Fuel go for weekend split with Royals in Saturday's rematch
FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL AT ROYALSMar 16, 2019
FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL AT ROYALS
SATURDAY, MARCH 16 - 7:00 PM
SANTANDER ARENA, READING, PENN.
BROADCAST INFO: ECHL.TV
THE MATCHUP: The Indy Fuel (29-29-2-2) try to salvage a split from their weekend trip to Pennsylvania during a rematch with the Reading Royals (27-26-4-5) Saturday night at Santander Arena. The St. Patrick's Day showdown between the cross-divisional foes is slated for a 7 p.m. start, with coverage available back in Indy on ECHL.TV.
The Royals skated to a 5-2 victory Friday night to open the two-game doubleheader, the Fuel's second straight setback to start a critical four game road swing. Following Saturday's series finale in Reading, Indy will head to WesBanco Arena next Friday to take on the Wheeling Nailers, before returning to Indiana Farmers Coliseum to play six of its final eight regular season games.
Picking up the victory Friday in their first home game in nearly three weeks, the Royals have now won two straight, with six of the club's next seven games taking place at Santander Arena. With 10 games remaining, Reading trails the Manchester Monarchs by five points in the race for the North Division's final playoff spot.
Friday's contest was the first time the Fuel and Royals have crossed paths since Reading swept a two-game homestand back on Dec. 9-10, 2016. Reading has dominated the all-time series with Indy with 10 wins in 11 meetings, though eight of them came during the Fuel's inaugural season in 2014-15.
LAST TIME OUT: The Royals scored twice in the first and second period to build a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes of play, hanging on to defeat the Fuel by a 5-2 count in Friday's series opener at Santander Arena. Tyler Brown scored twice, while Nick Luukko marked a goal and two assists to help spoil Fuel forward Olivier Labelle's return to reading. Josh Shalla and Dmitry Osipov scored for Indy, while goaltender Gordon Defiel stopped 34 of 38 shots in the road loss.
RUPERT THE RECORD BREAKER: With his secondary assist on Dmitry Osipov's third-period marker, Ryan Rupert surpassed Alex Wideman's franchise record of 55 points in a single season. Rupert has tallied 20 goals and 36 assists through 61 contests this season, sitting just two assists short of matching Alex Lavoie's club record of 38 set in 2015-16.
SCOREBOARD WATCHING: Despite Friday's loss, Indy did not lose any ground in the heated race for playoff positioning in the Central Division. With Kalamazoo and Wheeling also falling on the road in Toledo and Cincinnati respectively, the Fuel remain two points back from the fifth-place Nailers and four points behind the Wings for possession of a postseason berth. Kalamazoo heads to U.S. Bank Arena Saturday to take on the division-leading Cyclones, while Wheeling visits Toledo.
LABELLE'S RETURN: The weekend doubleheader holds extra significance to Fuel forward Olivier Labelle, who picked up an assist Friday in his first game at Santander Arena since arriving to Indianapolis over the summer. The veteran is Reading's all-time franchise leader in goals (128) and games played (294), last skating with the Royals during the 2016-17 seson. Over his 13-year pro career, Labelle has spent parts of five seasons in Reading, helping the Royals to Kelly Cup Playoff appearances in each of them.
OTHER NOTABLES: Following Saturday's rematch, eight of the Fuel's final nine games come against Central Division opponents ... Goaltender Matt Tomkins dressed for the AHL's Rockford IceHogs as Anton Forsberg's backup Friday night in Rockford's 3-2 win over Grand Rapids ... Royals forward Braden Low recorded his second straight multi-point performance with two assists Friday ... Reading forward Michael Huntebrinker has four goals and five assists over his last seven contests ... Fuel forward Craig Puffer made skated in his first professional game Friday after signing an ATO Thursday.
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