Fuel wrap up series with Wichita on Wizard Night in Indianapolis
FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL VS. THUNDERFeb 23, 2019
FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL VS. THUNDER
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23 - 6:05 PM
INDIANA FARMERS COLISEUM, INDIANAPOLIS
BROADCAST INFO: INDYFUELHOCKEY.COM, ECHL.TV
THE MATCHUP: The Indy Fuel (25-25-2-1) return to home ice Saturday night to close out a string of four straight games against the Wichita Thunder (21-26-6-3). The season finale between the two clubs falls on Wizard Night at Indiana Farmers Coliseum, with a special early start time of 6:05 p.m. ET. Limited tickets remain, and can be purchased at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum box office or at IndyFuelHockey.com.
The Fuel aim to bounce back from a 5-3 loss to the Thunder suffered Tuesday morning during Indy's annual Education Day Game. Winners of two of the first three meetings with Wichita over the past two weeks, the Fuel will try to complete the series victory on Saturday before returning to Central Division play next weekend.
With only a 2-6-0-0 record over its last eight contests, Indy is looking to build positive momentum as the ECHL 2018-19 regular season schedule draws closer to the stretch run. As of Saturday morning, the Fuel (53 points) find themselves just one point behind the fifth-place Wheeling Nailers in the Central Division standings with a game in hand, while trailing the Kalamazoo Wings and Fort Wayne Komets by four points for possession of one of the final two playoff spots in the division.
After dropping seven straight games from Feb. 5 to Feb. 17, the Thunder have started a four-game trip through Indiana with a 2-1 record. Following Tuesday's win in Indianapolis, Wichita defeated Fort Wayne 3-2 in a shootout on Wednesday night, before dropping a tight 6-5 decision in Allen County on Friday. The Thunder are also fighting for their postseason lives, currently seven points back from the Kansas City Mavericks in the race for fourth place in the Mountain Division.
Indy enters Saturday's contest with a 4-4-1-0 record all time against Wichita, with the Thunder taking two of the three meetings in the Circle City. Fuel forwards Ryan Rupert (5g, 2a) and Quentin Shore (3g, 3a) pace the season series in point scoring, while Mark MacMillan (3g) and Jacob Stukel (1g, 2a) lead Wichita offensively against Indy.
LAST TIME OUT: Indy rallied from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits in a wild five-goal second period, but the Thunder found a way to escape with a 5-3 victory Tuesday morning in front of over 5,300 students on Education Day at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Lane Bauer's go-ahead goal five minutes into the third period proved to be the difference for Wichita, which added a late empty net tally to seal the road victory. Olivier Labelle registered a goal and an assist for the Fuel, while Logan Nelson and Josh Shalla also found the net in the setback. Gordon Defiel turned aside 26 of 30 shots in net for Indy, while Ty Rimmer made 35 saves to pick up the win for the Thunder.
NEW FACES: Fuel Head Coach Bernie John shook things up on Friday when he completed a trade with the Manchester Monarchs, receiving defenseman Eric Schurhamer and forward Zeb Knutson in exchange for forward Kevin Dufour. Schurhamer brings depth to Indy's blue line, and is coming off a strong rookie season where he picked up 21 points and ranked fourth on the Monarchs with a +14 rating. Knutson has six goals and six assists in 36 games as a rookie this season, and began his pro career with a two-game stint with the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals last spring.
NEARING THE HOME STRETCH: Following Saturday's game, the Fuel will be at the three-quarter mark of their 2018-19 ECHL schedule. While Indy has enjoyed some needed rest throughout the month of February, the club is about to start the sprint to the finish line as winter turns to spring. The Fuel will play a total of 15 games in 31 days over the month of March, with eight of them coming on home ice. Out of those 15 games, a total of 12 will come against Central Division opponents.
OTHER NOTABLES: Olivier Labelle's goal Tuesday was his first since Dec. 27 against Wheeling. The veteran forward missed 16 games to injury from Dec. 31 to Feb. 6 ... Defenseman Alex Brooks has tallied assists in three straight games, and seven over his last eight contests ... Wichita's power play has scored goals in three of its last four games (5-for-14), and is ranked second overall in the ECHL at 22.8% ... Quentin Shore has points in three straight games, marking three goals and three assists over that span.
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