Strength of schedule in Mudbugs’ favor at top of stretch run

(Photo courtesy Shreveport Mudbugs)

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

With a dozen games remaining in the 2022-23 regular season, the Shreveport Mudbugs — according to the desired script — are playing some of their best hockey. While fans normally gravitate to the offensive numbers, the improvement of the team’s defensive mindset has impressed its coach the most.

“We’re blocking a lot more shots. We are giving up less Grade-A (scoring opportunities). Defensively, as a whole, we’re playing better,” Mudbugs head coach Jason Campbell said.

Shreveport has allowed more than two goals just once in the past seven games – a 3-2 loss to Lone Star on Feb. 18. Shreveport has recorded two shutouts in the past three games and allowed just one goal in two of the past six games.

Tonight, Shreveport kicks off its final multi-weekend homestand of the season when Amarillo pays a visit to George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum. The Wranglers (25-19-3) cling to playoff hope in the North American Hockey League’s South Division and will likely carry a must-win attitude into the two-game series with the Mudbugs (27-14-7).

Amarillo resides in fifth place in the South, six points behind the final playoff position — fourth-place New Mexico. The Wranglers are eight points behind Shreveport.

As the battle for the quartet of playoff positions heats up, Shreveport has a clear advantage — the easiest remaining schedule of their teams battling in the South.

Shreveport’s remaining opponents have combined to win just 43 percent of their games. The remaining opponents for sixth-place Odessa and second-place Lone Star have won 48 percent of their games. Amarillo is facing squads with a winning record (51 percent) while New Mexico has the toughest route (opponents’ win rate is 54 percent).

New Mexico faces either first-place Oklahoma or second-place Lone Star in six of its final 11 games. Conversely, the Mudbugs have no games left against the top two South teams and six of 12 against bottom feeders El Paso and Corpus Christi.

Amarillo and Odessa both have two games in hand on New Mexico.

The top spot in the South is all but determined, but it’s clear seeds 2-6 are a long way from being settled.

Mudbugs vs. Amarillo

Tonight, Saturday

7:11 p.m., George’s Pond

Strength of remaining schedule 

Five NAHL South teams are battling for three playoff spots with 12 games left to play. First-place Oklahoma is a lock to reach the postseason.

Place in South Division. Team, points, remaining games (win percentage of opponents)

  1. Lone Star, 69, 11 (48 percent)
  2. Shreveport, 61, 12 (42 percent)
  3. New Mexico, 59, 11 (54 percent)
  4. Amarillo, 53, 13 (51 percent)
  5. Odessa, 51, 13 (48 percent) 

Contact Roy at or on Twitter at @Roy Lang III