FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL AT NAILERS
TUESDAY, MARCH 12 - 10:45 AM
WESBANCO ARENA, WHEELING, W.V.
BROADCAST INFO: ECHL.TV
THE MATCHUP: The Indy Fuel (29-28-2-1) drop in to WesBanco Arena Tuesday morning for a school day matchup with the Wheeling Nailers (27-25-6-2). The critical Central Division showdown is scheduled for a 10:45 a.m. start, with coverage coming live on ECHL.TV.
The Fuel and Nailers enter Week 23 of the ECHL regular season both fighting for their postseason lives. Indy (61 points) trails the fifth-place Nailers (62 points) by a single point, while both teams are chasing the Kalamazoo Wings (66 points) for possession of the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division.
Coming off of back-to-back wins, the Fuel visit WesBanco Arena to wrap up a stretch of four games in five days. After falling to the division-leading Cincinnati Cyclones of Friday, Indy responded by picking up a 2-1 victory Saturday in Kalamazoo before blanking the Toledo Walleye 4-0 Sunday afternoon in the Circle City. Tuesday marks the first of four straight road tests for the Fuel, a trip that continues with a two-game stop in Reading, Penn. this weekend before ending on March 22 back in West Virginia.
Through eight of 11 meetings this season, Indy and Wheeling sport identical 4-3-1-0 records against one another. The Nailers have won four of the six prior encounters in their own building, though the Fuel picked up a 3-2 overtime triumph during their last appearance at WesBanco Arena on Feb. 1.
LAST TIME OUT: The Fuel grabbed the lead 20 seconds into play Sunday and never looked back, skating to a convincing 4-0 victory over the Toledo Walleye at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Matt Tomkins stopped 29 shots for his second shutout of the season, while Radovan Bondra, Josh Shalla and Mathew Thompson each tallied a goal and an assist. Bondra and Shalla helped Indy build a 2-0 lead before the first intermission, before Thompson and Eric Schurhamer found the net in the second and third period respectively to secure the win. The Fuel were in control throughout the contest, outshooting Toledo by a 45-29 margin.
TOMMER SAYS NO: Indy silenced the Walleye's high-scoring offense on Sunday, with Tomkins turning aside all 29 shots faced en route to logging his second shutout of the season. The Fuel netminder has now given up one or zero goals in three of his last four starts, while his 24 wins on the season is tied for the lead among ECHL puck-stoppers.
RECORD SZN: With the 2018-19 regular season nearing its end, a number of Fuel single-season records are cusp of being broken - or have already been surpassed. With his 23rd victory of the year on Saturday, Matt Tomkins broke Étienne Marcoux's single-season win record set in 2017-18. Forward Ryan Rupert will set a new franchise scoring record with his next point, having tied Alex Wideman's previous mark of 55 (2016-17) with an assist Sunday. Finally, Josh Shalla is three goals shy of matching his own single-season best of 28 from last year.
SCOUTING THE NAILERS: Wheeling comes into Tuesday morning's contest with points in seven of its last 10 outings (5-3-2-0), but only one win from its previous four trips to the ice. The Nailers finished picked up three points from a three-game set with the Fort Wayne Komets starting on March 3, before falling in a shootout in Kalamazoo on Sunday afternoon. One of the league's most lethal offensive teams, Wheeling has scored at least three goals six times over its last eight games, putting up five or more in four of those instances.
OTHER NOTABLES: Five of Indy's previous eight goals have come from defensemen ... Ryan Rupert has registered points in four straight games (1g, 5a) ... Wheeling forward Yushiroh Hirano ranks ninth amongh ECHL rookies with 48 points this season (15g, 33a) ... Defenseman Alex Brooks leads the Fuel with eight points (4g, 4a) against the Nailers this season ... Wheeling paces the ECHL with 18 shorthanded goals.
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