FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL VS. KOMETS
FRIDAY, APRIL 5 - 7:35 PM
INDIANA FARMERS COLISEUM, INDIANAPOLIS
BROADCAST INFO: INDYFUELHOCKEY.COM, ECHL.TV
THE MATCHUP: The Indy Fuel (34-32-2-2) put their playoff hopes on the line Friday night as they host the Fort Wayne Komets (33-26-4-6) in the 2018-19 regular season finale at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The puck drops at 7:35 p.m. on Fan Appreciation Night in the Circle City, presented by Indiana Donor Network - tickets are still available at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum box office or on Ticketmaster.
Indy rallied from a 3-0 deficit Wednesday in Fort Wayne, staving off elimination with a thrilling 5-3 victory over the Komets in the first leg of a home-and-home series. With the Komets' needing just a single point to clinch the final playoff berth in the Central Division, the Fuel need another regulation victory Friday to stay in the hunt.
Wednesday's come-from-behind victory was Indy's fourth straight triumph over its in-state rival, bringing the 2018-19 season series to a 5-5 deadlock before Friday's rubber match. The Fuel are looking to win the season slate with the Komets for the first time since joining the ECHL in 2014-15.
After Fort Wayne three straight in Indianapolis to begin the season, Indy has bounced back with two victories of its own, including a dramatic 3-2 overtime decision on March 23. Fuel forward Ryan Rupert and Komets forward Justin Hodgman share the series scoring lead with three goals and six assists apiece, while Indy's Matt Rupert paces both teams with five goals - including the game-winner on Wednesday night.
LAST TIME OUT: The Fuel fought back from a 3-0 first period deficit with five unanswered goals, stunning the Komets 5-3 Wednesday night at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. Three points from Logan Nelson (1g, 2a) and multi-point outings from Ryan Rupert (1g, 1a) and Travis Brown (1g, 1a) helped lead the Indy comeback, while Matt Tomkins notched 34 saves between the pipes. With the score tied 3-3 at the start of the third period, Matt Rupert's tally with 5:22 left in regulation stood to be the game-winner.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: With the Kalamazoo Wings clinching their postseason spot with an overtime victory in Wichita on Wednesday, the Fuel's potential path to their second-straight Kelly Cup Playoff berth became simple. Indy needs a regulation victory tonight and a win Saturday in Wheeling, while Fort Wayne needs to lose all three of its remaining games in regulation. In this scenario, the Fuel and Komets will end the regular season tied at 76 points, with Indy earning the tiebreaker with more victories.
GOING FOR 23: One of the ECHL's steadiest teams on home ice this season, the Fuel's final regular season test in Indianapolis will be their biggest. Indy heads into its 2018-19 home finale with a 22-11-1-1 record on home ice, having already set a franchise for most home wins in a single season. The Fuel are looking to snap a two game skid at Indiana Farmers Coliseum, after closing out a five-game homestand with losses to Cincinnati and Kansas City last weekend.
KOMETS COMING BACK TO EARTH: Despite being only one point away from securing their sixth consecutive postseason appearance, the Komets have just two wins in their last eight outings (2-5-1-0). Fort Wayne has lost three straight heading into Friday's contest, giving at least five or more goals in each game of their current skid. On top of trying to lock up its spot in the playoffs, the Komets are looking to avoid a potential first-round matchup with the Brabham Cup-winning Cincinnati Cyclones. Fort Wayne currently holds the fourth seed in the Central, one point back of Kalamazoo.
OTHER NOTABLES: In 10 starts against Fort Wayne this season, Fuel netminder Matt Tomkins is 5-4-1 with a 2.59 goals against average and a .919 save percentage ... Forward Mathew Thompson extended a point streak to eight games with an assist on Matt Rupert's game-winning goal on Wednesday. The ECHL's reigning Rookie of the Month has tallied six goals and eight assists over his point streak ... Fort Wayne forward Jake Kamrass has tallied two goals and four assists over his last four games.
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