LAFAYETTE — As the playoff picture takes shape during the final few weeks of the regular season in the Southern Professional Hockey League, one factor stands to be a difference-maker as teams close in on the 50-game mark.
“It has been a physically and mentally grueling season for teams like us, Peoria and Fayetteville,” Louisiana IceGators coach Drew Omicioli said. “It has been a lot of travel. We have done probably 20,000 miles overall and 6,000 in the span of a few trips. The teams in the best shape are the teams that will win (upcoming) games.”
For the IceGators (21-23-4), the next two games will be road tests in Macon at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Huntsville at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The Gators are in seventh place with 46 points, which puts them two behind sixth-place Huntsville and five points ahead of Columbus at the playoff cut line.
As part of the plan to add depth for this stretch run, the Gators made a couple of roster moves. Forwards David Gandara and Darius Cole were released. Defenseman Tanner Burton, who played 47 games for the Gators from 2013-15, and forward Massimo Lumacchia have been added.
“Massimo is a tremendous scorer out of Brown (University), so we are looking for him to provide offense,” Omicioli said. “Tanner was with us. These guys are difference-makers, and you also want to bring in guys who are not going to disrupt team chemistry.”
Macon winger Shawn Skelly comes into Friday’s contest as the league’s second-leading scorer with 52 points (20 goals and 32 assists). Former Gator Jake Trask has provided 41 points (17 goals and 24 assists).
“Macon has a very good power play and a good defensive core,” Omicioli said. “We will go in with a plan to shut those guys down, create turnovers and play the transition style hockey that is our forte.”
Meanwhile, Gators center Zac Frischmon, who came over in a midseason trade with Fayetteville, has helped stabilize the Gators attack by supplying 11 goals and 10 assists in 22 games.
“Frischmon has been great for us and has been a huge pick up for the organization,” Omicioli said.
That depth will be counted on as the Gators hit the road again.
“Hopefully, we can grab four points and gain some ground,” Omicioli said.