LAFAYETTE -- As a proven opponent awaits, the Louisiana IceGators geared up for the ride to Pensacola and made some adjustments on the fly.
The Gators (22-24-4) head into a pair of 7:05 p.m. games against the Ice Flyers — on Friday in Pensacola and Saturday at the Cajundome — searching for a couple of things: some momentum and their first win over Pensacola this season.
The teams have faced each other eight times, and Pensacola (28-17-4) has won all of them.
“We have played them in eight games, and I have seen their top guys (Corey Banfield and Adam Pawlick) get hit in about three of them,” Gators coach Drew Omicioli said. “We are playing playoff hockey right now. We have to be physical with hard, clean body checks and constant pressure. If you give those guys space and let them skate around, they will get two or three points on you.”
The IceGators will be facing some roster adjustments because of injuries. Defensemen Eric Tallent and Ben Kramer are dealing with concussions. Tallent’s absence will be longer term (injured reserve), and Kramer is going through a seven-day concussion protocol before he returns to action. The Gators had Dalton Jay and Tyler Prendergast flying into Baton Rouge to get them on board.
“We have four defensemen right now for (Friday) night at Pensacola, and we are trying to sign another defenseman,” Omicioli said. “If you play four defensemen, you have guys with more of a chance of getting injured. It’s one of those things we have to fight through.”
The strength of the Ice Flyers’ power play has been one major piece that has propelled them into a tie for second place in the league with the Mississippi RiverKings. Banfield and Pawlick have played in all 49 Pensacola games. They are two of the top three scorers in the league, with 57 and 53 points.
In addition to that offensive skill, the Ice Flyers have benefited from the strides made by 6-foot-9 goalie John McLean, who recently shared Easton Player of the Week honors with Pawlick. McLean is second in the league with a 2.23 goals against average. He is also third in wins (17) and save percentage (.926).
“You have to give credit to McLean,” Omicioli said. “He bounced around a little bit last season. He has been making the saves. There are a lot of tall goalies who are not as quick and limber as him. It will be a challenge, but every goaltender is beatable. We have to find those spots (against him).”