As the Louisiana IceGators start a three-games- in-three-nights stretch Friday at 7:05 p.m., in Pensacola, Florida, coach Drew Omicioli is stressing that his squad cannot allow minor moments to become major opportunities for the Ice Flyers.
When the teams met a week ago, the Ice Flyers converted 3-of-11 power play chances in a 5-2 Pensacola win. It provided a blueprint for the Gators in their upcoming weekend workload that also features a home game against the first-place Mississippi RiverKings at 7:05 p.m. Saturday and another home date with Pensacola at 3:05 p.m. Sunday.
“Against Pensacola and Mississippi, you have to stay out of the (penalty) box,” Omicioli said. “In five-on-five, I think we are the better team. But they have better special teams.”
It is a point that was made Monday when Omicioli put his squad through a practice heavy on skating and light on shooting.
“I felt like we played 15 good minutes last Friday, so they owed me 45 minutes.”
Recently acquired goaltender Brad Barone is scheduled to get the start for the Gators on Friday.
Barone played for Boston College for three years. He posted a 2.69 goals against average in the 2014-15 season.
“He comes from one of the most prestigious college programs in Boston College,” Omicioli said. “He is a smaller goalie at 5-10, but he makes up for it with speed that is at a different level.”
The Gators (6-8-2) have had a handful of looks at the Pensacola (9-6-1) offense led by winger Corey Banfield, who leads the Southern Professional Hockey League with 20 points (10 goals and 10 assists). The Saturday showdown against Mississippi (13-4-1) will feature an opponent which has one of the top centers in the league. Devin Mantha has 12 assists.
“Mississippi is a freewheeling team with a lot of energy that is constantly looking to attack,” Omicioli said. “Their only weakness is they can get scattered in the defensive zone. We need to force them (defensively) to decrease their speed in the neutral zone.”
The call-up of defenseman Anthony Pisano to the ECHL will leave the IceGators a defender short. However, forward Luke Sandler will join the team in Pensacola to give them a physical wing player and the numbers to slide a forward into a defender slot, if needed.
“We have to put in a solid 60 minutes,” Omicioli said. “We started well against Pensacola last Friday, and then we had six minutes in penalties and it’s 1-1. We get very deflated when we get scored upon. We have to counter that.”