Mudbugs hope mind-set leads to special-teams fix

LOOKING FOR A FIX: Forward Hayden Nichol and the Shreveport Mudbugs aim to stop a three-game losing streak when they travel to New Mexico this weekend. (Photo courtesy of SHREVEPORT MUDBUGS)

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

Special teams often get lumped together. However, nothing – at least on paper — about the Shreveport Mudbugs’ power-play unit and their penalty-kill unit are similar.

With more than a quarter of the 2022-23 season gone (16 of 60 games), the Mudbugs’ penalty-kill unit has successfully defended nine of 66 tries, for an 86-percent success rate – fifth-best of the 29 North American Hockey League teams.

Shreveport’s power-play unit? It’s converted eight of 57 (14 percent) opportunities this season – 23rd in the league.

It’s even worse than those numbers indicate.

Shreveport has netted an NAHL-worst three goals with the man-advantage as it’s allowed a league-worst five short-handed goals. The most crushing blow – a shortie allowed while up 3-0 at Oklahoma in the third period Saturday.

“Our power play just didn’t compete enough,” Mudbugs head coach Jason Campbell said. “We gave them so much time and space when they had the puck, they just buried one on us.”

The shorty sparked the Warriors to a 4-3 overtime victory and a weekend sweep of the Mudbugs.

Not the ideal way to begin a five-week road trip.

“It gets fixed with mind-set,” Campbell said. “You have to outwork your opponent, even when you’re up one player. They’re not going to stop working; in fact they’re almost going to be more dialed in and working harder to kill (the penalty) off.”

Things must change as the Mudbugs (6-7-3) head to second-place New Mexico (9-2-1) for a weekend doubleheader beginning Friday.

“I told them: ‘You can do one of two things: You can let it ruin you or you can let it help make you better.’

“I know where we’re going with it – the latter part.”

Coaching can only do so much. Leadership and accountability can help secure a long-term fix.

“These guys are too good for (what’s been happening),” Campbell said. “(The players) will take care of it in the locker room. All we can do (as coaches) is talk about it and implement practice plans and game plans to get better. They ultimately have to take charge of their game. They’ll be the ones doing 90 percent of the getting-better stuff.”

Mudbugs at New Mexico

Friday, Saturday (7:30 CDT)
Outpost Ice Arenas,
Albuquerque, New Mexico

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