FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL AT NAILERS
FRIDAY, MARCH 22 - 7:05 PM
WESBANCO ARENA, WHEELING, W.V.
BROADCAST INFO: ECHL.TV
THE MATCHUP: In a game with significant postseason implications, the Indy Fuel (30-29-2-2) visit the Wheeling Nailers (28-28-6-2) Friday night at WesBanco Arena. Fans back in Indianapolis can catch the action from West Virginia starting at 7:05 p.m. ET by tuning in online at ECHL.TV.
With both teams even at 64 points apiece, Indy and Wheeling in a battle for sole possession of fifth-place in the Central Division standings. Both clubs enter Friday's action six points back from the Kalamazoo Wings in the race for the division's fourth and final playing spot with nine games left on their schedules, though the Fuel have a game in hand on both Wheeling and Kalamazoo.
Indy has registered points in four of their last six games heading into the weekend, picking up three points over the first three tests of a four-game road swing. The Fuel kicked off the trip last Tuesday at WesBanco Arena with a 2-1 shootout loss to the Nailers, before splitting a two game set in Reading on Friday and Saturday.
Meanwhile, Wheeling has lost three straight since Tuesday's shootout win over Indy. After falling 5-1 in Cincinnati Friday and 3-2 in Toledo on Saturday, the Nailers were edged again by the first place Cyclones at U.S. Bank Arena by a 4-1 count on Wednesday night. Wheeling has been steady on home ice over the last month, logging a 4-1-2 record over its last seven outings at WesBanco Arena..
Friday marks the 10th of 11 meetings this season between the Fuel and Nailers, and the eighth of nine taking place in West Virginia. Indy owns a 4-3-1-1 mark against Wheeling so far this season, though the Nailers have won five of the first seven encounters at WesBanco Arena. Wheeling forward Zac Lynch leads the season series with four goals and seven assists in nine games against the Fuel, while defenseman Alex Brooks paces Indy with four goals and four assists in eight games.
LAST TIME OUT: Indy used a strong performance on special teams to rebound to earn a weekend split at Santander Arena, defeating the Royals 5-1 on Saturday night. The Fuel penalty kill was a perfect 10-for-10 with two shorthanded goals, while Indy's power play struck in the third period to boost an early lead to 3-0. Mathew Thompson tallied two goals and one assist to lead the Fuel offensively, while Matt Tomkins logged another strong outing with 30 saves on 31 shots.
NINE TO GO: Six points out of fourth place in the Central with nine games to play in the regular season, the Fuel enter the final three weeks of the 2018-19 schedule fighting for their playoff lives. Following Friday's tilt in Wheeling, Indy will play six of its final eight contests in Indianapolis, beginning with a season-long five-game homestand from March 23-31. The home strech will not be easy sledding for the Fuel, as seven of their last nine games come against opponents currently occupying a playoff spot.
TOMMINATION: Indy has played some of its stingiest defensive hockey of the season as of late, in large part thanks to stellar play from goaltender Matt Tomkins. Over his last six starts, the second year netminder owns a 4-1-1 record alongside a 1.15 goals against average and a .954 save percentage - earning his first call-up of the season to AHL Rockford in the process. Tomkins has held opponents to one goal or fewer in five of his last six starts, and was named the runner-up for the ECHL's Goaltender of the Week award in Week 23.
OTHER NOTABLES: Fuel forward Mathew Thompson has tallied eight points (4g, 4a) over his last six games, including four goals in his last four outings ... In six games since March 8, Indy defensemen have combined to score nine goals and seven assists ... The Nailers lead the ECHL with 19 shorthanded goals this season ... Josh Shalla is two goals away from matching his own Fuel single-season goal scoring record of 28 from last season.
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