LAFAYETTE — The IceGators turned their regular season-ending success into a pair of wins Saturday night.
Not only did Louisiana close its schedule with a 3-1 win over the Knoxville Ice Bears, the Gators also moved up a spot into the sixth seed heading into the Southern Professional Hockey League playoffs.
That puts Louisiana against the third-seeded Mississippi RiverKings in an opening-round series this week.
“We will take (Sunday) off and start preparing on Monday and Tuesday for Mississippi,” Gators coach Drew Omicioli said. “We had success against them in the regular season, but they have guys like Leo Thomas and Devin Mantha back. So we will have to fine tune some things.”
Although Louisiana converted just 1-of-6 power play chances against Knoxville, the Gators possessed the puck for long periods to contribute to an eventual 40-27 advantage in shots on goal.
“There was great puck movement, we won faceoffs and maintained control of the puck,” Omicioli said. “I thought we dominated that whole game.”
The Gators broke the ice in the opening period when Massimo Lamacchia found Zac Frischmon in front of the net with a pass. Frischmon put the puck past Knoxville goalie Brian Billett with 8:34 remaining to give the Gators a 1-0 lead.
The Gators doubled their advantage midway through the second period when a one-man advantage turned into a Luke Sandler goal and a 2-0 cushion.
“We played our system and clogged up the middle,” Omicioli said. “We focused on having no turnovers, staying disciplined and shooting the puck. We did a great job with intangibles going into the playoffs.”
Matt Robertson scored the Gators’ final goal of the regular season when he let loose a slap shot from the left circle that went between Billett’s legs and changed the tally to 3-0.
Zack LaRue enabled the Ice Bears to avoid the shutout when he scored on a quick shot directly off a faceoff with less than two minutes left.
The Gators (26-26-4) will have a home playoff game Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. at the Cajundome against Mississippi as part of that 2-of-3 series.