LAFAYETTE — Although the Macon Mayhem are at the bottom of the Southern Professional Hockey League standings, they do not need a big boost to move back to the pack.
When the Louisiana IceGators host the Mayhem at 7:05 p.m. Saturday and at 3:05 p.m. Sunday at the Cajundome, there are three points separating the final four teams in the league. Louisiana (7-9-3) stands in seventh place with 17 points, while Macon has 15 points (6-10-3).
“If we win two, we get a nice separation, but if we lose two, we are right in the mix with them,” IceGators coach Drew Omicioli said. “They have some talented forwards and goaltending.”
That group includes former IceGators Jake Trask and Matt Robertson. Trask has two goals and a pair of assists in two games after he came to Macon from the Peoria Rivermen through a trade. Robertson has chipped in three goals in 10 games.
Macon goaltender Garrett Bartus owns a 6-6-1 record and has posted a goals against average of 2.63. However, a high volume of shots from opponents has Bartus leading the league in saves with 494.
“Their goaltending — those numbers are unbelievable,” Omicioli said. “We need to take these games like any others. We want to pick up two home wins and carry that into the new year.”
Goalie Brad Barone’s entry into the IceGators lineup after the ECHL call-ups of Adam Courchaine and Eric Levine has bolstered the Gators in that department. Barone, a former Boston College player, faced a few long nights right out of the gate with the Gators. Three games in three days last weekend contained a couple of overtime contests and shootouts.
“Brad gave us great opportunities to win, and he proved he can be a No. 1 against two good hockey teams,” Omicioli said. “Going to Boston College ... to get there, you have to be terrific. Still, you never know. Some guys are great in practice. But he embraced the opportunity to be a starter.”
After facing the grind of a few consecutive games, there is now the challenge of taking on a team the IceGators have not seen this season. Teams such as Fayetteville and Pensacola have been the opponent a handful of times before the first chance against the Mayhem.
“It’s always nice to get a fresh team to start playing,” Omicioli said. “When you play a team three times in a row, you really start to dislike them by the third game.”
The IceGators will follow the two home games against the Mayhem with a trip to Macon for a third straight meeting. The importance of gaining points against an expansion team might mute any hard feelings that would usually develop over a few games.
“There is always that time frame of getting used to guys (for Macon),” Omicioli said. It is tough at the beginning of the year. But they are playing better now than they were at the beginning. We have to have the same mentality as when we are playing a top-four team. These points are crucial.”