LAFAYETTE — Louisiana IceGators coach Drew Omicioli said his team squandered a great opportunity in a 3-2 loss to the Knoxville Ice Bears on Wednesday night.
“I don’t think it’s so much what they did, it’s what we didn’t do,” Omicioli said. “That was one of the worst games that I have been a part of. We looked good in the first 20 minutes, and after that, we played almost like we deserved something. You can’t do that in a playoff game.”
The IceGators took a 0-0 tie into the first intermission but came out flat, giving up a power play goal to Knoxville’s Ben Power at 9:24. They quickly responded with a goal from Benjamin Rubin at 10:19.
Omicioli said the IceGators came out in third period with zero intensity until the final minutes. By that time, the Ice Bears had scored two goals and put the game away. The IceGators still had a chance in the closing minutes, but the lack of energy cost them in Game 1.
“If we played with the intensity we had in the first period, we come out of tonight with a win,” Omicioli said. “I guarantee that. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t bring the energy in the next two periods.”
Knoxville’s second goal came at 8:53 in the second period on a counterattack by the Ice Bears. Knoxville’s Berkley Scott scored to put them up 2-1, and Omicioli said his team displayed “sheer laziness.”
“We just didn’t get back to the net in time,” he said. “That is playoff hockey. That is how you score goals. You have to be ready at all times. We weren’t, and that ends up being backbreaking goal for us.”
The IceGators did show energy in the first period, including a 5-on-3 penalty kill early in the period.
Still, Omicioli said he was disappointed with the penalties Wednesday.
“Our penalty kill did a pretty good job, but we had undisciplined penalties,” Omicioli said. “You just can’t do that. We were dumb today. It’s frustrating when you squander a great opportunity to go up 1-0 and just need one game up there. Now our backs are against the wall.”
Omicioli said he still thinks the IceGators are the best team left in the playoffs. He said he has some thinking to do on the bus ride to Knoxville and said the players who want to “bring 100 percent energy” will be the ones playing.
“The energy has to match what we did in the first 20 (minutes),” Omcioli said. “If we take a period off, we are going to come home with our tails between our legs.
“If you bring 100 percent energy, you play. If not, you sit on the bench. We just have to get back to our system and play with a heartbeat. We didn’t have one tonight.”