Kalamazoo (32-27-2-2) vs Wheeling (29-28-6-2)
Listen: 1660 the Fan
Doors will open early on Saturday night as fans are invited to stream into Wings Event Center starting at 6:00pm. The first 1,000 fans through the doors will get Kory Karlander and Tyler Willis dual bobbleheads. In addition, fans will have a chance to get a team photo, and win lots of other prizes throughout the night. The Colonial Cup, won by the K-Wings in 2006, will be in Heritage Hall through the second period for fans to see and take photos with.
Karlander and Willis Return:
Former K-Wing fan favorites Kory Karlander and Tyler Willis will be back at Wings Event Center on Saturday night. Karlander, who played in Kalamazoo from 1999-00, 2004-08, then again from 2010-13, finished second on the team in scoring in both the playoffs and regular season during the run to the 2006 Colonial Cup Championship. Willis played for Kalamazoo from 2003-09, amassing 1,403 penalty minutes, in addition to adding 236 points.
Last Time Out:
All seven goals of the game were scored through the first two periods as the K-Wings moved within a single point of the third place Komets by topping Fort Wayne 4-3 Wednesday night. The first period featured a flurry of goals in a 1:18 span as The teams combined to net three goals, putting the K-Wings up 2-1. Chris Collins opened the scoring at the 3:19 mark of the period, tipping Tanner Sorenson's wrist shot past Eric Levine to put Kalamazoo up 1-0. Off the following faceoff the K-Wings didn't waste any time as Kyle Bushee raced down the ice before Brendan Bradley collected the rebound and put it into the nearly empty net to give Kalamazoo the 2-0 lead. Kyle Hope put the Komets on the board shortly after, but the Kalamazoo lead sat at 3-1 after the first. That lead grew to 4-1 during the second before the Komets scored twice to bring themselves within a single goal as the period wound down. The third period saw a goaltenders dual as Matiss Kivlenieks and Eric Levine prevented either side from finding the back of the net, sending the K-Wings home with a 4-3 victory. Kalamazoo finished the night with a pair of power play goals, while the Komets were one-for-five.
Central Division Race:
Kalamazoo heads into the weekend sitting in fourth place in the Central Division playoff picture, four points on fourth place. Kalamazoo trails the Komets by a single point, but Fort Wayne holds one game in hand on the K-Wings. Cincinnati, who has clinched the division title, and Toledo hold the first and second spots.
Leading The Rookies:
Chris Collins notched a pair of points on Wednesday night, retaking the league lead for points among all rookies. The first year skater out of Calgary, AB has notched 62 points (28g, 34a) in 52 games this season. Collins' 62 points already marks the highest point total by a rookie since the K-Wings joined the ECHL. The forward ranks second among ECHL rookies in goals (28), and leads the entire league in all shorthanded scoring categories. He also leads the K-Wings in points, two ahead of linemate Tanner Sorenson.
Hitting the Road:
Saturday marks the final regular season home game of the year for the K-Wings. Kalamazoo ends the year with a seven-game road trip that takes the team to Fort Wayne, Indy, Toledo, Wheeling, Wichita, and Tulsa. Kalamazoo is guaranteed to finish the regular season with a record above the .500 mark at home, having posted a record of 19-13-1-2 at Wings Event Center leading up to the home finale. On the road the K-Wings are 14-14-1-0 overall, and 9-14-0-0 against the Central Division away from home. Kalamazoo will conclude the regular season on April 6 in Tulsa.
Saturday is the seventh of eight meetings between the K-Wings and Nailers this season. The K-Wings hold the edge in the season series, having won each of the first six meetings, but two of those victories including the most recent one have come past regulation. The teams met most recently on March 10 at Wings Event Center as the K-Wings needed the shootout to top the Nailers 4-3. Tanner Sorenson joins linemate Chris Collins to lead all active K-Wings with seven points in the season series. Sorenson is the only active K-Wing to have scored more than once against the Nailers this season. Michael Phillips and Renars Krastenbergs lead the Nailer offense averaging a point per game with six points through the first six games of the series. Netminders Jordan Ruby and Matt O'Connor have both appeared in two games against the K-Wings this season.