less inconsequential, aside from serving as a possible round one preview. Once the Brampton Beast finished a 2-1 win over Kalamazoo earlier on Saturday, the stage was set for Sunday to be the deciding game for the Central's final playoff spot.
The Wings enter Sunday with just two wins out of their last seven games (2-4-0-1), closing out a tough end to their schedule that saw them play seven of their last eight games on the road. Saturday's loss to Brampton came a night after Kalamazoo succumbed to the Quad City Mallards 5-4 in a wild affair ending with a six-round shootout.
CENTRAL DIVISION STANDINGS
|1||xy - Toledo||0||50||17||3||2||105||49|
|2||x - Fort Wayne||1||45||20||5||1||94||45|
|3||x - Cincinnati||1||39||29||3||0||81||37|
(Top four teams qualify for the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs, x - clinched playoff berth, y - clinched division)
Record-Setting Night: A pair of Fuel forwards reached franchise milestones in Saturday's game. With the first of his three assists on the night, forward Alex Wideman (15g, 32a) became the first player to ever tally 100 points in an Indy uniform. On the same play, Josh Shalla (28g, 21a) became the first Fuel player to cross the 50-goal plateau, doing so in only 89 games. With his 26th, 27th and 28th tallies of the season, Shalla also broke Garret Bembridge's club single-season record of 25 goals set in 2014-15.
Multi-Point Inspection: The Fuel are 4-4-2 on Sundays this season, but are winless in their two previous Sunday games on home ice ... Shalla's hat trick was his second of the season (Jan. 17 vs. Allen) and the fourth of the season from an Indy player (Tommy Olczyk - Dec. 23 vs. Cincinnati, Matheson Iacopelli - Feb. 24 vs. Quad City) ... Defenseman Brandon Anselmini (2g, 15a) has registered assists in six straight games ... Since returning from AHL Rockford, Alex Wideman has eight helpers in five games.
Inside The Matchup: The Fuel hold a 6-3 edge in the season series with Kalamazoo heading into the final day of the 2017-18 regular season. Indy has won four of the last five meetings against the Wings dating back to Jan. 27, rallying for a 4-3 overtime win in the two clubs' previous encounter on March 10. The Fuel are 1-1 against the Central Division rival on home ice, with Kalamazoo making its first visit to Central Indiana since Dec. 20.
Fuel forward Ryan Rupert paces both teams with 11 points (3g, 8a) in eight games against the Wings this season, while forward J.T. Stenglein leads Kalamazoo with three goals and nine assists against Indy. The Fuel hold an 11-8-1-0 record in the all-time series with the Wings, incuding a 5-2-1-0 mark at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Scouting Report: Forward Lane Scheidl (18g, 19a) has scored in two straight games, picking up points in four of his last five (2g, 2a) ... Defenseman Aaron Irving (15g, 32a) leads all rookie blueliners with 47 points, and was named to the 2017-18 ECHL All-Rookie Team last week ... The Wings rank tied for fifth in the league on the power play at 18.7%, while their penalty kill sits at 22nd with an 80.3% success rate.