By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports
With just 3 seconds on the clock late Saturday night, the Shreveport Mudbugs’ social media staff sent a post claiming a fifth period was coming. Shreveport’s general manager, Scott Muscutt, had started a Zamboni and was prepared to lay a fresh sheet of ice for a second overtime.
Who could blame them? Three of the first four games in the Mudbugs’ first-round playoff series with Lone Star had featured overtime – Game 1 was a franchise record four-overtime affair. It seemed another marathon night was in the works.
However, the Mudbugs’ bench wasn’t ready to concede another intermission on George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum. Facing elimination, the magic started when Shreveport associate head coach Michael Hill dialed up one of the team’s 23 face-off plays and the call was relayed from the bench.
“I was just ready to shoot,” Drake Morse, the team’s leading scorer during the regular season, told the Journal.
Jaden Goldie won the ensuing draw in the Brahmas’ zone and it trickled to teammate Liam Fleet, who quickly sent the puck to the top of the right circle. That’s where Morse ripped a one-timer that caught the inside of the left post and careened into the goal with 1/10th of a second left.
We will see you in North Richland Hills, Texas, on Monday.
Morse’s power-play tally – his second goal of the game — gave the Mudbugs a 3-2 victory and tied the North American Hockey League semifinal. Game 5 tonight at NYTEX Sports Centre will determine the victor of a series for the ages.
“The emotions were high all night,” Mudbugs head coach Jason Campbell said. “It was an intense game, they all have been.”
Friday, the Mudbugs were blanked by Lone Star goalie William Gramme, 2-0, in Game 3.
As Shreveport poured onto the ice following Morse’ blast Saturday, the victory celebration slid across the ice and stopped against the glass of a suite housing Emily Ward, the former Benton star who recently closed her LSU women’s basketball career with a national championship and dropped the puck for Game 4.
Foreshadowing? Well, the Mudbugs are still seven victories away from their third national title in six years. The first of the seven must come Monday. The winner of Game 5 will face the top-seeded Oklahoma Warriors in the South Division Final.
“We need to get as much sleep as we can — sleep is a weapon right now,” Morse said. “Lone Star has a bus ride home, so we’re going to try to out-recover them, out everything them (until Game 5).
“(On Monday) we just have to work,” Morse said. “We have to go in there and outwork them on every shift, every play.”
Shreveport’s Nikola Goich picked up his second win of the series with 27 saves between the pipes. Gramme suffered his first loss in the series for Lone Star. Both coaches have choices to make in Game 5.
The Mudbugs boast Goich and Simon Bucheler. Brahmas head coach Dan Wildfong will have to choose between Gramme and Arthur Smith.
“You can’t go wrong for all four of these guys, but there are tough decisions to make,” Campbell said.
Notes: The Mudbugs and Brahmas have faced each other in 18 NAHL postseason games. Both teams have nine victories and Lone Star owns the edge in goals, 37-35. However, Shreveport has won two of the three completed series … Morse and Jaden Goldie (who collected the game’s first goal Saturday) have combined to score the last four goals of the series for Shreveport … the Mudbugs moved to 5-6 in NAHL overtime playoff games. Morse joined Goldie, Dawson Sciarrino, Billy Feczko and Timothy Clifton in the members of the franchise’s overtime goal-scorer club.
Mudbugs at Lone Star
(best-of-5 series tied at 2)
Game 5: Tonight, 7 p.m., NYTEX Sports Centre, North Richland Hills, Texas
Contact Roy at email@example.com or on Twitter @roylangiii