Sweep vaults Mudbugs into second in penultimate weekend of regular season

(Photo by CHRISTI LANG, Journal Sports)

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

An uneven start to the 2022-23 campaign forced the Shreveport Mudbugs to play catch up from the jump. While they aren’t going to make it to the top of the North American Hockey League’s South Division standings, one heck of an impressive run has given them something they haven’t had in a couple of seasons.

Home-ice in their own hands.

Saturday, the Mudbugs completed a rousing sweep of Corpus Christi and moved into second place in the South Division – a place they hadn’t been since winning the first game of the season.

“It seems like such a long time coming – it’s been a journey,” Mudbugs head coach Jason Campbell said.

With two games left in the regular season, Shreveport is one point ahead of the Lone Star Brahmas in the race for the division’s No. 2 seed. The owner of the No. 2 seed will have home-ice advantage when the rivals face off in the first round of the playoffs.

“We want home ice,” Campbell said after his team dissected Corpus Christi by scores of 6-1 (Friday) and 5-1 (Saturday) on George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum. “You never know, you could get it for the second round, too.”

The Mudbugs finish the regular season with a two-game series at seventh-place El Paso on Friday and Saturday. The Brahmas will host Corpus Christi for their final two games.

Success came off the ice, too, as Shreveport captured its fifth straight NAHL attendance title Saturday. The Mudbugs finished their home schedule with an average of roughly 2,700 fans.

“Credit to the office staff,” Campbell said. “And the time we spend in the community pays off, too. Of course, I believe the players performing and executing helps. It’s a full-scale operation from hockey on, through. We’re thankful for the community’s support.”

Note: Former Mudbug defenseman CJ McGee helped Quinnipiac capture its first NCAA Men’s National Hockey Championship on Saturday. The 6-foot, 180-pounder played one season in Shreveport (2018-19), and he led Mudbugs blue-liners with 10 goals and 33 assists in 56 games. He earned first Team All-NAHL honors and was named to the NAHL All-Rookie Team. He was also the NAHL South Rookie of the Year.

Last week’s 3 Stars

  1. Eric Vitale, collected three goals and an assist in a dominant effort against the IceRays.
  2. Drake Morse, a three-point weekend for the Mudbugs’ season leader in several categories.
  3. Alex Park, the defenseman had a goal and an assist in Friday’s win and added a helper on Saturday.

NAHL South Division standings

z-Oklahoma (44-12-2), 90 points

x-Shreveport (36-15-7), 79

x-Lone Star (35-15-8), 78

Amarillo (32-23-3), 67

New Mexico (31-23-4), 66

Odessa (30-25-3), 63

El Paso (17-37-4), 38

Corpus Christi (11-40-7), 29

*top four make the playoffs 

z-clinched division 

x-clinched playoff spot 

Team leaders

Goals: Garrett Steele, Drake Morse, 20

Assists: Logan Heroux, Morse, 28

Points: Morse, 48

Penalty Minutes: Hayden Nichol, 88

Game-winning goals: Morse, 4

Goals-against average: Simon Bucheler, 1.92

Save percentage: Bucheler, .922

Up next

Shreveport completes the regular season with a road trip to El Paso (Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.).

Contact Roy at roylangiii@yahoo.com or on Twitter @roylangiii