Big Mack: Benching sparks ‘ticked’ Mudbugs forward

MACK-NIFICENT: Jake Mack, in his third and final season with the Shreveport Mudbugs, scored the game-winning goal Saturday against Lone Star. (Photo courtesy of Shreveport Mudbugs)

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

About three words into the question during Tuesday’s media gathering, Jake Mack knew what was coming, and it was obvious he was still “ticked,” even 10 days later.

The three-year veteran, who has played 99 regular-season games with the Shreveport Mudbugs, was benched for the team’s Jan. 21 game against Odessa. He had gone pointless for three games and was a minus-4 against Oklahoma on Jan. 14.

“He’s just like every player — every athlete goes through these times in their career. You just don’t have it sometimes and you just need to step away,” Mudbugs head coach Jason Campbell said. “We sat him out one game. I don’t think he needs that to play good, but we thought it was best for the team and for him.

“He came back with a roar.”

Did he ever.

Last Saturday, Mack recorded a season-high three points, including the game-winning goal in the third period during the Mudbugs’ emphatic comeback victory against rival Lone Star.

“It definitely lights a spark in me,” Mack said. “I’m here to play hockey. If I’m not playing hockey, I’m probably pretty ticked off. It sucks (to be a healthy scratch).”

It’s a good bet Mack will be in the lineup when the Mudbugs (20-13-5) play on the road this weekend at Odessa (18-17-1). It’s Shreveport’s first time away from George’s Pond since December.

“Every game, I’m trying to play my best regardless, but (being benched) adds a little more hatred on the ice,” Mack said. “You want to get into it a little more, go check someone. It affects you.”

Mack’s line with Nick Marino and Brent Litchard combined for three goals, four assists and a plus-8 rating in Saturday’s 6-2 victory.

Campbell believes there was no better tonic for the 6-foot-3, 195-pound forward than a weekend series against the Brahmas.

“That’s Jake’s bread and butter to play games like that — they’re heavy and there are going to be close battles. It’s going to take a greasy goal to take the lead or find your way back into the game,” Campbell said. “He’s that type of guy, that type of player – thrives in those opportunities.”

A product of New Hudson, Michigan, Mack spent his rookie season (2020-21) in Shreveport as a teammate to brother Joe (who now plays for Lakehead University), and helped the Mudbugs win a North American Hockey League Robertson Cup. They were the first pair of brothers to be teammates in Shreveport.

“Of course I miss him,” Jake Mack said. “We lived together for that year he was here. It was a long season, like 10 or 11 months. But we’re always talking hockey and stuff. If something is going wrong, he’s always there to help for sure.”

Perhaps it was the game spent in the rafters of The George, or the talks with big brother, but something clicked.

“(Jake) had a great weekend for us, but now it’s about consistency – not just for him, but all the guys,” Campbell said.

Notes: The Mudbugs were stuck outside of Terrell, Texas, for several hours Thursday after a branch went through the windshield of the team bus en route to Odessa, Texas … Shreveport netminder Simon Bucheler captured his second-straight NAHL Goaltender of the Month honor. The Saint-Laurent, Quebec, native posted a 3-1-1 record in five games during January. The Mercyhurst University recruit stopped 127 of 134 shots (.945 save percentage) and posted a 1.39 goals-against-average and two shutouts.

Mudbugs at Odessa

Tonight, Saturday (7:15 p.m.)

Ector County Coliseum

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