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Center Ice: Shreveport Mudbugs

Following their best road series to date last weekend, the New Mexico Ice Wolves will be traveling nearly 500 miles from Corpus Christi, Texas to Shreveport, Louisiana for two weekend games against the Mudbugs. This will mark the third series for the Ice Wolves against Shreveport, and they are still winless in four games played so far, being outscored by the Mudbugs by a total of 16-5.

Despite the poor performances against Shreveport thus far, the Ice Wolves have begun to figure some things out recently and should head into this weekend’s series with some confidence. The Ice Wolves are riding a three-game road points streak, dating all the way back to October 19 against the Odessa Jackalopes. They have been scoring goals more frequently, tallying nine this past weekend against the Corpus Christi IceRays, including a franchise record six goals in a single game on Saturday. 

For the Ice Wolves this weekend, look for continued strong play from the goaltenders, Josh Graziano and Henrik Laursen. On offense, players like Spencer Rudrud, Alex Dominique, Griffen Sanom, Emil Gabrielson and Philip Ekberg should continue to contribute on a nightly basis. One thing that will be interesting to watch is if recently acquired forward Taylor Ewing can continue to light of the scoresheet. Ewing has two goals and two assists already in his first two games played with the Ice Wolves.

Forward Alex Gomez is another Ice Wolves player who has been skating well recently. The Parker, Colorado native spent the early part of the season playing for Shreveport. He appeared in three games and only registered two shots. Since joining the Ice Wolves, Gomez has 3 goals and 1 assist. Expect the 6’3” forward to play with determination against his former team.

One thing the Ice Wolves will need to continue to work on if they are going to win games is to keep their opponents shot totals down. Last week against the IceRays, Graziano was forced to make 36 saves on Friday night en route to a shootout loss. New Mexico did a much better job on Saturday, as Laursen only faced 26 shots, saving all but two of them and earning the win. If the Ice Wolves’ defensemen can limit Shreveport’s scoring chances, the offense should be able to take care of business and carry them to victory. 

The Mudbugs themselves are an interesting team. They are currently sitting in 4th place in the South Division standings with 30 points. They have been playing well recently, with seven wins and three losses in their past ten games for a record of 15-8-0-0. The Mudbugs roster boasts four NCAA division one commitments in goalie Maiszon Balboa (Air Force), defenseman Sam Miller (American International College), and forwards Anton Rubtsov (Alaska) and  Matt Weber (Bentley).

Miller and Ryan Dickinson are two-way defenders that are capable of scoring for Shreveport. Miller, the team leader in points, has 7goals and 11 assists so far, very impressive numbers for a defenseman. Dickinson has 10 assists, and has taken 40 shots. Having such offensive minded blueliners is something that can pay off and help win games for the Mudbugs. 

The Mudbugs also have a depth of forwards who contribute to the offense. A couple of those forwards, namely Jack Smiley and Jacob Smith, already have multiple goals scored against the Ice Wolves. Other players to be on the lookout for are Conor Witherspoon, Timofei Khokhlachev and Dawson Sciarrino.

Between the pipes, Balboa and Richie Parent have split time fairly even this year, and both have impressive numbers. Parent leads the way with 8 wins and 3 losses, but Balboa is not far behind, with 7 wins of his own. Finding goals against these stingy netminders might prove to be a difficult task for New Mexico.

Any points that New Mexico will be able to pick up this weekend will be an encouraging sight. Any time a team can turn it around against a squad that has already beaten them multiple times is a sure sign of progress. If the Ice Wolves can put pucks on net, limit Shreveport’s shots and their own penalties, they should be able to do just that.

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