Kalamazoo (24-20-1-2) vs Fort Wayne (23-17-2-4)
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Pink Ice Game:
Thursday's Valentine's Day game will be the K-Wings annual Pink Ice game. As a part of the pregame ceremonies the K-Wings will honor 35 cancer survivors on the ice.
Last Time Out:
Kalamazoo gained a point, but suffered their first overtime loss of the season as Kansas City came back from a 3-1 deficit to top the K-Wings on Saturday night. After each team notched a single goal in the opening period, the K-Wings used a major power play to take a 3-1 lead early in the second. Michael Neal netted his third goal of the season, and third in his last three games to give Kalamazoo a 2-1 lead, before Reid Gardiner snapped his league 26th goal to push the K-Wings up by two, 3-1. Up by two less than five minutes into the second period the K-Wings saw the Mavericks cut the lead to one goal before the end of the period. Kansas City followed that up with a third period tally to knot the game at 3-3 with just over half the period left. As regulation ended the teams were still deadlocked at 3-3, sending the teams into the overtime period. It took only 0:24 for the Mavericks to claim the extra point as Cliff Watson scored his seventh goal of the season to give Kansas City the 4-3 victory, and snap the K-Wings winning streak at five games. Keegan Asmundson stopped 18 of 24 shots in the defeat.
Kalamazoo boasts several streaks heading into Thursdays matchup with the Komets. Chris Collins and Kyle Thomas boast the ECHL's longest point-streaks among players currently on ECHL rosters. Collins, who was on a ten-game point streak prior to signing a PTO with Manitoba, has notched 23 points during his last ten games with Kalamazoo. Thomas, who's on an 11-game streak, has 16 points during the streak. In addition the K-Wings have Brendan Bradley (6 games), Tanner Sorenson (7 games), and Michael Neal (3 games). In addition netminder Jake Hildebrand has won each of his last seven starts, a new career high.
Gain One, Lose One:
Forward Chris Collins was released from his PTO with the Manitoba Moose and rejoined the K-Wings early in the week. Collins, who ranks sixth in the ECHL in scoring, netted 48 points (19g, 29a) in 37 games prior to being called up to Manitoba on Dec. 22. The forward appeared in nine games with the Moose scoring twice before being released from his PTO. In another move forward Reid Gardiner was recalled to the Utica Comets on Tuesday afternoon. Gardiner led the K-Wings with 53 points (26g, 27a) in 36 games this season. It is Gardiner's second recall.
Keeping It Close in the Central:
Heading into Thursday's battle the K-Wings find themselves in the midst of a very close Central Division playoff race. The K-Wings sit in fourth place, only one point back from third place Fort Wayne. Right on the K-Wings tail is Indy and Wheeling who are both within a few points of Kalamazoo and Fort Wayne. Both of those teams, however, have played two more games than the K-Wings this season.
K-Wings and Komets Meet Again:
Kalamazoo and Fort Wayne meet for the ninth of 13 times on Thursday night. Kalamazoo holds the edge in the season series having won five of the first eight meetings, and each of the last two. Dating back to last season the K-Wings have won ten of the last 14 meetings against the Komets. Chris Collins and Justin Hodgman lead the series and their respective teams with 11 points each. Prior to being recalled to Utica, Kalamazoo's Reid Gardiner had led all skaters with eight goals, despite only appearing in six of the eight contests. Jake Hildebrand is 4-2-0-0 against the Komets, allowing 3.52 goals per game, while stopping just under 90% of shots faced.