Kalmazoo (0-0-0-0) vs. Indy (0-1-0-0)
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45th Anniversary Season Kicks Off
Saturday's game marks the start of the 45th season in Kalamazoo Wings history. While the K-Wings start on the road, they will return home after just one game for the home opener on Oct. 19. For the first time in 38 years the K-Wings will retire a number as they send Kevin Schamehorn's #26 to the rafters. Schamehorn played over seven seasons with the K-Wings and still holds the franchise records for goals and points.
Familiar Faces Back on the Roster
This seasons roster features a combination of returning players as well as new players to the Wings. Kalamazoo returns seven players from the 2017-18 roster. Kyle Bushee, Ben Wilson, Eric Kattelus, Kyle Blaney, Jimmy Mullin, Justin Taylor, and Brendan Bradley are all back for another season with the Wings. The seven players have combined for 29 seasons with the Wings, lead by Justin Taylor who's entering his ninth season with the club.
For the first time since entering the ECHL Indy claimed the season series in 2017-18, defeating Kalamazoo in seven of the ten match-ups between the teams. Kalamazoo garnered at least a point in four posting a record of 3-6-1-0. Prior to last season the Wings had held the advantage holding an all-time record of 6-3-2-0 against Indy. Heading into Saturday's match-up the Wings are 9-9-3-0 all time against Indy.
Kalamazoo's roster boasts seven players who recorded at least 40 points last season. With the addition of Reid Gardiner, assigned to Kalamazoo by Utica, the Wings also have three of the top 15 scoring rookies from the 2017-18 season (Gardiner, Brendan Bradley, Jimmy Mullin). Gardiner, who spent last season in the Penguins organization, finished the year fourth among all rookies averaging just under a point per game with 57 points (30g, 27a) in 58 games. Newcomer Kyle Thomas, while playing in Utah last season, mustered 44 points in 50 games. The forward also added two points in seven AHL games with San Diego.
Fresh Faces In Net
For the first time in eight years the Wings will start a season with someone other than Joel Martin between the pipes. Martin, who retired after the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, stayed with the organization and begins his first season as an assistant coach. Since the 2012-13 season Martin appeared in 308 games for the Wings.
In his place Kalamazoo will look to goaltenders Jake Hildebrand and Keegan Asmundson this season. Hildebrand, who played 44 games for Tulsa last season, finished the 2017-18 season fifth in the ECHL in saves (1204). Asmundson joins the K-Wings from Huntsville (SPHL) where he helped backstop the Havoc to the President's Cup, handed out to the SPHL's playoff champion. Asmundson previously played with the Wings during the 2016-17 season.
Starting Where it Ended:
Kalamazoo begins the 2018-19 season in the same place where the 2017-18 season concluded in April. The Wings fell to the Fuel 2-1 on April 8 in the last game of the season. With the Wings trailing the Fuel in the Central Division standings by one point it was a win or go home for the fourth and final playoff spot.
Indy netted a pair of goals in the opening frame, and Kalamazoo was unable to climb out of the two-goal hole. Justin Taylor scored the lone goal of the night for Kalamazoo in the third period. Joel Martin made 32 saves in the final game of his career. The loss pushed Kalamazoo out of the playoffs for only the second time in head coach Nick Bootland's tenure behind the bench.