The rivalry between the Brahmas and Mudbugs is nearing its third decade, and the intertwinement between the two franchises is both marquis and persistent for over 25 years. A mantra of “It’s always a good game” is the most common sentiment among both fan-bases, when describing the meaningfulness of this matchup. A rivalry which began in the Central Hockey League (CHL) of long ago and later migrated to the North American Hockey League (NAHL) and where former teammates have become the opposing head coaches. Brahmas Head Coach & GM Dan Wildfong and Mudbugs Head Coach Jason Campbell were teammates on the CHL Shreveport Mudbugs, and once again they are playing chess with hockey pieces from opposing benches. Another chapter of hockey history was made on Friday night when the Brahmas entered battle against the Mudbugs in what would become the longest game in Brahmas franchise history.
This sports write is about Game 1 of the South Division Semifinals, Round 1 of the NAHL 2023 Robertson Cup Playoffs. In the NAHL Robertson Cup Playoffs, there are no shoot-outs. Instead, the league rules for breaking a tie at the end of regulation are simple: full strength, full length, 20 minute periods of hockey until a game winning goal is scored. In theory, the number of overtime periods is unlimited, and for sports fans who disapprove of the very concept of shoot-outs, this should be a welcomed set of rule-making. This format puts both teams through a figurative pressure-cooker which challenges the strength and stamina of mind, body, strategy, and physical coordination until someone slips up, and a hero is identified by rising to the occasion.
Three periods of full strength hockey is 60 minutes of game clock, separated by two intermissions of 20 minutes each. The intermissions are shorter during overtime, however the break is critically important for the recovery of the teams while the ice is resurfaced as fast as possible. Before the third period of overtime, the Brahmas were desperately needing that intermission to replenish, revitalize, and make effort to maintain the pace of play required to win. In a deliciously old-school hockey move, the team was served broth in the locker room; to warm the team from within and soothe the hungry stomachs without weighing them down. All told, after four overtime periods added, two teams had already played two full games worth of scoreless minutes when the 4OT face-off came to pass. The still-in-attendance supporters were as loud as could be, yet now noticeably smaller in number. Even the seasoned Public Address announcer voice was growing more hoarse.
Ultimately, 126 minutes of game clock transpired over six frigid hours of real time before the third and game-deciding goal was scored, just before 1am on Saturday April 22nd. Defenseman Antti Autere would put an exclamation point on the night, or morning rather, as Autere hammered the game winner from just north of the face-off circle, zipping through the tiniest sliver of space near the right shoulder of Mudbug goaltender Simon Bucheler.
A note of congratulations is in order for both goaltenders, the aforementioned Simon Bucheler of the Shreveport Mudbugs and Wisconsin commit William Gramme of the Brahmas. Together the net-minders would stop a bombastic combined 88 shots with Gramme decisively earning the win by virtue of 106 minutes of scoreless hockey, following the only goal Gramme had given up around the midway point of the first period. Bucheler and Gramme were both playing their position at the highest levels possible for a very long time with tireless composure. Both the Brahmas and the Mudbugs left everything on the ice on Friday-into-Saturday, as the players delivered over two full games of hockey minutes within one single matchup with very high intensity. The next test would be getting rested enough and/or ready to do it all over again for the 7:30pm puck drop of Game 2, a contest later the same day (which also went into overtime).
With the extensive history between the Lone Star Brahmas and Shreveport Mudbugs, dating back over at least the last decade and multiple incarnations, Friday’s marathon is a unique occurrence within the sport. It was a game that felt like it would never end. A goaltender battle for the ages. There was a stretch of 90+ minutes where neither team could score. There were many good chances for each team to end it, but Gramme and Bucheler were determined to let nothing past them. If one were to go back and watch the replay of the winning goal (link is somewhere below this story), one will observe that Bucheler was where he needed to be, he simply left a tiny gap which Antti threaded perfectly.
The game delivered on everything it was expected to supply. The clash of two coaches, former teammates who had learned the art of coaching from the same man (Scott Muscutt w/ CHL Shreveport). “We knew that these coaches going up against one another would be similar to two grand masters in chess facing off against each other. It would be a long and grinding battle with neither side willing to give up an inch.” said Brahmas Vice President Chad Siewert, who is also the play-by-play broadcaster of the Brahmas on HockeyTV. “One of the coolest things about this game was we saw the biggest number of viewers all season tune in on HockeyTV. Many switched over to the Brahmas/Bugs game after watching their teams finish. Owner/President Frank Trazzera and I were both overwhelmed with all the well wishes from people tuning in around the country. Many of the people who were in attendance for the first half of the game went home and watched the conclusion on HockeyTV and sharing their experiences on social media. That might have been the most excited I got all season for a goal when Antti scored!“
A special thank you is in order to all that were involved, from the front of house staff to the back of house staff, volunteer off-ice officials, broadcast crew, and hockey operations. These are the professionals who ensured a phenomenal sheet of ice all night long, and also kept the Brahmas’ spirits fed and minds alert. A word of deep gratitude and respect for the four on-ice officials is also in order. NAHL Referees and Linesmen do not work in shifts, and therefore skated more consecutive minutes than any of the hockey players.
Referees: C. Harrington, Cameron Giancarlo + Linesmen: Odin Nelson, Jacob Rozenberg
With the best-of-five series now tied 1-1, Games 3 & 4 will be played in Shreveport, LA at George’s Pond, Hirsch Coliseum before capacity crowds on Friday April 28 & Saturday April 29th – streaming exclusively on HockeyTV.
Expect every game this series to go the distance.
This story and highlights reel is provided by Brahmas Media with content contributions from Brahmas Hockey Vice President Chad Siewert, Brahmas Hockey Communications Director Sam Sequenzia, NYTEXSports.com, HockeyTV.com, Social Content Contributor Jeffery Fink, and the North American Hockey League. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution is strictly forbidden.