The Long and Winding Road: Kalamazoo Wings Preview
The K-Wings six-game road trip continues
The Week Ahead:
Friday @ Elmira Jackals 7:05pm
Saturday @ Manchester Monarchs 6:00pm
Sunday @ Manchester Monarchs 3:00pm
Wednesday @ Quad City Mallards 7:35pm
The Wings returned home last Friday to take on the Greenville Swamp Rabbits and were undone be a quick start by the New York Rangers affiliate. Greenville scored 3 first period goals on 12 shots to build an early lead. When Greenville's Michael Joly added his second of the night just over a minute into the second period, Coach Bootland had seen enough and ended Nick Riopel's night early. The goaltender had surrendered 4 goals on on 13 shots. Joel Martin entered and held the Swamp Rabbits to just two goals (including Joly's third of the night) over the next 38 minutes.
Blake Hietala scored his first career goal early in the third as the Wings tried to make a comeback. Tyler Biggs snapped a 10-game goalless streak when he added a goal four minutes later, but it wasn't enough as Kalamazoo lost it's fifth straight game of the season, 6-2.
After a few days off (and a couple of trades) Kalamazoo landed in Elmira on Wednesday for the first of a six-game road trip. The Jackals scored first against Joel Martin as Kyle Rankin put home a rebound on the power play. Justin Taylor would score his first of three goals on the night early in the second and the game see-sawed back and forth for the rest of the night.
Tyler Biggs scored his second in two games, followed a minute later by Taylor's second of the night to give the Wings a 3-2 lead. Kalamazoo continued to put pressure on Elmira as they fired 19 shots on net in the third. The Jackals were able to tie it back up at the 11 minute mark when Justin Kea (all the Justins shall record a goal!) scored unassisted.
Taylor finished the game by converting a nice pass from Tanner Sorenson on an odd-man rush. Not only was it a hat-trick, game-winning, overtime goal, it was also the 250th point of Taylor's career. In the win Martin picked up his 192nd win, which now leaves him 4 shot of the all-time team record held by Georges Gagnoon
The Wings kick off a three-in-three weekend with a rematch against the Jackals. While a shut-out win for Kalamazoo would be great for team morale, it would not be nice for charity as the game is Elmira's annual Teddy Bear Toss. It will also mark Coach Bootland’s 600th career game as a coach in the ECHL.
Following the avalanche of adorable Teddy Bears, the Wings journey to Manchester to face the Monarchs on back-to-back nights. Currently sitting second in the Atlantic, their high-powered offense will present a challenge to Kalamazoo who has struggled recently in keeping pucks out of the net. Forward Joey Diamond leads the way with 18 points while Sam Brittain has posted an 8-3-1 record in net with a .910 save percentage. The Wings are catching them at a good time as the Monarchs enter Friday's play without a win in their last four contests (0-3-1).
With a couple of days off, the Wings will then travel to Quad City on Wednesday for a Central Division match-up. Kalamazoo last faced the Mallards on November 12th, a 2-1 loss that featured the Wings snapping an almost 195 minute goalless streak.
Hey Isn't That?:
Gasper Kopitar – Yes, that is the younger brother of Los Angeles Kings' Anze Kopitar. The Slovakien is in his second year with the Monarchs (an affiliate of the Kings). He has 3 points in 4 games with the Monarchs but has not appeared in a game since November 5th.
Peter Schneider is expected to make his Kalamazoo debut on Friday. Blake Kessel.....not so much. Kessel was suspended on Thursday for failing to report to the team following the trade earlier this week. When asked about it the team's statement was, “Kessel did not report to the team after the trade from Atlanta and has been suspended. The goal is to resolve the situation, but in the meantime, the team will move forward with the pieces in place.”
The high-scoring defender is the second acquisition to not report following a trade. Adam Brace refused to report following his trade from Orlando. In fact, it was his failure to report that led to Kessel being acquired in the first place. Hopefully, this will all work out and fans will see him in a Wings jersey soon. The team would definitely benefit from offensive abilities.
Points: 14 – Justin Taylor
Goals: 6 – Justin Taylor
Wins: 4 – Joel Martin
GAA: 2.86 – Nick Riopel