Jun. 19—The Maine Nordiques have no room left for error.
The Shreveport Mudbugs defeated the Nordiques 4-1 in Game 1 of the best-of-three North American Hockey League Robertson Cup semifinals Friday in Blaine, Minnesota.
Maine now faces a win-or-go-home game in Game 2 on Saturday.
The Mudbugs’ style of play, including a strong forecheck, caused the Nordiques issues throughout Friday’s game.
“They hemmed us in our (defensive) zone a little bit,” Maine coach Nolan Howe said. “We have to a better job tomorrow to sustain their pressure.”
Giovanni Procopio led Shreveport with two goals.
The Nordiques couldn’t have asked for a better start. Defenseman James Philpott let go a wrist shot from the left point, and a Shreveport player got a piece of the puck that caused a change of direction that fooled goalie Cole Hudson (25 saves), giving the Nordiques a 1-0 lead 34 seconds into the game.
“We have had great starts all playoffs long,” Howe said. “Unfortunately, they were able to tie it up pretty quickly, and then it was a dog fight from there.”
The Mudbugs started to pepper Nordiques goalie Tyriq Outen (32 saves) with shots. Outen stopped Austin Brimmer on a wraparound attempt, but Garrett Steele, standing by the crease, potted the loose puck nearly 90 seconds after Philpott’s goal.
After the goal, Shreveport spent the majority of the first period in its offensive zone and outshot the Nordiques 11-6. After 20 minutes the teams were tied 1-1.
Shreveport broke the tie and built a lead in the second period.
First, after entering the offensive zone, Brimmer found Dawson Sciarrino at the right circle and he sent the puck across to defenseman Adam Kolson at the left circle. Kolson beat a sprawling Outen for a power play goal 73 seconds into the second.
Prior to that goal, Maine hadn’t allowed a power play goal in the postseason. Shreveport was 1-for-2 on the man advantage and Maine went 0-for-2.
Shreveport took a 3-1 lead nearly six minutes into the period when Mason McCormick kept the puck in the offensive zone and he drove to the net and dished it to Procopio, who deflected the puck into the net at the right post.
“They were coming in waves, they really had good net drives and they were able to find the wide guy a couple of times,” Howe said. “At the end of the day, we didn’t execute well enough. We will have to do better tomorrow.”
Maine again didn’t get much going in the offensive zone during the second period and was outshot by the Mudbugs 14-9.
Procopio added another goal for the Mudbugs in the third period. From the right corner he fired the puck toward Outen and it bounced off Outen’s stick into the back of the net with five minutes remaining.
Howe said he expects changes for Game 2 Saturday, which is at 8:30 p.m. and can be watched online at HockeyTV.com.
“I know we will have some meetings tomorrow. Every time there’s a challenge, we respond,” Howe said. “We have come back from losses really well and we expect no different tomorrow.”