JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Icemen will start their home half of the 2021-22 season this weekend.
The team will kick off the home portion of their fifth anniversary with a game against the South Carolina Stingrays on Saturday night. It is the first game of a home-and-home matchup between the two clubs. It will be the second game of the week for the Icemen. For the first time in team history, Jacksonville will have a road game the night before.
Jacksonville is off to a hot start. The team comes into the week with a 2-0-0-1 record while grabbing the game’s first goal in both of its wins. Meanwhile, South Carolina has its second home game of the season Wednesday before traveling to the River City.
If history repeats itself, the Icemen could continue the hot streak. The team is unbeaten in home-openers through the first four years. This includes a 4-2 win over the Stingrays back in 2018.
The Icemen are off to its second hottest start of the season in team history under first-year head coach Nick Luukko. He is the second person to lead the charge after former Head Coach Jason Christie took a job with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. However, he did bring back much of last year’s squad including seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender.
Fans will pack the house for Saturday night’s tilt with the team expecting a sellout. Here are some keys the team needs to focus on heading into the week.
Short shifts and keeping the pressure
The home opener is smack dab in the middle of a three-game in three-night series with two road games on either side. The team traveled to Atlanta on Thursday afternoon for its Friday night matchup. Right after the game, the Icemen will come back to the River City for the home opener.
They then follow that up with another night of travel to South Carolina for a Sunday afternoon contest. The middle game will be one where you can almost guarantee to see short shifts and maintain line changes. Expect the first period to have a feeling it out mentality between the two clubs. However, these two are no stranger to each other and will provide a lot of firepower.
Rip them early and often
The Icemen have scored first in two of its first three games. The team is also outscoring its opponent 3-1 in the first. However, in the middle frame, the team has been outscored 5-4. The puck is getting cycled around with Jake Elmer leading the team with three goals on the year. Both Abbott Girduckis and Ara Nazarian lead the Icemen in overall points with two goals and three assists.
Zach Berzolla and James Sanchez also have three apples on the season. The team is also rebounding quickly after giving up a goal. In Jacksonville’s first game of the season, the team gave up a goal 18:02 into the second period. But then came back with a tally of its own 44 seconds later. In a game on Sunday in Orlando, the Icemen gave up the game’s first goal 10:13 into the frame. But, recovered by scoring a goal to tie the contest just 27 seconds later.
Lock it up
The Icemen are outscoring its opponent 4-0 in the final frame of regulation. Jacksonville has the fifth-least amount of penalty kills in the league (minimum three games played). The team has been down a man 12 times. However, the Icemen have scored three shorthanded goals; including an empty netter to seal its second win of the season.
Jacksonville will kick off the home half of its fifth anniversary Saturday night at 7 p.m. The Icemen will then hit the road for three games before returning VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on November 12.