Fuel and Nailers square off Friday in Wheeling

FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL AT NAILERS

Jan 31, 2019
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FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL AT NAILERS

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY - 7:05 P.M.

WESBANCO ARENA, WHEELING, W.V.

BROADCAST INFO: ECHL.TV

THE MATCHUP:  The Indy Fuel (22-19-2-1) make the trip to West Virginia Friday night to take on the Wheeling Nailers (20-20-2-1) at WesBanco Arena in a key Central Division clash. The lone test in a rare one-game week for the Fuel is slated for a 7:05 p.m. ET start time from Wheeling, with coverage available live on ECHL.TV.

Picking up four of six possible points from their Week 16 schedule, Indy (47 points) enters the weekend in a third place tie with the Fort Wayne Komets in the Central Division standings, four points in front of the Nailers (43 points) who dropped to sixth in the standings with Kalamazoo’s overtime win Thursday in Toledo. The Fuel open the month of February with points in seven of their last 10 games (4-3-2-1), but have only picked up one win over their last six outings away from Central Indiana. 

Indy is looking to snap a four game winless skid at WesBanco Arena, a building which the club visits a total of nine times this season. The Nailers hold a slight 4-3 edge in the 2018-19 season series between the Central Division foes with three more meetings in Wheeling in store down the stretch following Friday's contest. In the previous encounter between the two squads on Jan. 13, Wheeling forward Zac Lynch capped off a three-point night with an overtime game-winning goal, as the hometown team defeated Indy by a 4-3 count.

With four goals and 10 assists in seven games, Lynch leads all skaters in point scoring during the season series. Fuel defenseman Alex Brooks leads the Fuel with eight points (4g, 4a), finding the scoresheet in all but one of his appearances against Wheeling.

LAST TIME OUT: The Wings used a three-goal third period to steal a 4-3 victory over the Fuel in Sunday’s rematch at Wings Event Center. Zach Saar’s second goal of the night gave Kalamazoo its first lead of the night with just over five minutes remaining in regulation, as the Wings erased Fuel leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 over the course of the contest. Logan Nelson tallied a goal and an assist for Indy, while Brett Welychka and Matt Rupert also found the back of the net. Goaltender Gordon Defiel made his Fuel debut in net, stopping 31 of 35 shots in the loss.

GOALIE OF THE W3EK: For the third time this season, Indy's Matt Tomkins was named the CCM/ECHL Goaltender of the Week. Tomkins stopped 67 of 69 shots during a pair of victories last weekend, recording his first professional shutout Friday against Fort Wayne before making 37 saves in a 4-2 Fuel win over Kalamazoo on Saturday. 

The second-year netminder has led Indy to at least a point in each of his last seven starts, posting a 4-0-3 record, a 2.26 goals against average and a .933 save percentage over that span. Tomkins holds an 18-11-3 overall record through 33 appearances this season, leading all ECHL puck-stoppers in wins (18), saves (998) and minutes played (1975). 

FRESH FACE: The Fuel added defenseman Samuel Thibault to their blue line on Monday, as part of a three team deal with the Atlanta Gladiators and Toledo Walleye. Thibault was sent from Toledo to Atlanta along with forward Dan Leavens, in exchange for defenseman Ben Danford – before Thibault was immediately diverted to Indy to complete the future considerations owed to the Fuel by the Gladiators from a January 16 trade that sent Avery Peterson east. Thibault has recorded eight assists in 33 games this season for the Walleye, after posting nine assists and a +10 rating in 43 ECHL contests with Wichita last season as a rookie. 

FULL SPEED INTO FEBRUARY: After a hectic January schedule that saw them play four consecutive three-in-three weekends, the Fuel begin the February portion of their schedule Friday in Wheeling. Indy finished January with a 5-5-3 record, including a 4-1-1-1 mark on home ice. Boasting the best record in franchise history through 44 games, Indy will face a tough test in February with seven of its 10 games coming on the road. 

OTHER NOTABLES: Four of Alex Brooks’ five goals this season have come against the Nailers ... Indy leads the ECHL on the penalty kill with an 86.9% success rate ... The Fuel haven’t given up a power play goal in their last six games, and have successfully killed off 51 of 53 shorthanded opportunities since January 4 ... Indy has scored at least one power play goal in four of its last five games ... Forward Logan Nelson has tallied points in seven of his previous eight games (5g, 5a).

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