LAFAYETTE, LA – The final three weeks of the SPHL’s regular season will be what defines the Louisiana IceGators season. The Gators, currently seventh in the SPHL standings, have the potential to overtake the sixth place Huntsville Havoc or fall completely out of postseason contention. Below, I illustrate the IceGators’ performance-to-playoff prospects.
If the IceGators get…
|This many points…||They’ll finish…||And likely play…|
|9-12 points||6th||Mississippi RiverKings|
|6-8 points||7th||Pensacola Ice Flyers|
|3-5 points||8th||Peoria Rivermen|
|0-2 points||9th||Le Triomphe Golf and Country Club|
Standing in Louisiana’s way this week is their season-long nemesis, the second place Pensacola Ice Flyers. Pensacola, flying high after last weekend’s sweep of the Peoria Rivermen, are arguably the best team in the SPHL right now. The Ice Flyers’ 152-point (70G/82A) line of Corey Banfield, Adam Pawlick, and Joe Caveney are playing at a level one may find in the ECHL. In eight games between the teams, the Ice Flyers are undefeated – the IceGators forcing overtime only once. The IceGators and Ice Flyers will play a home-and-home series this weekend. The teams will meet in Pensacola on Friday night, and at the Cajundome on Saturday.
If Louisiana are to conceivably overtake Huntsville in the SPHL standings and gain a projected first-round series with the Mississippi RiverKings – a team the IceGators have been very successful against – they will have to take away at least two points from this weekend’s home-and-home series against Pensacola. History, if not the law of averages, favor Louisiana. No IceGators team has ever gone winless throughout an entire season against Pensacola. If the IceGators are to avoid making history in an ignominious way, they will have to do a few things:
- Keep the penalties to a minimum. The Ice Flyers used their excellent power play to perfection against the Rivermen last week, going 6-for-19 (31.6%) with the man advantage. Pensacola has a 22.2% success rate on the power play against Louisiana this season.
- Jump out to an early lead. In last month’s successful road trip to Peoria, the IceGators scored five goals in the first period of the two games they were victorious. Louisiana has only three goals against Pensacola in the opening frame.
- Gain the offensive zone with speed, and force the 6’9″ McLean out from his crease. This is the kind of offense which gives play-makers like Jeremy Boyer and speed guys like Johnny Daniels plenty of chances to score. Boyer has had success against McLean this season, and he’s going to need a big weekend if Louisiana is going to be successful. Settling into a perimeter offense will play right into Pensacola’s strengths.
- Take advantage of David Segal’s absence. It’s likely Pensacola highly effective instigator/enforcer will be out of the Ice Flyers’ lineup, so the Gators can take the upper hand physically – and possibly draw Pensacola defenders into taking unnecessary penalties.
Tonight in the SPHL…
Pensacola Ice Flyers (28-17-4) at Macon Mayhem (21-25-5) – 7:30 ET
- With a win, the Macon Mayhem will overtake the Louisiana IceGators for 7th place.
- Macon leads the season series, 4-2-1. Tonight’s game is the final regular-season meeting between the teams.
- This game features the SPHL’s two leading scorers. Pensacola’s Corey Banfield and Macon’s Shawn Skelly are tied for the league’s scoring lead with 57 points.
- The Mayhem have outscored the Ice Flyers in the third period, 11-5, during this series.
- Pensacola’s Corey Banfield leads both teams in goals during this series with eight.
- Columbus at Fayetteville – 7:05 ET
- Huntsville at Knoxville – 7:35 ET
- Louisiana at Pensacola – 7:05 CT
- Mississippi at Peoria – 7:05 CT