By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports
The Shreveport Mudbugs head west to face yet another first-place team this weekend.
A two-game set against the Lone Star Brahmas in North Richland Hills, Texas, begins a seven-game road swing and will mark the third time in four weekends the Mudbugs have faced a first-place team from the North American Hockey League’s South Division.
The Mudbugs (18-14-5) and rival Brahmas (23-10-7) have split their four meetings this season, but Lone Star owns quite an advantage in another metric. The Brahmas have outshot Shreveport in every meeting this season and own a staggering 48-shot edge (112-64) in the four games.
“I never knew that,” Mudbugs head coach Jason Campbell said. “It means they are getting more pucks to the net. It’s not really surprising because our D-zone has been a work in progress.”
Not all shots are created the same. Blasts from the points are manageable, shots from the slot can be problematic.
“As long as we’re not giving up a ton of Grade-A opportunities,” Campbell said. “Hopefully you can weather some storms and score more than they do in the end.”
Generating scoring chances has been problematic for Shreveport, who ranks last (29th) in the NAHL in shots on goal this season, but ranks third in shots allowed.
“I’m not overly concerned about shot totals,” Campbell said. “I just know we need to continue to work on our D-zone and we have to be on point against these guys. Hopefully any (shots) we give up come from the outside and they don’t get second and third opportunities.”
Regardless of shot totals, the Mudbugs have done an admirable job of getting back in the playoff hunt. A poor start (15 losses in first 20 games) to the 2021-22 campaign put Shreveport in an unfamiliar position – the bottom of the NAHL South – but 13 victories in 17 games since Dec. 3 has the Teal and Purple within four points of the division’s final playoff position.
“There is a little more confident energy in the locker room, like ‘maybe we can do this,’” Campbell said.
In the South standings, teams 4-7 are within five points.
Shreveport rides a four-game win streak and is 6-0-1 in its past seven, but the Brahmas will certainly have revenge on their minds. Two weeks ago, Shreveport swept Lone Star on George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum.
“They play physical,” Mudbugs forward Niklas Miller said of the Brahmas. “They swarm the puck and come at you from all angles. We have to play a physical game — just play the way they play.”
After the trip to the Metroplex, the Mudbugs will visit Wichita Falls (Feb. 18-20) and Corpus Christi (Feb. 25-26).
Shreveport will return to The George on March 4 to face Odessa.
Mudbugs at Lone Star
Friday and Saturday (7:30 p.m.)
NYTEX Sports Centre, North Richland Hills, Texas
Shots, shots, shots …
Mudbugs vs. Brahmas this season
Nov. 12: Brahmas win, 3-2, lead shots, 23-17
Nov. 13: Brahmas win, 9-2, lead shots, 36-13
Jan. 28: Bugs win, 3-2 (OT); Brahmas lead shots, 27-20
Jan. 29: Bugs win, 2-0; Brahmas, 26-14
Photo by CHRISTI LANG