FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL AT THUNDER
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 16 - 8:05 P.M.
INTRUST BANK ARENA, WICHITA, KANSAS
BROADCAST INFO: ECHL.TV
THE MATCHUP: A season-long five-game road trip for the Indy Fuel (23-24-2-1) continues Saturday night with the first of two games at INTRUST Bank Arena against the Wichita Thunder (19-23-6-3). The inter-divisional matchup is slated for an 8:05 p.m. ET puck drop, with coverage available through ECHL.TV.
The Fuel begin a string of four straight contests against the Thunder looking to snap a five-game losing streak, their longest of the season. The two clubs meet up for a Saturday-Sunday doubleheader this weekend in Kansas, before the series shifts to Indianapolis starting with the Fuel's Education Day Game on Tuesday.
Indy and Wichita are set to square off for the first time since the Fuel rolled to a decisive 7-1 victory over the Thunder on Dec. 9, 2017 at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The Fuel skated to a 1-1-1-0 record against Wichita last season, picking up an overtime point from a two-game set in Wichita during the opening weekend of the 2017-18 campaign. In six all-time meetings between the two clubs, Indy enters Saturday with a 2-3-1-0 record.
LAST TIME OUT: Indy dropped their fifth straight contest on Wednesday as the Western Conference-leading Cincinnati Cyclones defeated the Fuel by a 5-0 count at U.S. Bank Arena. Goaltender Jonas Johansson made 30 saves to register his third shutout of the season, while five different skaters found the net by the halfway point of the second period to help the Cyclones take control of the contest. Fuel goaltender Gordon Defiel turned in a strong performance in relief of starter Matt Tomkins, stopping all 17 shots he faced after entering the game in the middle frame.
LOOKING FOR A SPARK: The Fuel arrive in Wichita looking to veer out of their current slide that has seen them lose five straight and six of their last seven contests dating back to Jan. 27. The road has been a particularly rough place for Indy over the last month, with the club skating to a 2-8-1-0 record in 11 games away from home since the start of 2019. Outscored by a 9-1 margin in back-to-back losses in Toledo and Cincinnati, the Fuel have given up four or more goals in each game during their current losing streak.
STARTED NEAR THE TOP NOW WE'RE HERE: After spending six straight weeks in the top four of the Central Division standings, Indy enters the weekend in sixth place and looking up at the rest of the division. With 49 points in 50 games, the Fuel trail the fifth place Wheeling Nailers by three points, while sitting four points back from both the Fort Wayne Komets and Kalamazoo Wings in the race for the final playoff spot in the Central.
WELCOME BACK, WOODY: In an effort to shake things up, the Fuel completed a trade with the Worcester Railers ahead of Wednesday's game in Cincinnati, acquiring forward Woody Hudson in exchange for defenseman Robert Powers. Hudson - who was added to Indy's active roster on Thursday - has skated in 42 games for Worcester this season, recording five goals, seven assists and 40 minutes in penalties. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound forward returns to Indy where he began his professional career at the end of the 2016-17 season, completing an 11-game stint with the Fuel following his collegiate career at St. Lawrence University.
STORM TRACKING: Another team heading in the wrong direction in their divisional playoff picture, the Thunder enter Saturday's game on a five-game winless streak and hold a 1-6-1-0 mark over their last eight games. Wichita is coming off of a pair of losses to the Tulsa Oilers, falling 2-1 in overtime Tuesday night on home ice before enduring a 7-3 thumping Friday at the BOK Center.
The Thunder are led offensively by forward Steven Iacobellis, who ranks first among all ECHL rookies in both points (52) and assists (35). Forward Pierre-Cedric Labrie (16g, 21a), Ralph Cuddemi (18g, 17a) and the newly-acquired Taylor Cammarata (13g, 20a) round out Wichita's top four scorers, while Keoni Texeira is tied for first among league first-year defensemen with 33 points. In net, Ty Rimmer has started eight straight games, logging a 1-6-1 record alongside a 3.79 goals against average and an .887 save percentage.
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