LAFAYETTE – The Louisiana IceGators are going into the first game of their three-game series against Knoxville at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday with the confidence that comes with knocking off the No. 1 seed on the road in overtime of a decisive Game 3.
Actually, both of Louisiana’s wins against top-seeded Peoria in the first round of the Southern Professional Hockey League playoffs came in overtime, but it was the way they rallied in Game 3 that has coach Drew Omicioli looking forward to what’s next for his team.
“One of the best things that happened in the first round was the fact that we were down 3-1 in the final game,” Omicioli said. “We proved to ourselves that we can overcome any type of deficit, rebound and win a hockey game – especially down two goals to a No. 1 seed.”
That being said, Omicioli isn’t necessarily hoping for a repeat performance.
“I’m glad that it happened, but hopefully I don’t have to go through that again as a coach. We kind of learned our lesson. We’ve got to stay disciplined and attack right off the get go.”
When he looks at Knoxville, Omicioli said he sees a very similar team to Peoria, with a solid and physical defensive presence.
“I think it’s going to be similar (to the Peoria series),” Omicioli said. “It should be physical. I think we have a more talented team than them, and if we match their energy level I believe we’ll be successful in this best of three.”
Knoxville left-winger Francis Drolet is coming off a prolific series against Columbus, where he scored an SPHL playoff-high four goals.
The IceBears took the regular-season series against the IceGators by a 3-2-1 margin, but Omicioli said Knoxville hasn’t seen his team at full strength yet.
One player they have seen is Scott Diebold. The IceGators young goalie, who less than a month ago was in the net for his college team, has been outstanding in a late-season role for the IceGators.
Two of Diebold’s four regular-season appearances came against Knoxville. He went 1-1 in those games, with 37 saves on 42 shot attempts. He earned both of the IceGators’ playoff wins against Peoria, and racked up 36 saves in the Game 3 win.
“What he does so well is he makes the routine saves, the saves that you expect him to make he does on a consistent basis. On top of that, he makes the saves that you’d never think he has a prayer to make That’s really what distinguishes the top goalies in any league.”