The Shreveport Mudbugs and Minot Minotauros each survived a tough semifinal series this weekend and have advanced to tonight’s winner-take-all championship game for the NAHL’s Robertson Cup.
Here’s your info for tonight’s game:
Who: Shreveport Mudbugs vs. Minot Minotauros
Where: Fogerty Arena, Blaine, Minnesota
When: 7pm CST
Shreveport swept their best-of-three semifinal series against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights, but it wasn’t as easy. The Mudbugs won a pair of extremely physical, tight defensive battles by scores of 2-0, and 2-1. More impressive than the low goals against number is that they did it by only allowing 32 shots over their two games with WBS. Shreveport is really tough on the blue line, led by one of the league’s best defenders in UMass Lowell commit Dominick Procopio. That defense should be put to the test tonight against a Minot team with a little more offensive firepower than WBS.
Offensively, the Mudbugs are very balanced without any true star players. Their top scorer in the playoffs has been forward Ryan Burnett, a veteran who will be playing in his second career Robertson Cup final after losing the 2016 title game with Wichita Falls.
Their power play really struggled on Saturday night. Even though they scored the game-winning goal on the man advantage, they had over seven minutes of PP time after that, including a minute of 5-on-3, in which they failed to score an insurance goal to extend their lead, and looked very sloppy in doing so.
Ultimately, this isn’t a team that is going to win pretty. For them to take the championship, it’s likely going to have to be a low-scoring game with somebody finding a way to grind out an ugly goal or two.
On the other side, Minot took the long road to get here. After falling behind 3-0 in the first period of Friday’s Game 1, the Tauros came back to claw out a 2-0(ENG) win on Saturday, and then won a dramatic Game 3 by scoring a late goal to tie the game, and then winning overtime.
Minot isn’t as strong as Shreveport defensively, but I think they’ve got a big advantage in terms of forward depth, and have a little more scoring power. Miroslav Mucha is probably the teams most consistent offensive threat, but second liner Alex Adams leads the team in playoff scoring, while fourth liner Michael Talbot scored two huge goals in game three yesterday, and third liner Ondrej Pavel scored the overtime winner. Top pairing defensemen Nolan Sawchuk and Colby Enns provide some scoring punch from the blue line as well.
In goal, Samu Lonkila has been inconsistent throughout the weekend, but when he was good, like he was in a Game 2 shutout, he was really, really good. They’ll need an outstanding game from him in goal because one goal could make the difference here.
Overall, this should be a fun, close game. A low-scoring definitely favors the grittier Shreveport team, while a more high-scoring affair favors Minot. Shreveport is likely the favorite, all things being equal, since they had a better regular season, and the Mudbugs getting to rest yesterday while Minot had to go overtime, and will be playing their fourth game in four days. But Minot has defied expectations throughout these playoffs, and if they can do it once more, could find a way to take home the championship.