After the drama-filled series in the South Division semifinals with Lone Star Brahmas where every episode (game) had an emotional twist and turn, the Shreveport Mudbugs fell flat in the first two games of the South Division finals in games one and two in Oklahoma City against the Oklahoma Warriors. Granted, though, the Oklahoma Warriorrs ended the regular season with the best record overall in the NAHL. The Warriors also had easily taken care of the Amarillo Wranglers and had taken a few extra days more rest than Shreveport, Not an excuse though. If hockey only had two periods, Shreveport would have been fine. They matched Oklahoma 2-2. Unfortunately, hockey games have three periods and that is where the difference came. Oklahoma outscored Shreveport 7-0 in the final period. Was it fatigue from the Lone Star series? Was it just outplayed by the Warriors? Who knows? The reality is that Shreveport has to sweep the home series this weekend and then take care of business in Oklahoma City to get back to Blaine.
Oklahoma 4, Shreveport 1 (Game 1)
Oklahoma proved early this was not going to be easy as Hunter Jones struck in the first two minutes of the series. Logan Gotinsky evened the game at 1-1 almost halfway through the first period with assists from Garrett Steele and Hayden Nichol. The Mudbugs got a power play off of a cross-checking call with less than a minute remaining in the first period. Shreveport would carry over the extra man into the second period. No luck for the Mudbugs as they ended the first and second periods tied at 1-1.
Oklahoma broke the deadlock three minutes into the final period as Mikko Liukkonen. A minute later Hunter Jones collected a second goal and a 3-1 lead. Trying to catch a chance with an extra man to score, Bucheler was pulled but William Lawson-Body added an empty netter to give the Warriors the 4-1 win.
Oklahoma outshot Shreveport 30-13. Simon Bucheler had 26 saves.
Oklahoma 5, Shreveport 1 (Game 2)
The sparks started early as Oklahoma’s William Lawson-Body and Mudbug Ryan Burke were both sent to the penalty box for roughing. Both teams survived the 4 on 4 hockey without giving up a goal. Shreveport got an additional power play opportunity in the first period when Oklahoma was called for tripping. No goal at that point though for the Mudbugs. For the first time in the series, Shreveport captured a lead as Nicholas Haydel Miller scored in the final six seconds of the first period. Jake Mack picked up the assist. Shreveport carried the 1-0 lead into the second period.
In the second period, Shreveport gave up a penalty with Brent Litchard was sent to the sin bin for tripping. Oklahoma made them pay for being down a man as Drew Sutton scored the power play goal just 21 seconds into the power play. Oklahoma tied 1-1. Shreveport and Oklahoma each were given a power play but no one scored. At the end of two periods, the score was tied 1-1.
The wheels came off in the third period for the Mudbugs. The Mudbugs became constant targets of the referee whistle. Aiden Dixon was the first a little under three minutes into the third period with a tripping call. Shreveport's defense killed the power play once again. The Mudbugs would not be so fortunate for the remainder of the third period. Garrett Steele was called for a head contact 2-minute minor. 39 seconds into the power play Joey Delgreco broke the tie at 2-1. Less than a minute after the Warrior goal, Shreveport was short-handed again after Ryan Burke was sent to the penalty box on a holding call. In 38 seconds of the power play, William Lawson-Body scored another power-play goal pushing the lead to 3-1. Little over 40 seconds later, Drake Morse was called for goalie interference. Shreveport survived the final power play attempt. Once again trying to catch a break with an extra skater and still within reach, the Mudbugs pulled Goich from the goal with four minutes left. Shreveport fell victim to an empty netter by Brenden Williams and a 4-1 lead. Oklahoma grabbed one more goal in the third from Owen Carlisle to give Oklahoma the 5-1 win and 2-0 lead in the series.
Shreveport will get one more shot at least to play in front of a George’s Pond crowd on Friday at 7:11 pm. If the Mudbugs win they will get one more game at home on Saturday night at the same time. If they happen to sweep this weekend at home, they will return to Oklahoma City for a series-deciding Game 5.