By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports
The challenge appears Mt. Everest-esque for Shreveport’s Mudbugs.
For starters, the Mudbugs trail the Lone Star Brahmas 2-0 in their best-of-five first-round playoff series entering tonight’s Game 3.
Add in the fact a No. 1 seed in the North American Hockey League’s South Division is 20-0 in first-round playoff series since the division was formed in 2003. The South’s regular-season champion is on a 12-0 run in any South playoff series since Amarillo lost in the 2014 South Final.
Not only are the Brahmas’ the South’s top seed, they are the top overall seed in the NAHL postseason.
However, don’t expect Shreveport to roll over when the teams take the ice on George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum for the 7:11 p.m. faceoff.
“This is old news for us,” Mudbugs head coach Jason Campbell said. “We did this all during the regular season. We said we were playing for our season and we still had games to play. Now, our literal season is on the line and we need to respond like we did in the regular season.”
The first half of the Mudbugs’ season featured an eight-game losing streak during a stretch where they lost 11 of 12 games. Shreveport rallied from last place in the South to nab the No. 4 seed in the divisional round.
“We dug ourselves out (of that situation), so now the boys are still confident,” Mudbugs defenseman John Hallard said.
As was the case during the regular season, scoring opportunities were limited against Lone Star as Shreveport dropped a pair of one-goal games (1-0 in Game 1, 3-2 in Game 2) last weekend in North Richland Hills, Texas.
“(The Brahmas) work hard in the D-zone. They are well-connected and that’s hard to poke holes in,” Campbell said. “You just can’t give the puck away once you possess it. You can’t throw it away blind. You have to battle. You have to work extremely hard.”
The Mudbugs have faced an 0-2 deficit just once in their NAHL tenure — they lost Game 3 and were swept by Corpus Christi in their first NAHL playoff appearance (2017).
This season marks the fifth time Shreveport has qualified for the playoffs. So far, the Mudbugs have won a Robertson Cup title half the time (2018, 2021).
The Mudbugs have been stellar when they’ve faced elimination during their time in the NAHL. Shreveport is 7-2 with its season on the line, including a perfect 4-0 mark at The George.
“It’s about work ethic and not panicking — trusting in what you’re doing,” Campbell said. “You have to chip away at this — baby steps. You can’t think of the end result, because then you’re just hoping to win. You have to execute.”
Players like Lukas Sedlacek, who know this is their last season in Shreveport due to the league’s age limitations, have extra motivation entering tonight.
“This might be the last time I play in Shreveport, but at the same time I don’t want it to be the last time I play in Shreveport,” Sedlacek said.
What do they know about pressure?
The Shreveport Mudbugs’ record when facing elimination during their time in the NAHL:
(7-2 overall, 4-0 at home)
2017, down 0-2 in South semi, lost 2-1 at Corpus Christi
2018, tied 2-2 in South semi, won 2-1 vs. Corpus Christi
2018, tied 2-2 in South Final, won 3-2 vs. Lone Star
2018, Robertson Cup Final, won 2-1 vs. Minot in Blaine, Minn.
2019, down 2-1 in South semis, won 3-2 vs. Lone Star
2019, tied 2-2 in South semis, won 3-2 (3 OT) at Lone Star
2019, down 2-1 in South Final, won 2-0 vs. Amarillo
2019, down 2-0 in South Final, lost 6-0 at Amarillo
2021, Robertson Cup Final, won 4-2 vs. Aberdeen in Blaine, Minn.
Bugs vs. Brahmas
Friday, 7:11 p.m., George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum
Game 3 of NAHL South semifinal (Lone Star leads best-of-5 series, 2-0)
Game 1, April, 22: Lone Star, 1-0
Game 2, April 23: Lone Star, 3-2
*Game 4, Saturday at George’s Pond
*Game 5, Monday at NYTEX Sports Centre
Photo by CHRISTI LANG