LAFAYETTE — If the Louisiana IceGators advance to the Southern Professional Hockey League Playoff finals, they’re going to have to do it on the road, starting Friday at 6 p.m. in Knoxville.
The IceGators dropped the first game of their three-game series with the Ice Bears 3-2 at the Cajundome on Wednesday night. They traveled to Knoxville after Wednesday’s game, where they will play the remainder of the series.
Coach Drew Omicioli was not happy with the way his team performed after the first period Wednesday night, calling it “one of the worst games that I’ve been a part of.”
“We have to play 60 minutes Friday, and do it again on Saturday,” Omicioli said. “I feel we can go up and take both games and move on to the finals.”
The two teams played to a scoreless first period Wednesday, but the Ice Bears pulled away in the second and third periods on what Omicioli characterized as careless play by his team.
Omicioli has confidence in his team, saying he thinks it’s “the best team left in the playoffs,” but he also said he was planning on using the bus ride to Knoxville to re-evaluate his roster to ensure he has a committed lineup going into Friday’s game.
“It’s do or die,” Omicioli said. “Now we’re in a situation where, if you bring 100 percent energy, you play. If not, then you’ll sit on the bench. And that’s it. There’s a couple things that I’m going to ponder over for the next 11 hours on the bus. ”
The IceBears had an almost identical home and road split this season, going 16-11-1 at home and 15-11-2 on the road, but after Wednesday’s game, they own a 4-2-1 advantage in the season series against the IceGators, including a 3-1 mark in games played in Knoxville.
If the IceGators are able to pull off the series win , they’d be the first team in the SPHL playoffs this season to win two consecutive games in a series. The key to doing that, Omicioli reiterated, is energy over the course of a full game.
“We’ve got to match what we did in the first 20 (minutes Wednesday) for a full 60 minutes,” Omicioli said. “If we do that, we’ll go up there and we’ll take two games. But if we take a period off, especially up there where it’s going to be a hostile crowd, we’re going to be coming back with our tails between our legs.”