Fuel begin home tripleheader with critical matchup against Kalamazoo
FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL VS. WINGSMar 29, 2019
FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL VS. WINGS
FRIDAY, MARCH 29 - 7:35 PM
INDIANA FARMERS COLISEUM, INDIANAPOLIS
BROADCAST INFO: INDYFUELHOCKEY.COM, ECHL.TV
THE MATCHUP: The Indy Fuel (32-30-2-2) continue their season-long homestand at Indiana Farmers Coliseum with a crucial showdown against the Kalamazoo Wings (34-28-2-2) on Friday night. The first of three home games in three days for Indy falls on Spring Break Night presented by Ride Safe Indiana – tickets are still available at IndyFuelHockey.com or by visiting the Indiana Farmers Coliseum box office.
With Indy trailing Kalamazoo by four points for possession of the final playoff berth in the Central Division, Friday's contest holds critical postseason implications for both teams. Both the Fuel and Wings have just six games left on their regular season slates, with Friday being the final head-to-head matchup between the division rivals.
Indy enters the weekend with momentum, earning back-to-back victories against Fort Wayne and Cincinnati last Saturday and Sunday to begin its homestand. The Fuel have struggled to string wins together in succession this season, a trend they are hoping to abandon over the last two weeks of their schedule. Indy's longest winning streak in 2018-19 is three games, reached on two occasions.
On the other side, the Wings are trying to hang on to the fourth and final postseason berth in the Central Division. Kalamazoo's magic number is at nine heading into Friday's game – meaning that any combination of nine points gained by them or lost by the Fuel will secure the Wings' spot in the playoffs.
Indy has a 7-4-0-0 record entering the 2018-19 series finale with Kalamazoo, winning four of the previous five meetings in Central Indiana. The Fuel have won each of their last two encounters with the Wings, defeating Kalamazoo 2-1 at Wings Event Center on March 9 in the last meeting between the two teams.
Fuel forward Ryan Rupert leads the season series with a whopping 17 points (7g, 10a) in 11 games against the Wings, while Tanner Sorenson paces Kalamazoo with four goals and eight assists in nine games.
LAST TIME OUT: A four-point afternoon for Ryan Rupert (3g, 1a) led an explosive offensive performance from the Fuel, who took down the league-leading Cincinnati Cyclones Sunday at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Indy scored five unanswered goals – including four in the second period – to open a 7-2 lead before the Cyclones mounted a fierce comeback with four straight tallies over the last 11 minutes of regulation time. Mathew Thompson scored twice and added an assist for Indy, while Matt Rupert (1g, 1a) and Travis Brown (2a) also finished with multiple points.
CIRCLE CITY DOMINANCE: In need of as many points as possible down the stretch in order to earn their second-straight playoff berth, the Fuel have the benefit of playing in their own building. Friday marks the third test of a five-game homestand at Indiana Farmers Coliseum, which continues Saturday against Cincinnati and Sunday against Kansas City. Indy has been a formidable opponent in the Circle City this year, sporting a record of 21-9-1-1 through 32 games. Last Sunday's win over the Cyclones broke the Fuel's previous franchise record for most home victories in a single season.
MAT ATTACK: After making his professional debut this time last year on an amateur tryout contract, Fuel forward Mathew Thompson has quickly become one of his team's most dangerous offensive threats. The rookie has been on a scoring tear as of late, registering points in eight of his last nine games, logging six goals and eight assists since March 8. The 25-year-old ranks third in scoring on Indy's roster this season with 44 points (18g, 26a) in 59 games.
WINGS ON THE ROAD: While Indy gets to enjoy the comforts of home during the final two weeks of the regular season, the Wings face the challenge of closing out 2018-19 with seven straight games on the road. Kalamazoo began their year-ending road swing Wednesday in Fort Wayne, finding themselves in an early hole before ultimately falling 5-1 to the Komets. Following Friday's contest in Indianapolis, the Wings finish the weekend with stops in Toledo and Wheeling on Saturday and Sunday, before heading south next weekend to take on the Wichita Thunder and Tulsa Oilers.
OTHER NOTABLES: Indy has a two-point lead over the Wheeling Nailers, who host Fort Wayne on Friday ... The AHL's Rockford IceHogs assigned a trio of players to the Fuel on Thursday, including forward Spencer Watson and defensemen Dmitry Osipov and Josh McArdle ... Wings forward Chris Collins (62 points) is tied for the ECHL rookie scoring lead with Cincinnati's Myles Powell ... Indy is 16-1-0-0 this season on home ice when leading after two periods.
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