Mudbugs have work to do after respite

BUBBLING TO GO: The Shreveport Mudbugs (shown enjoying bubble hockey) will complete their five-week road trip with two games at El Paso this weekend. (Photo courtesy Shreveport Mudbugs)

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

The Shreveport Mudbugs have won just seven of their first 20 games to start the 2022-23 season, but a week off may have given the squad an opportunity to get back in the North American Hockey League South Division race.

“I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey yet,” Mudbugs defenseman Alex Park said. “We have a lot of potential. It’s a long season. I’m excited to see us explode out of this break.”

Many players had the opportunity to go home after the Mudbugs (7-9-4) wrapped up a series at Lone Star on Nov. 12. Tonight, the season resumes at El Paso (8-10). With 20 games down and 40 to go, Shreveport enters the game in fifth place in the South (the top four make the playoffs).

“We’re underachieving,” head coach Jason Campbell said. “That’s not good enough. The guys know that. But even though we’re under .500, we have competed well against some really good teams and we know we’re in a battle. We have to figure out a way to string some wins together and get into a playoff spot.”

Much of the struggle revolves around an inability to put the puck in the net.

Shreveport ranks 28th of the 29 NAHL teams in offense (1.95 goals per game). The power play needs a spark, too, as the Mudbugs rank 26th in the league (11.8 percent).

“We’ve been playing OK,” Mudbugs forward Jaden Goldie said. “We have to find consistency and start burying our (scoring) opportunities.”

The Mudbugs’ place in the standings certainly didn’t affect the energy level as players returned to practice early in the week.

“We’re rip-roaring and ready to go,” Campbell said. “The boys are fired up.”

Shreveport made some moves during the holiday week. The Mudbugs traded forward Logan Valkama to Bismarck. They added a tender, forward Gavin Cherry (6-foot-4, 170 pounds).

Tonight begins the first series against the Rhino. After Saturday’s game, the Mudbugs will enjoy a home game (Dec. 2 vs. New Mexico) for the first time in six weeks.

Mudbugs at El Paso

Tonight and Saturday (8 p.m.)

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