By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports
Sunday afternoon, not long after he stepped off the bus following a 13-hour trip from El Paso, Texas, Jason Campbell was still ticked about what transpired in the Shreveport Mudbugs’ final series of the regular season.
In reality, just a 10-minute span changed the complexion of the playoffs.
“It’s very disappointing. We just weren’t ready to go,” Campbell said. “It’s unfortunate, because the last five periods of hockey (on the weekend) were pretty good. “It does piss me off still, but I have to move on. We made our own bed, so we have to deal with it. We have big job ahead of us.”
Friday’s 4-2 loss to El Paso, marked by a 3-0 deficit in the first half of the first period, means the Mudbugs will not sleep in their own beds during the first weekend of the postseason.
Even though the Mudbugs came back to defeat the Rhinos 2-0 on Saturday, Shreveport’s loss Friday, combined with Lone Star’s sweep of Corpus Christi, dropped the Mudbugs to third place in the North American Hockey League’s South Division, one point behind the Brahmas, who boast home-ice advantage when the rivals face-off in a best-of-5 opening round series.
Game 1 will take place Friday night in North Richland Hills, Texas, in the DFW metroplex at the NYTEX Sports Centre. Game 2 is set for the following night before the series shifts to Shreveport beginning April 28 on George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum.
Shreveport entered last weekend with a one-point lead on Lone Star and also had the tiebreaker to fall back on.
“We can always look back and find a point,” Campbell said. “We lost a game in Blaine we shouldn’t have. We lost a couple of big leads to Oak City. We can look back, but it’s not worth it at this point. The playoffs are set and we’re one of the four teams left competing for the South title.”
Even though Lone Star (37-15-8) owns home-ice for Games 1, 2 and potentially 5, Shreveport (37-16-7) has reason to be confident. The Mudbugs won five of the eight games during the season series, including two of the four in Texas. Overall, Shreveport won 19 games on the road and 18 at home.
“It boils down to competing,” Campbell said. “That’s everything. We have our systems and they have theirs. If you’re not willing to compete against them, they will beat you.
“We competed hard against them and were fortunate enough to beat them in the series, but we still finished one point behind them in the standings. We have a big-time job to do. They had a great season, too.”
A first-round series win would make Friday’s debacle moot.
Top-seeded Oklahoma will face No. 4 Amarillo in the other South semifinal after the Wranglers won their final nine games of the season to clip New Mexico by a single point for the final playoff spot.
Saturday’s 2-0 shutout by Shreveport goaltender Simon Bucheler gave him a pair of NAHL franchise records. Bucheler, who was pulled after allowing two quick goals Friday, broke a four-way tie and posted the most shutouts by a Mudbug in a single season (six) and the most wins in a single season (28).
James Durham, (2017-18), Maiszon Balboa (2019-2020) and Devon Bobak (2021-22) all posted five shutouts in previous seasons. Bobak also held the previous mark of 27 wins (2021-22).
Shreveport captain Garrett Steele completed his regular-season career with 206 games played (most in the team’s NAHL history) and 103 points, the club’s second-best mark (Gueorgui Feduolov).
Drake Morse’s tally to open the scoring Saturday set a Mudbugs NAHL record for game-winning goals (six). He passed the five-GWG seasons of Frankie Melton (2016-17), Carson Nichols (2019-20) and Dawson Sciarrino (2020-21). Morse also tied the franchise record for power-play goals in a single season (nine, also Melton in 2016-17).
Final NAHL South Division standings
z-Oklahoma (44-14-2), 90 points
x-Lone Star (37-15-8), 82
x-Shreveport (37-16-7), 81
x-Amarillo (34-23-3), 71
New Mexico (33-23-4), 70
Odessa (30-27-3), 63
El Paso (18-38-4), 40
Corpus Christi (11-42-7), 29
*top four make the playoffs
x-clinched playoff spot
Final 2022-23 Mudbugs leaders
Goals: Drake Morse, 23
Assists: Logan Heroux, 29
Points: Morse, 51
Penalty Minutes: Kason Muscutt, 100
x-Game-winning goals: Morse, 6
Goals-against average: Simon Bucheler, 1.92
Save percentage: Bucheler, .922
x-NAHL franchise record
South Division playoffs
Lone Star (2) vs. Mudbugs (3)
Game 1: Friday, NYTEX Sports Centre, North Richland Hills, Texas
Gams 2: Saturday, NYTEX Sports Centre
Game 3: April, 28, George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum
Game 4 (if necessary): April 29, George’s Pond
Game 5 (if necessary): TBA, NYTEX Sports Centre
Oklahoma (1) vs. Amarillo (4)
Game 1: Friday, Oklahoma City
Game 2: Saturday, Oklahoma City
Game 3: TBA, Amarillo
Game 4 (if necessary): TBA, Amarillo
Game 5 (if necessary): TBA, Oklahoma City
Contact Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @roylangiii