Kalamazoo (35-29-2-3) at Wichita (26-31-8-3)
Last Time Out:
A first period goal from the Nailers ended up being the only offense of the night as the K-Wing were blanked in Wheeling, falling 1-0 on Sunday afternoon. The loss wrapped up a three-in-three weekend for Kalamazoo,and also concluded Central Division play. Renars Krastenbergs got the home team on the board at the 13:19 mark of the first period when his shot from the high slot bounced off a skate in front and past Jake Hildebrand to give the Nailers the 1-0 lead. Hildebrand and Wheeling's Matt O'Connor combined to make 37 saves the rest of the way holding either team from lighting the lamp again. As the final horn sounded the Nailers kept their playoff hopes slightly alive as Matt O'Connor claimed the 1-0 shutout victory. It was the second time this season the K-Wings have been shutout.
Central Division Update:
Heading into the final week of the regular season the K-Wings are holding onto the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division. With three games remaining on the schedule Kalamazoo is four points ahead of fifth place Wheeling, and five ahead of sixth place Indy. Wheeling has a maximum possible points of 77 while the Fuel have a maximum possible of 76 points, meaning a victory for the K-Wings on Wednesday night would clinch a playoff spot for Kalamazoo. The K-Wings trail the Komets who sit in thrid place by a single point, but the Komets have a game in hand heading into the weekend. Cincinnati and Toledo have already clinched their playoff spots, and hold the top two spots respectively.
Kalamazoo wraps up the regular season by concluding a seven-game road trip out west against the Thunder and Oilers. Beginning the road trip with a four-game in five day stretch on the road the K-Wings are 1-2-0-1 on the current trip with the victory coming over the Toledo Walleye last Saturday night. This season the K-Wings have posted a record just under .500 on the road winning 15 of 33 games so far. Kalamazoo concludes the season with a trip to Tulsa for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday.
Sizing Up the Mountain:
Wednesday night's matchup is the seventh of eight meetings against the Mountain Division this season. The K-Wings have controlled the series with the Mountain so far posting a record of 5-0-1-0. The lone blemish of the season came at the hands of the Kansas City Mavericks in overtime on February 9. Kalamazoo has posted victories over Tulsa, Wichita, Idaho, Rapid City, and Kansas City so far this season. Wichita has struggled against the Central Division this season, winning two of nine meetings so far (2-6-0-1).
Head to Head:
Wednesday is the second and final meeting between the Thunder and K-Wings this season. Kalamazoo won the previous meeting on December 16 at Wings Event Center by a score of 3-2. Kalamazoo has posted a record of 5-2-1-0 in recent history against the Thunder, including a perfect 3-0-0-0 record at Wings Event Center. The script has been slightly different in Wichita, as the Thunder are 2-2-0-0 on home ice.
Eric Kattelus is the only player who notched a multi-point night against the Thunder in December, recording a goal and assist. Kattelus is also the only active K-Wing that scored in the Dec. 16 game for Kalamazoo. Kattelus also led all K-Wings last season putting up seven points, all assists, in six games. Kyle Blaney led Kalamazoo with three goals in the series, while Jimmy Mullin and Brendan Bradley each scored twice. Jake Hildebrand tended the net in the first meeting of the season between the teams, stopping 27 of 29 shots.
Neither of Wichita's two goal scorers from the first meeting remain on the roster for the second. The Thunder have a total of four players that had assists in the first meeting. Stuart Skinner took the net in the first meeting allowing three goals on 39 shots, suffering the loss. Thunder forward Ralph Cuddemi paced Wichita last season with six points (4g, 2a) in six games against the K-Wings as a member of the Thunder.