By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports
The Shreveport Mudbugs are one of the hottest teams in the North American Hockey League. They won nine of 10 games and again clinched a spot in the postseason. However, with two games remaining in the regular season, their job isn’t finished.
The Mudbugs (36-15-7, 79 points) hold a slim one-point advantage over Lone Star (35-15-8, 78 points) for second place in the South Division. The rivals are already guaranteed to meet in the first round of the postseason. The No. 2 seed will have home-ice advantage, including the first two home games, for the five-game series.
The first scenario for Shreveport is simple: Win both games at El Paso this weekend and earn home-ice against the Brahmas for the series starting April 21 and 22. Should the Mudbugs and Brahmas finish in a tie, Shreveport would earn the No. 2 spot. The first tiebreaker is wins, the second tiebreaker is head-to-head record.
“It’s exciting (to think about) the bigger picture, but we have a lot to play for (this weekend),” Mudbugs defenseman Alex Park said. “There is a lot at stake. We’re keeping our head on straight and ready.”
Shreveport won five of the eight games against Lone Star this season.
However, the Mudbugs shouldn’t expect any help this weekend. The Brahmas host last-place Corpus Christi, the team swept by Shreveport last weekend by a combined score of 11-2.
“We want to be at home,” Shreveport associate head coach Michael Hill said. “It’s nice to sleep in your bed the whole week. It’s best to take care of business.”
Record book watch
Aye, aye captain: Garrett Steele will finish the regular season as the all-time NAHL Mudbug iron man and leading goal scorer. He has a chance to leave as the player with the most points, too. Steele has played in 204 games (Davis Goukler is second with 163). He’s scored 47 goals (Cameron Cook is No. 2 with 41). Steele entered the doubleheader at El Paso with 103 career points, three behind franchise leader Gueorgui Feduolov.
Triple Crown: In six seasons, one Shreveport player (Austin Brimmer, 2021-22) has led the team outright in points and assists (and consequently, points). This weekend, Drake Morse has an opportunity to join Brimmer. Morse tied with Steele for the team lead in goals (20) and his 28 assists trail team leader Logan Heroux by one.
Game-winners: Morse has already tied the franchise mark for game-winning goals in a single season. The 20-year-old Michigan product enters the weekend with five and has the best chance to pass Frankie Melton (2016-17), Carson Nichols (2019-20) and Dawson Sciarrino (2020-21). Jake Mack and Hayden Nichol enter the weekend with four game-winners each this season.
Special company: That Morse guy, again. He’s also tied the franchise record for power-play goals in a single season (nine). One more would supplant Melton (2016-17).
Winner, winner: Simon Bucheler has tied the franchise record for victories between the pipes in a single season. One victory this weekend would push the second-year Mudbug past Devon Bobak’s previous mark of 27 (2021-22).
Against all odds: Bucheler is also in a tight race for the franchise’s NAHL best goals-against average in a single season (for qualified goalies). He currently boasts a 1.9213 mark. During the 2019-20 season, Maiszon Balboa finished with a 1.9157 average. During the 2017-18 campaign, both Jaxon Castor (1.50) and James Durham (1.57) excelled between the pipes but missed the 1,200-minute threshold to qualify for GAA marks. This season, Bucheler’s teammate Nikola Goich boasts a 1.27 goals-against average, but has played just eight games.
Blank spaces: Bucheler is tied for another single-season mark – shutouts — but this room is a little more crowded. Three previous Mudbugs goaltenders have posted five shutouts in a season: Durham (2017-18), Balboa (2019-2020) and Bobak (2021-22).
Mudbugs at El Paso
Friday, Saturday (8 p.m. CDT)
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