SPHL Playoff Preview: Louisiana IceGators vs. Mississippi RiverKings, Game 3
The phrase “you control your own destiny” is often used in sports. For the Louisiana IceGators, it has never been more true. The IceGators return to the Cajundome tonight for the deciding third game of their SPHL quarterfinal series against the Mississippi RiverKings. A victory would not only propel them into the league semifinals; because top-seeded Fayetteville lost its quarterfinal series, it would assure them home-ice advantage throughout the rest of the playoffs.
That home-ice advantage will be important during the remainder of the playoffs–that is, if the IceGators make it out of the Cajundome alive. The IceGators have won only one of their last six contests. Those five losses, though, all came on the road. Louisiana has been deadly in the Frozen Swamp this year, going 21-5-2 at home this season.
The IceGators went 6-3 against the RiverKings during the regular season, winning four of the five games in that series played in the Cajundome. At the time, the IceGators had a huge insurance policy in the form of goaltender Riley Gill to protect them during ugly games. However, Gill has since been called up to higher leagues, leaving the rest of the team to fend for itself during the postseason.
In order for the IceGators to continue their winning ways against the RiverKings and avoid an early off-season, they must play much more solid defense than what they have over the last few weeks. Turnovers have been a problem, especially early in games and deep in their own zone, allowing opponents to score within the first few minutes of games. The IceGators will also have to stick to the systems and style of play that helped them reach this level–specifically, blocking shots with the body, creating separation with forechecks, and creating scoring opportunities in front of the net. The IceGators play better when they play a physical game. When the IceGators try to play a finesse game, it leaves them vulnerable to turnovers and bad shots, and it has shown in the last few games they have played.
If the IceGators do win tonight, they will open the SPHL semifinals against the Huntsville Havoc in the Cajundome next week on a date and at a time to be determined.