LAFAYETTE — With roughly 18,000 miles of season-long road trips in their rearview mirror, the Louisiana IceGators’ immediate goal is to guarantee the chance to take more trips.
As Louisiana readies for a rumble with the Columbus Cottonmouths on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. in Columbus, Georgia, the IceGators (23-25-4) stand six points ahead of Columbus at the playoff cut line. A win over the Cottonmouths would cement the Gators’ place in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Columbus is fighting for a playoff lifeline.
“Columbus has solid goaltending, they work hard and they are physically aggressive in everything they do,” Gators coach Drew Omicioli said. “The work ethic is always there and if you don’t show up, it is going to be a tough night. Their success comes in their determination. We have to match their intensity and match the way we played against Pensacola last Saturday (in a 4-2 win).”
The Gators come into the contest with goalies Brad Barone and Adam Courchaine having split starts pretty evenly during the stretch run of the regular season. Barone has a 2.50 goals against average and a 92.5 save percentage. Courchaine’s goals against average is 2.86 and his save percentage is 90.5.
“They are in a healthy competition,” Omicioli said. “Whoever gives us the opportunity to win games will start the next night. You want guys peaking at the end of the season. They are both fighting for that position come the first playoff game.”
In 26 games with the Gators, center Zac Frischmon has piled up 25 points (13 goals and 12 assists) since he came over from Fayetteville in a mid-season trade.
“Zac Frischmon has been the biggest addition for us offensively,” Omicioli said. “A lot of the additions have helped out. Having Tanner Burton back and having Brad Bourke back off injured reserve have helped.”
Omicioli also praised the efforts of defenseman Ben Kramer, who came over from the Federal Hockey League 25 games ago — on a three-game tryout — before he earned a spot.
Kramer (5-foot-9 and 175 pounds) has been part of a move that saw the Gators gradually switch from a big defensive corps to a group of faster players throughout the offense and defense.
“Johnny Daniels has been throwing out hits” Omicioli said. “Tyler Prendergast has been throwing hits. We want to be a difficult team to play against (in the playoffs).”