By Thomas Pope, Fayetteville Observer (Photo by Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez)
Friday night's hockey game was a duel between the first- and second-place teams in the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Tonight's rematch between Louisiana and Fayetteville will be between teams tied for the lead.
Brian Elser, the first shooter on the ice, was the only one of 10 players to beat either goalie in a best-of-five shootout. His score gave Fayetteville a 5-4 shootout victory, helping the FireAntz improve to 19-10-2. The IceGators dropped to 19-8-2, and both teams have earned 40 points.
Fayetteville goalie Marco Emond (14-8-0) swatted away or gloved all five IceGators' shots and looked completely at ease doing it. But that, he said, is the benefit of 15-plus years as a pro.
"One year when I was in the UHL, we didn't have overtime, we just went straight to shootout," Emond said. "I think we played 17 of them and I won 14 - so I'm comfortable with it."
The ending was a fitting end to a well-played game between the league's best. Fayetteville's Josh McQuade extended his SPHL goals and scoring lead with two of the former and three of the latter. Elser and Bobby Reed also scored in regulation for Fayetteville.
Rob Lawrance had a pair of goals for the IceGators, including one at 9:52 of the third period that tied the game at 4. Neither team could find the net during the five-minute overtime as Emond and his counterpart, Riley Gill, were in shutdown mode.
In the shootout, Fayetteville exercised its option to go first. Coach Mark DeSantis picked Elser because "he just deserved it. He's got a great shot, the ice was getting bad and I know he can shoot the puck."