FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL VS. CYCLONES
SUNDAY, MARCH 24 - 3:05 PM
INDIANA FARMERS COLISEUM, INDIANAPOLIS
BROADCAST INFO: INDYFUELHOCKEY.COM, ECHL.TV
THE MATCHUP: The Indy Fuel (31-30-2-2) close out a three-in-three weekend Sunday afternoon as they take on the Cincinnati Cyclones (47-11-4-3) at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The matinee affair with the ECHL's top team is scheduled for a 3:05 puck drop, with tickets still available at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum box office.
Fighting to keep their postseason hopes alive, the Fuel delivered a thrilling 3-2 overtime win Saturday night against the Fort Wayne Komets in front of a standing-room-only crowd in Indianapolis. One game into a season-long five-game homestand, Indy will need to keep the momentum going Sunday for a chance to sneak into the Central Division's playoff picture. With seven games left to play, the Fuel are six points back from Fort Wayne and the Kalamazoo Wings - who are tied for third place. Indy still has two games left to play against the Komets, and one remaining with the Wings.
Conversely, Cincinnati enters the final stretch of the regular season looking to wrap up their first Brabham Cup (ECHL regular season champion) since 2008. The Cyclones were the first team this season to secure their Kelly Cup Playoff berth, before clinching the Central Division title earlier this week. Holding a five-point edge over the Eastern Conference-leading Florida Everblades, Cincinnati just needs six points over their final seven games to lock down the Brabham Cup and home ice advantage throughout the Kelly Cup Playoffs, presented by Smile Direct Club.
Sunday is the 11th of 12 meetings this season between the Fuel and Cyclones, with Cincinnati winning seven of the first 10 encounters. Indy has fared well on home ice against the bordering rivals, picking up points in four of the five games (3-1-0-1) taking place at Indiana Farmers Coliseum this year. The Cyclones rallied back from a 2-0 first period deficit to claim a 4-2 victory during the two clubs' previous meeting on March 8 in Indianapolis.
LAST TIME OUT: Josh Shalla scored 2:01 into overtime to cap off a thrilling 3-2 Fuel victory over the Fort Wayne Komets Saturday in front of a capacity crowd of 6,423 at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Indy rallied from a pair of one-goal deficits with regulation goals from Radovan Bondra and Craig Puffer, before the Fuel's leading scorer ended the game in extra time. Goaltender Matt Tomkins turned aside 21 shots for the victory, while the Komets' Alex Dubeau stopped 35 shots in his pro debut.
DEFENDING HOME ICE: With Saturday night's victory, the Fuel matched a club single-season record with their 20th win on home ice. Indy has won in four of its last five appearances in the Circle City, with five of the club's seven remaining games coming at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The Fuel have been able to win hang tough in tight situations in their own building, holding a 9-1-1-1 record in one-goal games as the home team.
STORM CHASERS: The first team to cross the 100-point threshold this season, the Cyclones have been nearly unstoppable in the second half of the season. Cincinnati holds a 17-2-1-0 record over its last 19 contests since Feb. 10, and currently leads the ECHL in both scoring offense (3.97 goals per game) and team defense (2.35 goals against per game). The Cyclones are all over the league's individual leaderboards as well; forward Jesse Schultz leads the ECHL in points (76) and assists (55), while goaltender Michael Houser ranks first in wins (26) and goals against average (2.14).
OTHER NOTABLES: With an assist Saturday, Fuel forward Mathew Thompson has now tallied 11 points (4g, 7a) over his last eight games ... Rookie forward Craig Puffer's goal Saturday was the first of his professional career ... Josh Shalla's overtime winner was his 28th goal of the season, tying his own single-season club record set last year ... The Cyclones boast eight players with over 40 points this season.
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