Kalamazoo (29-24-1-2) vs Cincinnati (40-9-4-3)
Listen: 1660 the Fan
Last Time Out:
A three goal first period was the key on Saturday night as the Indy Fuel powered past the K-Wings 5-1 in Indy. Goals from Olivier Labelle, Matt Rupert, and Josh Shalla put the Fuel out to the early lead, and it would prove to be all the offense Indy needed. A scoreless second period saw the K-Wings still trailing 3-0 after 40 minutes of hockey had been played. In the final frame Kalamazoo cut the lead to two goals less than 0:30 into the period with a power play goal from Luke Sandler. Sandler's fifth of the season was the only shot that snuck past Tomkins though as the Fuel capped off the night with goals from Ryan Rupert and Josh Shalla to finish the scoring at 5-1. Ivan Kulbakov stopped 40 of 45 shots suffering the loss in his first appearance since being reassigned from Utica.
Sunday's game will be the 500th ECHL game for K-Wing forward Michael Neal. Neal, who joined the K-Wings in early February, has appeared in games with Idaho, Orlando, Bakersfield, Cincinnati, Wichita, Indy, and Kalamazoo during the course of his career. The Whitby, ON native has tallied 266 points during his ECHL career netting 109 goals to go alongside 157 assists. In addition Neal has skated in 22 games in the AHL, and another 31 in Germany. Since rejoining the K-Wings in February, Neal has tallied nine points (5g, 4a) in 12 games for the K-Wings.
The Cyclones head into Kalamazoo for Sunday's meeting, the tenth of the season between the teams, having taken at least a point in each of the first nine meetings this season. After Kalamazoo took the initial meeting in overtime Cincinnati has rolled off eight straight victories over the K-Wings, including four straight at Wings Event Center. Chris Collins leads the K-Wings having netted eight points (3g, 5a) in the season series for Kalamazoo. Kyle Blaney, Justin Taylor, and Tanner Sorenson have all also notched a trio of goals against the Cyclones this season. Jesse Schultz and Myles Powell lead all scorers in the series, having racked up 11 points against Kalamazoo. Schultz and Pascal Aquin lead the series with five goals each. They are among the 11 different Cyclones to have scored at least twice against Kalamazoo. Michael Houser has appeared between the pipes in six games for the 'Clones, posting a 6-0-0-0 record, paired with a 1.33 goals against average, and a .953 save percentage. Kalamazoo has used four different goaltenders against the Cyclones, while Jake Hildebrand has seen the bulk of the action, appearing in seven games.
Tightening Up in the Central:
Saturday night's results helped bring a tight Central Division playoff race even tighter. The victory by Indy, paired with an overtime defeat suffered by Wheeling closed the gap from third to sixth place to four points. Kalamazoo currently holds third place in the division with 61 points, while Fort Wayne sits tied with Kalamazoo. The Nailers are only two points back from Kalamazoo and Fort Wayne, while Indy sits four points back with 57 points. Fort Wayne has played the fewest games (54) having two games in hand on Kalamazoo, and three in hand on Wheeling.
Power Play Strikes:
The third period tally from Luke Sandler on Saturday night marked the ninth time in the last ten games that the K-Wings have scored while on the man-advantage. That streak has helped the K-Wings move above 20% on the man-advantage, and into sixth place in the ECHL. The K-Wings have converted on 20.7% of power plays this season, and have scored the second most power play goals in the ECHL (51). Only Utah (61) has scored more power play goals than Kalamazoo this season.
Pucks N' Paws and Post Game Skate:
Sunday afternoon is Pucks N' Paws at Wings Event Center as fans are invited to bring their canine friends to enjoy the game with them. Pet tickets can be purchased for a $5 donation at the box office. Proceeds from the pet tickets will go to Animal Rescue. Addtionally fans are invited to join the team on the ice for a post-game skate immediately following the game.