NA Now: Shreveport Mudbugs
The NA Now series features a look at all teams in the NAHL for the 2021-22 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team including interviews with all the head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
Head Coach: Jason Campbell (4th Season)
2020-21 record: 56 GP, 38-11-7, 83 pts. (1st in the South Division)
2020-21 leading scorer: Braiden Dorfman (59 points)
2021 Playoffs: Won the Robertson Cup Championship
2021-22 Division: South
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 15th vs. Minnesota Magicians
Home opener: Friday, October 1st vs. Odessa Jackalopes
Only one team can remain standing at the end of each season to hoist the Robertson Cup over their heads. That team in 2020-21 was the Shreveport Mudbugs, who claimed their second Championship in the last three seasons. The Mudbugs ended up tied with the second most points during the regular season last year and won both the South Division regular season and playoff title with series wins over Amarillo and Wichita Falls.
At the Robertson Cup in Blaine, the Mudbugs were dominant. They made quick work of the Maine Nordiques in the Semi-Finals, winning 4-1 and 5-1. In the Championship Game, the Mudbugs would face the Aberdeen Wings, which was a match-up of the last two teams who have won the Robertson Cup. Led by Playoff MVP and goaltender Cole Hudson, the Mudbugs put on another strong performance, outshooting the Wings 35-21 and coming away with a 4-2 win to win their second Robertson Cup title.
When reflecting back on the win just over two months later, Mudbugs Jason Campbell said that the road to winning a Championship was difficult. “First and foremost, everyone wants to win a cup. I think it’s just a given, but what people don’t realize is that winning is very hard. So many things have to fall into place and go right just to be able to put yourself in a position to win. Being able to play against Aberdeen in the Championship Game was so exciting for us. The guys played their hearts out,” said Campbell.
The win capped off the most unusual season that Campbell had been a part of, which included a huge influx of talent in the NAHL. “From a league standpoint, it was a testament to everyone’s commitment to keep playing. I think the level of play last year was about as good as I’ve seen in this NAHL. All the teams were so talented, and I think that showed in the number of committed players that were playing in the league. We did what we had to do to keep our players safe, but at the same time there was also a focus on keeping our nose to the grindstone and not taking away that opportunity. It was a huge mental grind, so I really give the players across the entire league a lot of credit for making it through and being successful,” said Campbell.
It’s been since 2008 since the NAHL had a back-to-back Champion, but that’s what the Mudbugs will be trying to do in 2021-22. “We had to address our goaltending. Those two guys leaving leaves a huge void. Cole (Hudson) was the MVP of the Robertson Cup and without him, we don’t win. The sky is the limit for Arsenii (Sergeev) and we were so proud to hear his name called in the NHL Draft. It is a great opportunity for a couple new guys to step up and see what they can do,” said Campbell. “I felt like up front we are pretty stable, but we had some work to do on the back end to bring some players in here who could fill some pretty big shoes. We have some really good veterans from a leadership standpoint I think we are in a decent spot.”
The strength of the Mudbugs to start the 2021-22 season will be the returning group of forwards, which includes Billy Feczko (31 points), Garrett Steele (30 points), and Long Island University commit Austin Brimmer (28 points). The Mudbugs also get a boost with the return of forward and AIC commit Timofei Khokhlachev to the line-up, Khokhlachev did not play in 2020-21, but had 33 points in 51 games played during the 2019-20 season for the Mudbugs. On defense, Davis Goukler (18 points) and John Hallard are among the returnees. “It is going to take some growth, but we are confident we can do that. I think the goal the first few months of the season is to get everyone on the same page and gel as a team. Then as the season goes along, you just want to stay healthy and have some depth so you can use as many guys as possible in situations. At the end of the season, we want to be able to call upon anyone on the roster to get the job done,” said Campbell.
“I think the South is a great division to be a part of and I welcome the additions to make it an 8-team division. I think our division prepares teams to win and prepares players for the NCAA. I think no matter what year you are talking about, the team that comes out of the South Division Playoffs will always be one of the favorites to win the Robertson Cup. I expect this year to be a battle and a dogfight every weekend,” said Campbell.
Next up: Springfield Jr. Blues