When Drew Omicioli was hired last September as the new Louisiana IceGators coach, he never felt like he had his full imprint on the team’s roster.
As he began to prepare for his second season at the IceGators’ helm, he made sure that changed.
Omicioli’s version of what the IceGators should look like shouldn’t be very difficult for the local hockey fans to notice as soon as the home opener arrives against Peoria on Thursday, Nov. 5 at the Cajundome.
“We want to beat you on the ice and then we want to beat you up at the same time,” Omicioli said.
That simple description could certainly be labeled as not pulling any punches and that’s exactly what Omicioli has in mind for the 2015-16 IceGators, who are off to a 1-0 start heading into Friday’s game three at Pensacola early in the SPHL season.
“We weren’t locked 100 percent into it (last season) with toughness,” Omicioli said. “I’m not saying that the guys weren’t playing hard. It just wasn’t heavyweight fights. Teams took the liberty to push us around. We’ll never let that happen again while I’m here.”
So to lay down the law, the IceGators signed the likes of 6-6, 260-pound Antony Pisano, 6-3, 210-pound Nicholas Kuquali, 6-5, 220-pound Travis Armstrong, 6-3, 222-pound Geordie Wudrick and 6-0, 212-pound Alex Hudson.
“It’s going to be old IceGators hockey when they were putting 12,000 in the Cajundome,” Omicioli said. “Sure, we’re going to have our share of skilled guys and speed guys, but we’re also going to have guys with grit and toughness. I’ve dedicated myself to building a team that I would want to play on.”
The results are mixed thus far, but it’s awfully hard to judge with a fragmented early schedule. The first game was a 2-1 exhibition loss at Pensacola on Oct. 17, before rebounding with a 2-0 season-opening win at the Mississippi RiverKings six days later.
While long stretches of inactivity can be bad at times, Omicioli appreciated the early-season teaching opportunities it afforded him with his team.
“It gave us good time to work on things,” Omicioli said. “It showed us what we need to really work together on.
“It allowed us to develop more team chemistry, a better team synergy. I can really see our lines meshing together already.”
Omicioli said he saw huge improvement from the first half to the second half in the IceGators’ last game, and he’s hoping that transfer to Friday’s rematch with Pensacola.
“We looked sloppy in the first 30 minutes, but in the next 30 minutes, we really came together and starting making plays,” Omicioli said. “I was very pleased.”
Also on top of his list of encouraging early signs is the talent the IceGators have at goalkeeper in Adam Courchiane and Jonah Imoo.
In the big picture, the 2015-16 season is just getting started, but Omicioli already feels like he’s got a good idea which teams will be finishing in the upper division of the SPHL this season.
“I feel like, if we’re not the best team, we’re one of the top three elite teams in the league,” he said. “I think Peoria, Pensacola and us are all going to be extremely difficult to beat.”
After playing Pensacola again on the road Friday, IceGator fans will get their first peek at their home team against a top contender in Peoria on Nov. 5-7 at the Cajundome.
“I think our fans are really going to enjoy our brand of hockey this season,” Omicioli said.
2015-16 Louisiana IceGators
|6 Stephen Buco||5-9||180||C|
|39 Jeremy Boyer||5-10||170||RW|
|96 Alex Hudson||6-0||212||C|
|19 Jake Hauswirth||6-5||210||C|
|5 Jordan Ciccarello||6-0||210||D|
|72 Mitch Stretch||6-2||180||D|
|3 Nicholas Kuquali||6-3||210||D|
|4 Dan Cornell||6-0||205||D|
|33 Antony Pisano||6-6||260||D|
|35 Jonah Imoo||6-0||170||G|
|1 Adam Courchiane||6-2||200||G|
|9 Luke Kasteel||6-3||210||LW|
|22 Chris Wilson||5-9||180||LW|
|27 Tyler Barr||6-1||228||LW|
|11 Geordie Wudrick||6-3||222||LW|
|20 Blake Hietala||5-10||185||RW|
|2 Travis Armstrong||6-5||220||D|
|15 Trent Ruffolo||5-11||180||LW|
•Friday, At Pensacola, 7:05 p.m.
•Nov. 5, PEORIA, 7:05 p.m.
•Nov. 6, PEORIA, 7:05 p.m.
•Nov. 7, PEORIA, 7:05 p.m.
•Nov. 14, FAYETTEVILLE, 7:05 p.m.
•Nov. 15, FAYETTEVILLE, 3:05 p.m.