Punchless Mudbugs on brink of elimination as series shifts to Shreveport

(Photo courtesy Shreveport Mudbugs)

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

Two victories in Oklahoma would have been a dream and a split would’ve fit nicely into the Shreveport Mudbugs’ plans in search of another Robertson Cup. However, the worst-case scenario materialized as the North American Hockey League’s top team, the Oklahoma Warriors, swept the Mudbugs in the Games 1 and 2 of the South Division Final Friday and Saturday.

The most bothersome part of the weekend for Shreveport head coach Jason Campbell was the lack of fight when it mattered most.

Both games were tied at 1 entering the third periods, but the Mudbugs were hammered by a combined score of 7-0 in the final 20-minute sessions on Friday and Saturday nights. They now face elimination as the best-of-5 series shifts to Shreveport for Game 3 on Friday.

“We put ourselves in a position, on the road, both nights to win a hockey game and we didn’t execute,” Campbell told the Journal. “We weren’t hard enough to play against. We were OK and OK isn’t good against Oak City.”

Friday night, Oklahoma took the lead 3:17 into the third period and added another goal one minute later before escaping with a 4-1 victory. On Saturday, a slew of late Mudbugs penalties made it easy for Oklahoma to successfully defend home ice.

Shreveport was whistled for four third-period infractions and the Warriors broke the game open with power-play tallies 11:18 into the final frame and another 92 seconds later.

“There weren’t good penalties on our behalf,” Campbell said. “When you take undisciplined penalties that far away from our net they are not good. They were non-threatening penalties and they ultimately cost us.”

Oklahoma took Game 2, 5-1. The Warriors outshot the Mudbugs 20-10 in both third periods combined.

Defensive breakdowns were a problem and so were the penalties, but if Shreveport wants to extend its season past Friday’s game, they must find a way to generate offense. The Mudbugs managed just two goals in 120 minutes of action and posted 13 shots on goal in Game 1 and 19 in Game 2.

In seven postseason games (nearly the equivalent of nine games including overtimes), Shreveport has mustered just 10 goals.

“We have to shoot pucks,” Campbell said. “They blocked at least 10 more shots a game more than we did, too. We have to be better at finding a way to get shots through.”

Even with solid execution, that wouldn’t guarantee the Mudbugs will down the NAHL-best Warriors, but Campbell demands his team puts up a better fight at The George.

“We have to be hard to play against,” Campbell said. “We have to put everything into Friday night and hopefully that leads to a Saturday night.”

Mudbugs vs. Oklahoma 

(Warriors lead best-of-5 series, 2-0)

Game 1: Oklahoma, 4-1

Game 2: Oklahoma, 5-1

Game 3: Friday, 7:11 p.m., George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum

Game 4 (if necessary): Saturday, 7:11, George’s Pond

Game 5 (if necesary): Sunday, 7:15 p.m., at Oklahoma

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