FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL AT ROYALS
FRIDAY, MARCH 15 - 7:00 PM
SANTANDER ARENA, READING, PENN.
BROADCAST INFO: ECHL.TV
THE MATCHUP: The Indy Fuel (29-28-2-2) visit Santander Arena Friday night for the first leg of a weekend doubleheader against the Reading Royals (26-26-4-5). Puck drop from southern Pennsylvania is set for 7 p.m., with coverage coming live via ECHL.TV.
The Fuel make their first trip to Santander Arena in over two years Friday night, as they continue a critical four-game road swing. Even after picking up points in each three straight outings (2-0-0-1), Indy enters the weekend fighting to keep its playoff hopes alive. With 62 points following a shootout loss in Wheeling on Tuesday, the Fuel trail the fifth-place Nailers by two points, while finding themselves four points shy of the Kalamazoo Wings for possession of the fourth and final playoff berth in the Central Division.
The Royals also find themselves on the outside looking in with four weekends left in the 2018-19 ECHL schedule, sitting seven points back from the fourth-place Manchester Monarchs in the North Division playoff race. Making its first appearance on home ice since Feb. 24, Reading just wrapped up a two week road trip with stops in Norfolk, Newfoundland and Brampton.
The Royals finished the six-game swing with a 3-3 record, capped off with a two-game split with the Beast last weekend at the Powerade Centre. Following a 5-3 loss to Brampton on Saturday, Reading rallied with three third period goals to take a 6-4 victory Sunday afternoon.
LAST TIME OUT: The Indy Fuel picked up an important point, but ultimately fell 2-1 in a shootout to the Wheeling Nailers Tuesday morning at WesBanco Arena. A third-period equalizer from Mathew Thompson helped Indy force overtime, but Wheeling netminder Jordan Ruby was superb beyond regulation, making six saves in OT before stopping three of four in the shootout. Yushiroh Hirano scored both in regulation and provided the game-clinching goal in the breakaway competition for the Nailers, who opened a two-point lead on the Fuel with the victory.
LABELLE'S RETURN: The weekend doubleheader holds extra significance to Fuel forward Olivier Labelle, who makes his first visit to 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.
TOMMER GETS THE CALL: After turning in another solid performance Tuesday morning in Wheeling, Fuel goaltender Matt Tomkins was recalled to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs on Thursday afternoon. Over his last five starts with Indy, the second-year netminder owns a 3-1-1 record, a 1.18 goals against average, and a .951 save percentage, while earning his second shutout of the season with 29 saves against Toledo on March 10. Tomkins sports a 24-17-4 record through 46 appearances this season, leading the ECHL in both saves (1,453) and minutes played (2,734).
SCOUTING THE ROYALS: Reading is led offensively by forward Chris McCarthy, whose 63 points (17g, 46a) is tied for second in the ECHL's scoring race. The forward boasts 17 multi-point performances this season, scoring three goals and four assists over his last seven outings. Forward Josh MacDonald paces the Royals with 23 goals in 51 games, while rookie Alex Roos has found the scoresheet in six of his last eight games, including goals in three straight. In net, Branden Komm has started nine straight games, posting a 4-5-0 record.
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