Bugs Beat: Last-second goal sparks impressive trip to New Mexico

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

A two-game road trip to the first-place team is a classic situation that calls for “a split.” Sure, you’d like to win both games, but if you can win every other road game against playoff-quality opponents, it bodes well in the standings.

A split looked like a tough task for the Shreveport Mudbugs as they trailed New Mexico and the final seconds of the third period ticked away.

Then lightning struck.

Connor Gatto scored the tying goal with less than 1 second remaining to force overtime.

Although the Mudbugs lost (4-3) in a shootout, they gained an all-important point in the standings.

“We didn’t think we played a very good game at all, but again, timely goals,” Mudbugs head coach Jason Campbell told the Journal. “We almost snuck away with two points.”

On Saturday, the Mudbugs led throughout, only to watch the Ice Wolves score late in the third period to tie the game (1-1).

However, Shreveport flipped the script this time. Veteran Billy Fezcko posted the lone goal in the shootout and the Mudbugs escaped Albuquerque with better than your typical split.

“Three out of four (points) is a great weekend here in New Mexico,” Campbell said.

Although Timofei Khokhlachev didn’t participate in the shootout Saturday, his head coach believes he may have been the difference maker.

“KoKo was trying to fire the guys up before the shootout, maybe that’s what worked,” Campbell said.

Shreveport dropped a spot in the standings (Corpus Christi swept El Paso), but still moved closer to a playoff position. The Mudbugs entered the weekend eight points behind fourth-place Amarillo and loaded the bus for home just five points back.

Last week’s 3 Stars

1. Austin Brimmer, became first Mudbug to reach 10 goals scored with a first-period tally on Saturday

2. Connor Gatto, helped Shreveport steal a point Friday when he scored with 1 second left in regulation to force overtime

3. Billy Feczko, lone player to score in Saturday’s shootout

NAHL South Division standings

New Mexico (23-10-3), 49 points
Lone Star (20-9-6), 46
Odessa (20-13-3), 43
Amarillo (19-14-2), 40
Wichita Falls (16-13-7), 39
Corpus Christi (17-18-2), 36
Shreveport (15-14-5), 35
El Paso (13-19-3), 29

*top four make the playoffs

Team leaders

Goals: Austin Brimmer, 10
Assists: Connor Gatto, 18
Points: Austin Brimmer, 27
Penalty Minutes: Davis Goukler, 99
Game-winning goals: Gunner Moore, Garrett Steele, Gatto, 3
Goals-against average: Devon Bobak, 2.08
Save percentage: Bobak, .919

Up next

The first-place team last week, second-place team this week. Shreveport returns home to face Lone Star on George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum (Friday and Saturday at 7:11 p.m.).

“Oh boy, she’s going to be a war, right?” Campbell said. “We’re going to have to be on our A game.”

Photo:  of Austin Brimmer by TERI JOHNSON