LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana IceGators open postseason play with a three-game series against the Southern Professional Hockey League champion Peoria Rivermen. The puck drops 6:35 p.m. on Wednesday at the Cajundome.
The IceGators (27-21-8) dealt with injuries and call- ups to other leagues for much of the 2014-15 campaign but closed out the regular season with a strong 6-3-3 stretch.
Peoria (36-17-3) comes into the series with the league’s best record, but IceGators coach Drew Omicioli said his club has been at its best in the last few weeks and likes his healthy team’s chances.
“We’re healthy, which is something that we struggled with all season,” Omicioli said. “We had seven guys called up to the East Coast leagues at one point, six of them are still up there. We’ve had a countless number of injuries throughout the season. We’re going to be playing with a full roster and everybody’s healthy, which is kind of unusual for us.”
The Rivermen not only led the league in scoring this season (186 goals) but were also one of the stingiest teams in the league this season (149 goals against).
But Omicioli likes the way his team matches up.
“They’re a pretty similar team to us,” Omicioli said. “I think we have more skill, but they definitely work hard and our biggest thing is just to match their intensity and their physicality. We match that, and then let our skill guys play the offensive game against them, we’re looking to take Game 1.”
Center Josh Harris led the Rivermen with 48 points this season (23 goals, 25 assists). He was one of six Peoria players with 34 or more points this year. In the net, Kyle Rank finished third in the league in saves and racked up a 27-12-2 record.
Adam Stuart leads the IceGators with 53 points (21 goals, 32 assists), while Jake Hauswirth (43 points in 37 games) and Bret Peppler (24 goals in 43 games) also provide a scoring punch.
The IceGators will host the first game of the series and both teams will use Thursday as a travel day before resuming the series Friday in Peoria, Illinois. If a third game is necessary, it will take place Saturday in Peoria.
Travel arrangements could make life difficult on both teams. Omicioli said it’s a 14-hour bus ride from Lafayette to Peoria.
“We’re so used to it,” Omicioli said. “We had 95 hours of bus trips in February, so to travel 14 hours at night, we’ll sleep most of the time. For them, they’re coming and they have to do a 28-hour round trip, but obviously they get Games 2 and 3 there if needed.
“I think it can play a part, but for us, we’re not going to let any of those distractions even come into play. We’re just going to be focused on winning on Wednesday, and then getting there we want to wrap it up in two games.”