There are reasons that Jacksonville Icemen coach Jason Christie liked having Shawn Bates on his roster two years ago.
Christie just preferred not to get an up-close refresher Sunday.
“He’s a gamer… a tough kid, great competitor,” Christie said.
A great competitor who just beat his former coach.
Bates, now playing his third game for the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, scored two early goals to send the Icemen down to an 4-2 loss at Veterans Memorial Arena, putting the brakes on Jacksonville’s recent winning run.
The Icemen (15-24-3-2), who had won five of their previous six, opened the afternoon a little slow to react, a little out of position, a little sloppy in their passing and way down on the scoreboard.
They paid the price.
“We were just coming out and trying to be fancy, and that’s not our style,” Christie said. “We weren’t shooting pucks and we were taking terrible penalties.”
From those penalties to point-blank whiffed shots to a skate in the wrong place, it all added up to another sad Sunday for the Icemen - they’ve lost all six Sunday games this season, all by two goals or more.
The penalties started after just 23 seconds when Tanner Eberle slashed the stick of Greenville’s Caleb Herbert in two, and continued five minutes later when Jacksonville got caught with too many Icemen on the ice.
Both times Bates, who had lined up under Christie with the ECHL’s Tulsa Oilers during the 2015-16 season, punished Jacksonville on the ensuing power plays, the second one caroming into the net off the skate of Jacksonville’s Dajon Mingo.
Goaltender Austin Lotz, who had allowed just one goal in his previous 186 minutes, didn’t even last the first period.
When Sean Flanagan’s left-wing shot rifled into the roof of the net at the 12:32 mark, the third of 10 Greenville shots to get past Lotz, Christie summoned him to the bench and sent Colton Phinney onto the ice in his place.
By the time Jacksonville regained its balance, with Tyson Fawcett scoring late in the first period and Bobby MacIntyre finding the net late for his sixth goal in a week and a half, much of the damage was done.
The rest of that damage came midway through the second. The Icemen failed to convert a scramble in front of the net, defenseman Christopher Dienes couldn’t keep the puck in the attacking zone and Herbert scored on the ensuing three-on-one break to restore a comfortable edge for Greenville (19-22-3-1).
“We miss the net twice point-blank,” Christie said. “Instead of a 3-2 game, they come down and score right off it and it’s 4-1. It was just one of those games.”
Overall, the two-win weekend did bring the Icemen closer to the ECHL playoff chase after spending virtually their entire inaugural season in the South Division cellar. Jacksonville now stands nine points behind the Orlando Solar Bears for the last playoff berth.
But the next two weeks are key. Three of the next five games pit the Icemen against the third-place Atlanta Gladiators, like Jacksonville fighting for one of two playoff spots behind clear leaders Florida and South Carolina. The teams play Thursday and Friday at the arena.