The Louisiana IceGators' modus operandi this season has been to enter the third period trailing by three goals.
On Friday, the IceGators reversed that trend by scoring three goals in the first 10 minutes of the game en route to a 4-2 victory over the Knoxville IceBears. Louisiana (9-4-1) tallied those goals in their first six shots of the game.
Riley Gill was almost unstoppable, stopping 34 of 36 IceBear shots.
The IceGators and the IceBears square off again at 7:05 tonight in the Cajundome.
"I think the start won us the game," IceGators coach Kevin Kaminski said. "We played a good 53 minutes of the game. In the third period, we tried to get to fancy. We tried to make the perfect play in their zone. I told them after the first period that if we play the same way, we'll win the game. We got fancy and let them back in. I guess we're taking baby steps."
The IceGators took advantage of several early Knoxville mistakes. Jordan Foreman opened the scoring 32 seconds into the game on a penalty shot following a hooking call against Ricky Helmbrecht. Nearly seven minutes later, Matt Miller scored from the far point on a two-on-one opportunity. Matt Robertson added a goal of his own at the 9:10 mark off of assists from Denny Kearney and Robert Short. Marc André Carre made the score 4-0 on a power-play goal 30 seconds into the third frame.
Knoxville (9-5-1) attempted a furious comeback in the latter half of the period. Former IceGator Tyler Fernandez took a Brett Valliquette pass and scored on a shot from the right point to make the score 4-1. Eric Satim tacked on a powerplay goal in traffic. Knoxville posted several shots during a five-minute powerplay in the final minutes of the game, but they could not complete the comeback.
That late major penalty came on a Greg Brown cross check with 5:31 remaining in the game. Brown also received a game misconduct on the play for intentionally hitting a player in the head during the cross check.
"I give our boys a lot of credit for killing that last penalty," Kaminski said. "That's why we're number-one in penalty kills.
"When we are on the penalty kill, we have to clear the puck. We didn't do that a couple times tonight, and we got caught. We have to help Gill in those situations."
Kaminski also stressed the importance of sweeping the series.
"This game means nothing if we don't win Saturday," he said. "Second place is on the line, and we have to be hungry to take it."