LAFAYETTE — The list of basic benefits was easy for Louisiana IceGators coach Drew Omicioli to detail.
After 11 road games in a row, the IceGators will play at home for the first time since Jan. 9 when they face the Huntsville Havoc at 7:05 p.m. on Friday at the Cajundome.
“It’s a huge plus for the guys and me,” Omicioli said. “We can get a good pregame skate and guys can have lunch at their favorite places and take a nap. No waiting on buses. Guys can get back to their own routine.”
The IceGators (16-18-3) wrapped up their lengthy road trip last weekend by taking 2-of-3 games against the league-leading Peoria Rivermen to gain some momentum coming home to face Huntsville (20-17-2). “This is the time of the season when you want to peak -- going toward the playoffs,” Omicioli said. “For the guys mentally, we know that we have a very good team that can make a run for a championship.”
The next round of home games starts with a pair of contests against Huntsville and a Sunday afternoon meeting with the Mississippi RiverKings. The Saturday game starts at 7:05 and Sunday’s game at 3:05.
The Gators have had a pair of roster moves heading into the weekend. Tyler Barr is serving his season-ending suspension for a spearing incident during the Peoria series. Meanwhile, defenseman Jordan Ciccarello returned from loan to South Carolina of the ECHL.
Huntsville comes in with center John Lidgett ranking eighth in the league in points with 33 (11 goals and 22 assists). “Huntsville is going to work,” Omicioli said. “They have skilled forwards. If we are more intense than them and it comes down to skill, we feel we have the depth to take two games. But every game relies on work.”
Gator center Jake Hauswirth has worked his way up to 12 goals and 20 assists and the ninth spot in points after he endured roughly a 6-week stretch earlier in the season between goals. “Hauswirth’s struggles early were not from a lack of effort,” Omicioli said. “Nobody wants to score more than Jake. Now the pucks are falling and he has been making phenomenal plays.”
The next part of the process for the Gators will be improving on their 4-9-3 mark at home. They have thrived on the road despite the long journey -- with a 12-9 record.
“For the last 11 games, we have been booed, had things thrown at us and obviously had no support from opposing fans,” Omicioli said. “We feel like we are playing our best hockey right now.”