INDIANAPOLIS - The Indy Fuel (33-30-2-2) improved to 3-0 to start a five-game homestand on Friday night, delivering a critical 2-1 shootout victory over the Kalamazoo Wings (34-28-2-3) at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. With the two points, the Fuel inched closer to the Wings in the race for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division, trailing Kalamazoo by three points with five games left in the regular season.
Indy's Matt Tomkins turned aside 31 shots through regulation and overtime - plus three more in the skills competition - to edge his counterpart Ivan Kulbakov (25 saves) in what was a goaltenders' duel from the opening puck drop. Ryan Rupert scored the shootout's lone goal in the third round to seal the Fuel's fourth straight victory on home ice. Indy's leading scorer clinched the game in highlight-reel fashion, putting on the brakes at the top of the crease before tucking a backhand off the right post and behind Kulbakov.
Tomkins and Kulbakov matched each other save-for-save through the first two periods of regulation, with the two teams entering the third period at a scoreless tie. Mathew Thompson finally broke through at 7:12 of the final frame to give the Fuel a 1-0 lead, picking up a turnover in the Wings' zone and sneaking a wrist shot through Kulbakov. Thompson's 19th goal of the season was the rookie forward's 15th point in his last ten outings - stretching a point streak to five games.
The Wings capitalized on a late power play opportunity to even the score at one with just 1:52 left in the third period. Former Fuel captain Michael Neal found a rebound from Chris Collins at the doorstep, beating a sprawling Tomkins with his seventh goal of the season.
Indy finished the game 4-for-5 on the penalty kill, while coming up empty on only the club's lone power play opportunity.
The Fuel's season-long five-game stay on home ice continues Saturday as the league-leading Cincinnati Cyclones come to town, before Indy wraps up a three-game weekend Sunday afternoon against the Kansas City Mavericks.
Single-game tickets are now on sale for the Fuel's 5th anniversary season at Indiana Farmers Coliseum! Lock up your seat for every second of the action at Indiana Farmers Coliseum with a Fuel Ticket Plan - grab yours by heading to IndyFuelHockey.com or by calling the Fuel front office at 317-925-FUEL. Don't forget to follow the Fuel on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (IndyFuel) for news, updates, contests and much more throughout the 2018-19 season.
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