LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana IceGators’ push to gain the sixth seed in the upcoming Southern Professional Hockey League playoffs will come down to the final day of the regular season.
After Louisiana suffered a 2-1 loss to the visiting Knoxville Ice Bears on Friday night at the Cajundome, the scoreboard-watching started.
Louisiana (25-26-4) is currently in seventh place in the standings with 54 points. Its goal is to pass Huntsville and move into the sixth spot. A seventh-place finish would put the Gators in line for a first-round matchup against Pensacola. The Ice Flyers have won all but one of the matchups between the teams this season.
“This last game (Saturday against Knoxville) is a must win,” Louisiana coach Drew Omicioli said. “If we play Pensacola in that first series, it will lead to a situation of playing six games in eight nights. We have to win and hope Fayetteville squeaks out a win over Huntsville.”
Doug Reid had the game-winner for Knoxville over the Gators when he converted a two-on-one chance with 7:37 left in the second period.
“The first 13 minutes, they outplayed us, but the next 47 minutes, we outplayed them,” Omicioli said. “But we had three guys go after one and then Knoxville gets a two-on-one layup goal and that was it.”
When the Gators gained a man advantage for the first time with 13:21 left in the second period, Mike Kavanagh cashed in that opportunity with a 55-foot blast from the point that went past Knoxville goalie Brian Billett before he saw it. That evened the score 1-1 with 11:51 remaining. The goal gave the Gators a boost that helped them hold Knoxville to two shots in the second period.
Knoxville controlled the pace during the first half of the opening period partly thanks to a pair of power play opportunities that led to the Ice Bears gaining the early upper hand. After the Gators’ John Daniels was called for slashing with 14:25 left in the period, Louisiana was on a tough spot when a Gator lost his stick in the midst of the penalty kill. Adam Sedlak took advantage from the high slot and sent a shot past Adam Courchaine to account for a 1-0 Knoxville lead.
“Our physicality was OK, but it was spotty,” Omicioli said. “We have to be more consistent.”
The Gators will wrap up the regular season 7:05 p.m. Saturday against Knoxville.