The Louisiana IceGators' coaching staff has preached all season long the necessity of jumping out to a fast start and not looking back.
The IceGators did just that Thursday night.
Despite allowing an early goal, Louisiana recovered and scored four unanswered goals en route to a 5-2 victory. The IceGators outshot Fayetteville 18-7 in the first period and went 2-6 on the power play during the game.
The victory also returns the IceGators (21-12-3) to first place in the Southern Professional Hockey League standings. The IceGators put that lead on the line Friday night when they host the Mississippi RiverKings. Game time in the Cajundome is 7:05 p.m.
“It was a solid 40 minutes,” said IceGator head coach Kevin “Killer” Kaminski. “I know the shot tally says otherwise, but I didn't think our compete level was very good. We were too fancy and trying to play pond hockey. We had 17 turnovers and gave them their opportunities, including three 2-on-1 opportunities.
“We responded to our mistakes and got back to playing stingy, greasy hockey in the last two periods. We played with more emotion. Everybody got back on the same page.”
Derek Elliot gave Fayetteville a 1-0 lead at the 4:20 mark of the first period off assists from John Clewlow and Matt Ridley.
Then the IceGators pounced.
Shawn McNeil tied the game at the 12:13 mark of the first frame. Brett Peppler gave the IceGators a 2-1 lead four minutes into the second period. Jeff Grant tacked on a power play goal two minutes later to make the score 3-1. Matt Robertson scored a power play goal of his own five minutes into the third period to put Louisiana ahead 4-1.
Justin Barr temporarily stopped the bleeding by recording a power play with 6:14 left in the game.
The IceGators reopened the wound 45 seconds later with an Adam Stuart score.
Kaminski said his squad displayed in this game the type of play that will carry them to success for the rest of the season.
“We have to frustrate other teams on our offense,” Kaminski said. “We have to take the puck, be responsive, and take advantage. I have to give my guys credit because they did that in the last two periods.”
Kaminski says his teams that Friday night's game against the RiverKings will come down to a battle of wills between the longtime rivals.e
“We know what they do with their systems, so we have to execute ours,” Kaminski said. “It comes down to who wants it more. Our goaltending and defense have been outstanding the last few games, and guys seem to trust each other a little more. That's what we need to win again [Friday].”
“Now that the sun's shining, we have to make hay.”