By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports
Midway through the season, the Shreveport Mudbugs authored a record scoring streak that included 14 consecutive games with at least three goals scored.
Those days seem like a lifetime ago.
Facing elimination Friday, the Mudbugs took the best in the North American Hockey League, Oklahoma, to double overtime at George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum. However, for the third time in the South Division Final, Shreveport couldn’t find a second goal – even with extra time.
The Warriors’ 2-1 victory put the finishing touch on a three-game sweep of the Mudbugs and sent Oklahoma to the NAHL Robertson Cup Final.
“Losing sucks,” Mudbugs head coach Jason Campbell said. “Everybody puts in a lot of time. It never feels good unless you win. I’m not saying it’s not worth it, because obviously you’re becoming better and doing good things throughout the year, but it’s disappointing.”
Like the first two games of the series, Friday’s finale featured a 1-1 score after two periods of play. Unlike the eventual blowouts in the first two games (4-1, 5-1), the Mudbugs had several chances to win the game but couldn’t find the net after Logan Gotinsky‘s goal 8 minutes into the first period.
The turning point came midway through the second period, when a Shreveport power play turned disastrous. Warriors forward Drew Sutton posted a short-handed goal to tie the game. Early in the second overtime, Joey Delgreco was left unattended on the back door and beat Simon Bucheler.
Oklahoma’s Daniel Duris stopped 44 of the Mudbugs’ 45 shots Friday.
“You have to go to the net, and I don’t think we went to the net enough,” Mudbugs captain Garrett Steele said regarding his team’s offensive woes in the playoffs. “We got more pucks through (in Game 3), but we just needed to get more bodies in front of the net. Sometimes, you don’t keep the game plan and that’s the result.”
Shreveport officially played eight playoff games this season, but including overtime, the time on ice equaled more than 10 games. The Mudbugs scored just 11 total goals, including one each in the final four postseason games.
“It’s hard to win a series if you get one goal a game,” Campbell said. “We had some great chances, but we couldn’t find a way to bury that second one. Unfortunately, our offensive woes bit us when we didn’t need it to.
“Hopefully we learn from it and we will be better from it.”
The Mudbugs, who finished third in the division during the regular season, advanced to the South Final for the fourth time in their six NAHL seasons (that featured playoffs), but fell short of their third Robertson Cup crown.
Steele is one of eight players on Shreveport’s roster who will age out before the 2023-24 season. Six of the eight departing player are forwards while Bucheler, who became the first Mudbug to capture the NAHL Goaltender of the Year, will also move on (committed to Mercyhurst University).
“I’m grateful and blessed – as cliché as it sounds,” Steele said. “The relationships that I grew here are what’s important. They are life-long and that’s what is really special to me.”
Contact Roy at email@example.com or on Twitter @RoyLangIII