By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports
As this weekend’s three-game series at Wichita Falls inched closer, Shreveport Mudbugs head coach Jason Campbell knew his workhorse goaltender, Devin Bobak, was going to get a break. However, he didn’t envision a break coming earlier.
However, after Bobak allowed four goals in the first 40 minutes at Lone Star on Saturday, Simon Bucheler – who hadn’t played since Jan. 7 – got the nod to finish things up. Although the Mudbugs lost the game, 5-2, rust be damned, Bucheler blanked the Brahmas and stopped the 11 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes.
With the Mudbugs set to face one of the league’s hottest teams, and the squad in the fourth and final playoff position in the North American Hockey League’s South Division, Campbell has a more complex situation.
“It’s a hard decision,” Campbell told The Journal. “It’s pretty clear one (goaltender) isn’t going to play all three games.
Ride Bucheler’s hot hand in Friday’s opener? Go immediately back to Bobak, who has started 20 of the past 21 games, is the reigning NAHL Player of the Month and is tied for most shutouts (five) in the league?
Bucheler posted a 3-5-1 mark over the first two months of the season before Bobak secured his position as the No. 1.
“I’ll talk with (goaltenders) coach Rich (Parent) and come up with a game plan,” Campbell said.
Sunday’s game replaces one of those cancelled during the scheduled Oct. 22-23 series at Wichita Falls. The Mudbugs will travel to Wichita Falls for a single game March 23 to complete the season series.
No matter which netminder gets the nod during games this weekend, Shreveport needs their best. The Mudbugs enter the weekend in sixth place, six points off the Warriors’ playoff pace. Wichita Falls’ five-game win streak is currently the third longest in the league.
“(Wichita Falls) just had a slow start,” Campbell said. “Coming into the season, I thought they’d be really good. And here they are. They are pretty hot. It’s going to be a real tough challenge.”
Mudbugs at Wichita Falls
Friday (7:05 p.m.), Saturday (7:05 p.m.) and Sunday (6 p.m.)
Kay Yeager Coliseum, Wichita Falls, Texas
Season series, tied 2-2
Dec. 16, Mudbugs, 4-1 (George’s Pond)
Dec. 17, Mudbugs, 4-2 (George’s Pond)
Jan. 7, Warriors, 5-3 (George’s Pond)
Jan. 8, Warriors, 2-0 (George’s Pond)
Campbell believes captain Garrett Steele and forward Niklas Miller will miss Friday’s game and could miss the entire weekend.
Photo by CHRISTI LANG