Mudbugs’ wild season ends with overtime loss

TOO HOT TO HANDLE: Nicholas Niemo (28) celebrates after he scored the series-clinching goal in overtime of Saturday’s Game 4 of a NAHL South Division semifinal against the Shreveport Mudbugs. The goal was Niemo’s third of the game.

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

In some circles, a broken pane of glass leads to seven years of bad luck.

Saturday, the Lone Star Brahmas needed just 20 seconds to alter the direction of the Shreveport Mudbugs’ season.

Just when it seemed the death-defying Mudbugs would author yet another storybook chapter to the wacky 2021-22 campaign, a window sheet shattered in the Shreveport zone at George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum.

The Mudbugs’ staff worked quickly to replace the glass behind the net with less than 4 minutes remaining in Game 4 of an NAHL South Division semifinal, but the break served as a much-needed timeout for the visitors, who trailed and appeared to be on their heels in the wake of Shreveport’s third-period rally.

Play had barely resumed when the Brahmas tied the game to force overtime.

“Things were rolling,” Mudbugs head coach Jason Campbell told The Journal. “Sure, (the break) may have come at a bad time, but we have to overcome that.”

Twenty seconds into overtime, Shreveport captain Garrett Steele chopped the stick out of an opponent’s hands and was whistled for slashing. Less than a minute into the extra session, Lone Star delivered the coup de grace on the Mudbugs’ roller-coaster season.

“If we give the ref something to call, we have no control of what he does from there,” Campbell said. “It’s not like our guy needed to do that. The referee called it and our penalty kill needed to come through. No matter what, you have to deal with it,” Campbell said.

The top-seeded Brahmas’ 4-3 victory put a stamp on a 3-1 South Division semifinal series win, their first against Shreveport in three NAHL postseason meetings. Shreveport’s season ended in the first round for the first time since their inaugural NAHL postseason appearance (2017).

The Mudbugs fell in a 2-0 series hole, but dominated Friday’s Game 3 (winning 4-1) and Saturday twice rallied from deficits to take the lead on a goal from Hayden Nichol midway through the third period. However, Shreveport was battling the best team in the league and history.

Since the NAHL’s South Division was instituted in 2003, no top seed has lost a first-round series. The Brahmas pushed the streak of division series (semi or final) wins by the South’s No. 1 seed to 13-0.

Lone Star, coached by former Mudbugs star Dan Wildfong, will face the winner of Monday’s Game 5 between Wichita Falls and New Mexico.   

‘Koko’ recovering from nasty hit

The Mudbugs lost a key player midway through the second period as Tim Khokhlachev was the victim of a nasty hit along the wall. Lone Star’s Artur Turansky earned a 5-minute major for checking from behind and a game misconduct. Shreveport took advantage of the extended power play to tie the game at 1 with a tally from Burke Simpson.

“Koko” stayed on the ice for several moments and never returned to the game after the hit. Although the 6-foot-4 forward was later seen in a neck brace, Campbell said he likely avoided serious injury.

“I think he’s doing OK,” Campbell said. “He definitely showed signs of a concussion.”

It was an unfortunate way for the Russian’s career with the Mudbugs to end. Despite missing an entire season due to the COVID pandemic, the American International College commit leaves as the all-time franchise leader in regular-season game-winning goals (nine) during Shreveport’s time in the NAHL.

Photo by CHRISTI LANG


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