Bugs Beat: Turned around, playoff bound — with room to spare

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports


As the clock approached midnight on the ride home from Odessa on Saturday night, Shreveport Mudbugs head coach Jason Campbell was able to reflect on the chaotic 2021-22 regular season.

His team was fresh off a 2-1 victory that put a bow on a weekend sweep of the Jackalopes and clinched a playoff spot. The last time the Mudbugs were in Odessa they were in last place in the North American Hockey League’s South Division.

Saturday, they’d solidified at least a fourth-place effort and another postseason appearance – their fifth in five full seasons in junior hockey. Not long ago, Saturday’s scenario seemed improbable. Especially considering the regular season isn’t complete.

“It’s crazy that we have four games left in the season,” Campbell said. “I’m really proud of the guys. They were under the gun for a long time and they completed a pretty monumental task.”

No, the Mudbugs didn’t set out simply to make the playoffs this season. They are the defending Robertson Cup champions. However, given the early season woes — including losing 14 of 18 at one point — Campbell realized the run deserved acknowledgement.

“We said, ‘Congratulations, great job. You made the first step, but to really feel the elation of a winner and a champion, it’s going to take more than what you’ve given up to this point,’” Campbell said.

Friday, the Mudbugs never gave Odessa an opportunity to believe. Austin Brimmer’s goal 2:03 into the game was the first of four goals for Shreveport in the opening period. The Mudbugs cruised 4-1.

But Saturday night, with the chance to clinch on the line, things were a little tougher.

Odessa took the lead early in the second period before Garrett Steele tied things up with 4:09 left in the period. Lukas Sedlacek’s goal 5:45 into the third period was the difference in a 2-1 win.

For Campbell, Saturday didn’t provide much of an emotional moment, even though he’s been through the ringer on and off the ice this season.

“I had the same emotion I do every night — nothing too high and nothing too low,” he said. “Maybe, there was a little bit of relief from that pressure (of making the playoffs), but it was business as usual. That won’t change until the last game we play this season.”

Mudbugs’ Iron Man

Barring disaster, Shreveport defenseman Davis Goukler will become the most experienced player in the franchise’s NAHL-era on Saturday. Goulker’s 160th career regular-season game in a Mudbugs uniform will break the mark previously held by Gueorgui Feduolov (2016-2019). Lone Star head coach Dan Wildfong leads the organization in regular-season games played (488).

Mudbugs all-time regular-season appearances (NAHL)

Davis Goukler (159)
Gueorgui Feduolov (159)
Billy Feczko (148)
Jay Feiwell (144)
Garrett Steele (142)
David Breazeale (140)

Journal’s 3 Stars

1. Devon Bobak, stopped 63 of 65 shots over the weekend and has won 11 of his past 12 starts

2. Lukas Sedlacek, collected the game winner in the third period of Saturday’s clinching effort

3. Austin Brimmer, the Mudbugs started fast Friday and Brimmer set the stage 2 minutes in

NAHL South Division standings

*Lone Star (35-11-10), 80 points
*New Mexico (35-16-5), 75
*Wichita Falls (32-16-8), 72
*Shreveport (32-19-5), 69
Odessa (27-24-5), 59
Amarillo (26-27-3), 55
Corpus Christi (24-29-3), 51
El Paso (14-38-4), 32

*clinched playoff spot

Team leaders

Goals: Austin Brimmer, 18
Assists: Brimmer, 30
Points: Brimmer, 48
Penalty Minutes: Davis Goukler, 131
Game-winning goals: Connor Gatto, Lucas Sedlacek, 4
Goals-against average: Devon Bobak, 2.02
Save percentage: Bobak, .924

Up next

The final homestand of the regular season begins with a pair against Corpus Christi (Friday and Saturday, 7:11 p.m.)