Kalamazoo (18-19-0-2) vs. Rapid City (16-22-2-3)
Listen: 1660 the Fan
Last Time Out:
The K-Wings and Walleye swapped three-goal swings in regulation, but no one was able to take move ahead for good until the fourth round of the shootout, when Kyle Thomas sent the K-Wings home with a walk-off victory. Kalamazoo netted each of the first three goals of the night, getting a pair from Thomas sandwiched around a Matt Joyaux goal. Thomas' second of the night put the K-Wings up 3-0 at the 16:20 mark of the period. Toledo got a goal from AJ Jenks before the end of the period to get on the board and cut the lead to two. In the third Matt Register notched back-to-back goals to tie the game at 3-3. The shootout saw seven players shoot before the first successful attempt of the night. Kyle Thomas ended the shootout in the bottom of the fourth to give the K-Wings the victory. The shootout win was the K-Wings first over the Walleye this season.
Scouting the Rush:
Rapid City heads to Kalamazoo in the midst of a skid, having dropped 10 of their last 12 games. Coming into the weekend the Rush are in sixth place in the Mountain Division, but sit only five points out of the fourth and final playoff spot. Offensively Pierre-Luc Mercier and Shaquille Merasty lead the team, and are the only players to notch over 20 points through the first 43 games of the season. Mercier (10g, 17a, 27 pts) leads the club in all three offensive categories, while Merasty (9g, 12a, 21pts), sits six points back. Goaltender Adam Carlson has appeared in 27 games for the Rush this season, posting a record of 11-11-2-2, paired with a .908 save percentage, and a 3.12 goals against average. Rookie Tyler Parks has spelled Carlson at times, appearing in ten games.
Friday's game is only the second meeting ever between the teams. Kalamazoo and Rapid City squared off for the first time last season, with the K-Wings topped the Rush in a close 2-1 game that saw no scoring in the final period of play. Eric Kattelus netted the game-winner just 2:23 into the second, while Kyle Bushee notched an assist on the goal Joel Martin stopped 25 of 26 shots in the victory for the K-Wings.
On January 13 in Fort Wayne K-Wing head coach Nick Bootland took part in his 1,000th game as a Kalamazoo Wing. Since joining the K-Wings during the 03-04 season the K-Wings have posted a record of 534-363-96 with Bootland on the ice, or on the bench. The bench boss has coached 763 games during his tenure with the K-Wings, while playing in 242.
Saturday night's victory over the Walleye marked a career night for Jake Hildebrand, who set a career high in saves stopping 52 of 55 shots. Prior to Saturday Hildebrand's career high had been 46, made on December 1, 2017 against the Idaho Steelheads, while playing with Tulsa. The 52-save performance was also the first time this season that Hildebrand has made more than 40 saves. The 55 shots allowed by Kalamazoo was the most that the K-Wings have allowed this season. It was the third time this season that Kalamazoo has allowed more than 50 shots on goal.
Picking Up Points:
After dropping four straight games to end 2018 and start 2019 the K-Wings have collected a point in four of the last five games, winning three of those four. With the current run the K-Wings have moved within four points of fifth place, and five points out of the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division.
Friday night will feature special Black Panther themed jerseys worn by the K-Wings as a part of the ECHL's partnership with Marvel. The jerseys worn during Friday's game will be auctioned off at a later date online via the MeiGray Group.
After Friday's game the K-Wings hit the road for a home-and-home series with the Indy Fuel. After traveling to Indy on Saturday night the K-Wings and Fuel return to Wings Event Center for a Sunday matinee matchup. The Fuel currently sit in the fourth spot in the Central Division, five points clear of Kalamazoo.