Kalamazoo (36-29-2-3) at Tulsa (40-23-4-2)
Listen: 1660 The Fan
Fans are invited to head over to Old Burdick's at Wings West tonight for a watch party starting at 7:30pm. Puck drop from Tulsa is at 8:05pm for the second to last game of the regular season.
Last Time Out:
An overtime goal from Tanner Sorenson sealed a 2-1 victory and punched the K-Wings ticket into the Kelly Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night in Wichita. The Thunder got on the board first, scoring just 3:47 into the opening frame to take the early 1-0 lead. Steven Iacobellis took a wrist shot from the hashmark that snuck through Ivan Kulbakov to the back of the net for his 21st goal of the season. Iacobellis' goal would end up being the only goal of the night for the home side. Trailing 1-0 in the second Michael Neal drew the K-Wings even at 1-1. Neal's eighth of the season set the stage for a tied up, back and forth game that remained tied through regulation and into the overtime period. In the extra frame Tanner Sorenson wristed a shot from the right side that beat Stuart Skinner and gave the K-Wings the 2-1 victory. Ivan Kulbakov earned first star honors after stopping 35 of 36 shots for the K-Wings.
With the overtime victory on Wednesday night, the K-Wings clinched a spot in the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs presented by Smile Direct Club. Kalamazoo will begin the post-season with a pair of games on the road, as the K-Wings will be either the third or fourth seed in the Central Division. The opponent for Kalamazoo will be decided during the final week of the regular season. If Kalamazoo ends up as the fourth seed they will play top seeded Cincinnati, if the K-Wings are the third seed they will face the second seeded Walleye. Kalamazoo will begin the home portion of the postseason will begin on April 17 for game three followed by game four and five on the following Friday and Saturday.
Central Division Update:
After the K-Wings clinched a playoff spot on Wednesday night three of the four spots in the Central Division have been clinched. Fort Wayne currently holds control of the fourth and final spot, sitting one point back from Kalamazoo, with a game in hand. The Komets can clinch a playoff spot on Friday night with a single point in their game against Indy. Indy and Wheeling both have a chance to snag the fourth and final playoff spot, but must win each of the rest of their games in order to do so.
Netminder Jake Hildebrand makes his first return to Tulsa on Friday night since being traded from the Oilers to the K-Wings in exchange for Scott Henegar over the summer. Last season Hildebrand apppeared in 44 games for Tulsa posting a record of 16-18-1-6 paired with a 3.35 goals against average and a .901 save percentage. This season for Kalamazoo Hildebrand has appeared in 44 games, with a record of 21-17-0-2, with a 3.52 goals against average and a .892 save percentage. On the other side of the deal, Henegar has notched 32 points (13g, 19a) in 62 games this season with the Oilers.
Head to Head:
Friday is the second of three meetings between the teams this season, and the K-Wings first trip to the BOK Center in Tulsa. Kalamazoo is 3-0-0-0 all-time against the Oilers, however all three meetings came at Wings Event Center. The most recent matchup between the teams took place on December 8 of this season in Kalamazoo, when the Wings skated away with a 3-2 victory. Kyle Blaney led all scorers in that contest, scoring once and adding an assist for Kalamazoo. Teammate Kyle Thomas, currently in Utica also notched a multiple point night, recording two assists. Neither of Tulsa's goal scorers in that game, Charlie Sampair and Ryan Tesink, will be available for the Oilers on Friday night. Ivan Kulbakov got the start for the K-Wings in net stopping 49 of 51 shots faced while taking the victory. On the other side Tulsa's Devin Williams stopped 18 of 21 in the defeat.
The Oilers head into the weekend looking to lock in first place in the Mountain Division. Tulsa sits one point ahead of second place Idaho, with three games remainaing. After back-to-back games against Kalamazoo the Oilers will host Wichita to conclude the season on Sunday.