Bugs Beat: Torrid run extends with sweep of first-place New Mexico

SHOT STOPPER: Goallie Devon Bobak has been key to the Mudbugs’ late-season surge.

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

A recent string of comeback victories let everyone in the North American Hockey League South Division know the Shreveport Mudbugs are unfazed by deficits. This weekend in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Mudbugs proved they can play with the lead, too.

Shreveport swept first-place New Mexico and inched within a point of third place in the South, extending their lead over the first team out of the playoffs to four points with nine games remaining in the regular season.

“It’s all the same,” Mudbugs head coach Jason Campbell told The Journal. “You feel a sense of urgency when you’re down to maybe score some goals and it’s hard to stay poised and patient. At the same time, when you’re up you hope the guys stay poised and patient and hopefully you pull out the win.”

After leading twice in Friday’s series opener against the Ice Wolves, the Mudbugs prevailed in a shootout – the fifth straight time Shreveport has won when a game has gone that far.

The shootout system isn’t broke, so there was certainly nothing for Campbell to fix. He’s employed the same three shooters in the same order. For the second straight game, Austin Brimmer – as the third shooter – tallied the difference maker.

Goaltender Devon Bobak stopped all three New Mexico shooters.

Saturday, the Mudbugs took a 2-0 lead and held on for a 2-1 victory behind another outstanding performance from Bobak, who stopped 70 of 73 shots in the sweep.

“I liked our work ethic,” Campbell said. “We just work. We made mistakes. We know it, the guys know it, but we just keep working.”

The Mudbugs have won nine of 10 games (tied for best in the NAHL during that span) and Bobak is on a personal eight-game win streak.

Shreveport will play a rare midweek game (to make up for an earlier cancellation) at Wichita Falls on Wednesday. A victory would push the Mudbugs past the Warriors into third place.

“We’re ready for a couple of good days of practice,” Campbell said. “The day doesn’t matter. This is a game in hand we have on every team in our division. There is so much motivation there. The boys should be fired up and ready to go.”

Last week’s 3 Stars

1, Devon Bobak, weekend sweep has him third in the NAHL in goals-against average (2.05) and fourth in save percentage (.922).
2, Austin Brimmer, continues to come up with the clutch shootout tally. At a time when every point has mattered, he’s delivered several.
3, Logan Gotinsky, scored twice in Friday’s victory.

NAHL South Division standings

New Mexico (34-14-4), 72 points
Lone Star (31-11-10), 72
Wichita Falls (27-16-8), 62
Shreveport (28-18-5), 61
Odessa (26-21-5), 57
Amarillo (26-23-3), 55
Corpus Christi (23-26-3), 49
El Paso (13-35-4), 30

*top four make the playoffs

Team leaders

Goals: Austin Brimmer, Connor Gatto, 14
Assists: Brimmer, 26
Points: Brimmer, 40
Penalty Minutes: Davis Goukler, 129
Game-winning goals: Connor Gatto, 4
Goals-against average: Devon Bobak, 2.05
Save percentage: Bobak, .922

Up next

The Mudbugs travel to Wichita Falls for a Wednesday affair (7:05 p.m.) before they head to Amarillo for Friday and Saturday games (both 7:05 p.m.)

Photo by CHRISTI LANG