By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports
It’s long been obvious a trip to another Robertson Cup semifinal trip for the Shreveport Mudbugs would have to go through North Richland Hills, Texas, and Oklahoma City.
The Mudbugs completed the first half of the task with a scintillating five-game series triumph against Lone Star, punctuated by Monday’s 1-0 victory at the NYTEX Sports Centre. Now comes the final – and, on paper — biggest obstacle.
Shreveport begins the North American Hockey League South Division Final tonight against the league’s best team during the 2022-23 regular season – the Oklahoma Warriors, who are (literally) fresh off a sweep of Amarillo in the opening round.
“We’re in for a battle,” Mudbugs head coach Jason Campbell said.
The puck drop for Game 1 of the best-of-5 series is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. in Oklahoma City.
The Warriors posted a 44-14-2 overall record and took five of the eight matchups with the Mudbugs this season, but it wasn’t easy. Shreveport led in six of the eight games, but often couldn’t finish the job.
“No lead is safe against them,” Campbell said.
The goaltenders were the story in the Mudbugs-Brahmas series. Shreveport’s Simon Bucheler finished things off with a 25-save shutout while teammate Nikola Goich earned the team’s other two victories in the series.
Shreveport allowed just eight goals in five games against Lone Star.
Holding Oklahoma at bay in a similar way may be unrealistic.
“They pack a pretty powerful offensive punch,” Campbell said. “They can find ways to get offense all over the ice.”
The Warriors scored a league-best 253 goals – 38 goals more than the next closest team (Maryland) — during the regular season (4.22 goals per game) and scored 15 goals in three games against Amarillo.
“It’s a matter of us playing defense, playing our system to perfection,” Shreveport forward Logan Gotinsky said. “We need that high tempo and skill in their zone.”
Oklahoma’s Joey Delgreco ranked third in the NAHL with 69 points. Teammate Drew Sutton ranked sixth (64 points).
While Shreveport held Lone Star to eight goals, it also scored just eight in the series.
“We have more to give. I hope we’re able to bring that,” Campbell said. “I wish we could have finished more, offensively (against Lone Star). It’s going to be hard to win a hockey game against Oak City if you’re only scoring one or two goals a game.”
Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday (7:15 p.m.). The series will shift to George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum on May 12 (and May 13, if necessary).
NAHL South Division Final
Game 1: Friday, 7:15 p.m., at Oklahoma City
Game 2: Saturday, 7:15 p.m., at Oklahoma City
Game 3: May 12, 7:11 p.m., at George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum
Game 4 (if necessary): May 13, 7:11 p.m., George’s Pond
Game 5 (if necessary): May 14, 7:15 p.m., at Oklahoma City
Contact Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @roylangiii