LAFAYETTE — A hectic schedule of three games in three nights will test the Louisiana IceGators in a variety of ways.
Each contest will contain a different opponent, as the Gators face the Mississippi RiverKings on Thursday, the Columbus Cottonmouths on Friday and the Pensacola Ice Flyers on Saturday. All the games will start at 7:05 p.m. at the Cajundome.
The format features a departure from many previous series when the Gators have faced the same opponent two or three times in a row.
“I like it, personally,” coach Drew Omicioli said. “I think the guys like it, as well. It’s a 60- or 65-minute battle. It’s more beneficial for us. A lot of times, you tend to get too high or too low when you play a team multiple times. If you are successful in Game 1, you feel a little lackadaisical in Game 2. If you have an off game and a team punks you a little bit, then you go into the next game with more nerves.”
The Gators head into the trio of games on the heels of road wins over Macon and Mississippi. The 5-1 win over the RiverKings on Saturday included a short-handed goal by Luke Sandler that snapped a 1-1 tie and propelled the Gators to five unanswered goals.
“Shorthanded goals are back-breaking goals,” Omicioli said. “It is a motivational shift no matter what the score, and it puts the opponent’s power play on edge because they don’t want to make another mistake.”
The Gators (9-11-3) will meet Mississippi again with a couple of lineup changes.
Winger Blake Hietala was loaned to Elmira in the ECHL and defenseman Jordan Ciccarello returned to the Gators from Florida of the ECHL.
Goalie Adam Courchaine is recovering from a concussion he suffered when he was hit in the mask by a slap shot from roughly 20 feet away against Mississippi. Brad Barone came in and got the win. Barone will start with Courchaine on the mend. Matt Cooper, who was in training camp with the Gators, will be on board in a backup role.
“Adam is making progress,” Omicioli said. “With his head, we don’t want to rush anything. Brad has shown he belongs here. He works hard in practice. Generally, goaltenders are quiet and have their own routines. Adam and Brad are very well liked by their teammates and are two of the most down-to-earth guys. Brad is a younger guy and a little more quiet than Adam, which is typical for a rookie.”
Sandler is coming in on a hot streak after two goals and a pair of assists last weekend.
“That is a heck of a weekend for Sandler against two good teams,” Omicioli said. “Ciccarello gives us six deep (on defense) for the first time in quite a while.”