Bitter end, beautiful memories for Bugs

Lukas Sedlacek knows good pizza. Well, for a New Yorker anyway. While the Staten Island product didn’t fall in love with any local pies during a two-year stint with the Shreveport Mudbugs, he admits a piece of his heart will stay.

“This was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had,” Sedlacek told The Journal.

Sunday, nearly 24 hours after Sedlacek’s junior hockey career – and time in Shreveport – came to a sudden end, tears still poured from the 20-year-old as he tried to reconcile the situation.

“That game (Saturday) night showed our character, all the hard work,” Sedlacek said. “We were last in the division and no one believed in us except our coaching staff.”

Sedlacek was just feet from the puck when Lone Star captain Nicholas Niemo put the finishing touch on a hat trick in overtime and ended the 2021-22 campaign for Shreveport, the defending North American Hockey League champions. As Sedlacek took a knee and watched the Brahmas celebration in disbelief, a virtual slide show lathered in two years of emotions commenced.

“It was a flash of memories of everything I have in Shreveport and all the amazing experiences I had – especially winning a Robertson Cup last year,” said Sedlacek, who simply didn’t want to leave the ice Saturday. “Not being able to do it this year is a hard pill to swallow.”

Sedlacek surprised when asked to pick his favorite Mudbugs memory – other than raising the Cup. He’s authored several obvious choices, including 14 goals during the regular season — a game-winner at Odessa to clinch a playoff berth – and a tally in Game 2 against Lone Star.

“Coming to the rink at 5:45 in the morning before a road trip and working the hardest we could,” Sedlacek said. “It shows the brotherhood and the commitment of the entire organization.”

That’s what it means to be a Mudbug.

Sedlacek wasn’t the only player stunned by Saturday’s ending. And he’s not the only player who will miss putting on a teal and purple sweater. At least 12 players from this playoff roster – just counting players who will be too old in 2022-23 – will not be back.

Shreveport head coach Jason Campbell witnesses this torment every year as players cycle out, but he’s not numb to the intense pain players experience when they realize more than just the season is over.

“It definitely gets to me,” Campbell said. “I know how they feel. I’ve been on both sides of that. It’s not a great feeling. You get very attached to this place – it’s not like any place in this league. From the fans to the billets to the staff, the players and the media – this place is like no other.”

Sedlacek took to what he believes is the community’s love for blue-collared people.

“Shreveport is about how hard you can work, it’s about character and your urgency to play the game at the highest level possible,” he said. “There was never a quit in the Mudbugs. We had that opportunity to do something special, but it didn’t happen.”

Said Campbell: “It’s very easy to fall in love with Shreveport. It makes you proud that it means that much to them.”

Before long, Sedlacek will turn his attention to his next venture – playing Division Il hockey at Aurora (Illinois) University.

“Now, I’ll look every weekend to see how the Bugs are doing and how the next group of kids coming in can make the organization better. It’s the best culture.”


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