Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Cudas Find a Home in Playoffs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Cudas Find a Home in Playoffs

Article excerpt

Byline: JASON SCHNEIDER, The Times-Union

No matter where it is, ice is always two hydrogen atoms and a lone oxygen atom locked in a frozen state. It doesn't matter if it's from the North Pole or your kitchen freezer.

So, in theory, it shouldn't make a difference on which patch of frozen water the Jacksonville Barracudas play on.

But it does.

This season the Barracudas, which open the World Hockey Association 2 playoffs tonight at 7:05 against the Miami Manatees, are 26-4 when playing at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, where its first-round best 2-of-3 series will be held.

And the 'Cudas are just 14-14-1 on the road. So it's no wonder that they are confident about the WHA2 playoffs, considering they would have to play one road game at most to win the inaugural league title.

The top-seeded Barracudas will play all of the Manatees series at home -- including game two Wednesday and a possible game three Thursday -- because the Manatees, who vacated the Miami Arena on March 3, have no home.

"We're just more comfortable in our surroundings," 'Cudas coach Ron Duguay said. "After a while this place becomes like a second home to the players."

The players are more comfortable because they have spent the previous night in their own beds and dressed in their own lockers, and there is a physical advantage to playing at the arena.

Not all the rinks in the WHA2 are the same size. All are close in dimensions, but the size determines how big the ice can be. The 'Cudas' home is as big or bigger than the rest of the rinks in the league.

That might not make much of a difference for some teams, but for the regular-season champions an extra inch here or there is sometimes enough space to slip a cross-ice pass through the defense or to allow a 'Cudas forward to squeeze between a defenseman and the boards.

"We've got a lot of skill players," Jacksonville forward Klage Kaebel said, "and we like to be able to spread things out on the ice and have room to skate. …

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