The 2003-2004 Ray Miron Presidents Cup Finals begin this Monday in Laredo, Texas, as the Governors Cup (regular season champion) Laredo Bucks host the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs in Game One of the best of seven series to determine Central Hockey League supremacy. The matchup features the CHLs top two defensive clubs from the regular season. Bossier-Shreveport makes their fourth appearance in a championship series (having won three consecutive Western Professional Hockey League titles prior to the May, 2001 CHL/WPHL merger), while the Bucks advance to the Finals in just their second season of play.
The Bucks enter the title series with the most feared offensive attack in the circuit, averaging 4.09 goals per game in the regular season, and paced by the Three Amigos line of CHL Most Valuable Player Jeff Bes, Brent Cullaton and Chris Grenville, who have accounted for 12 of Laredos 36 goals through nine post-season games. Center Patrik Nilson has scored six times in their nine playoff games, and seven different Bucks have scored their seven playoff game winning goals. The youngest team in the CHL (averaging 24.7 years per man), the Bucks also led the CHL in the regular season with a 2.27 goals against average, a 23.8 success rate with the man advantage, an 89.3 penalty kill rate and a CHL high 29.42 average penalty minutes per contest. CHL Rookie of the Year David Guerrera and Marco Emond have performed admirably while splitting post-season goaltending duties, although Emonds status for the championship series is questionable following a recent lower leg injury. Laredo swept Rio Grande Valley 3-0 in the opening round of the playoffs, and then topped Amarillo 4-2 in the Southern Conference Finals to advance.
For the Mudbugs, the swagger is back after failing to qualify for the playoffs last season for the first time in franchise history. A refocused commitment to defense (2.28 goals against average in the regular season) and a quality mix of veteran leadership and youthful exuberance gave Bossier-Shreveport the Northeast Division title. CHL Most Valuable Player finalist Chad Spurr enjoyed a breakout year, posting career highs with 31 goals, 39 assists, 70 points and a +35 plus/minus rating. Veteran forward Chris Brassard led the club with 75 points, one of six Mudbugs finishing the season with 40 or more. Leadership comes from veteran blueliner Jim Sprott, whose goal 3:43 into triple overtime against Wichita in Game Two of the Northern Conference Finals ended the third longest game in CHL playoff history, and sparkplug Dan Wildfong, leading the CHL post-season with seven goals while still embracing his reputation as a fiery and aggressive competitor. Netminder Ken Carroll has been outstanding in the post-season with a goals against average of 2.12 and a save percentage of .924. The Mudbugs edged Indianapolis 3-2 in the opening round of the playoffs, then dispatched Wichita 4-1 in the Northern Conference Finals to advance.
The entire 2003-2004 Ray Miron Presidents Cup Finals series is available on CHLTV.com , providing live game video and audio from both the Laredo Entertainment Center and the CenturyTel Center.
Ray Miron President's Cup Finals Preview
Laredo Bucks vs Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs
In a veritable clash of Central Hockey League titans, the Laredo Bucks and the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs compete for the 2003-2004 Ray Miron Presidents Cup. While the clubs have only met six times in their history (Bossier-Shreveport won four times), they have quickly developed an intense rivalry. Both clubs were dominant at home this season, with Laredo posting a CHL-best record of 27-2-3 at the Laredo Entertainment Center, and the Mudbugs a highly respectable 23-6-3 mark at the CenturyTel Center. Bossier-Shreveport rattled off 15 straight home wins between November 28th and February 15th, while Laredos 21-game home winning streak between November 22nd and March 3rd established a CHL record, snapped ironically enough, by Bossier-Shreveports 4-1 win on March 9th.
All-time in the post-season, Bossier-Shreveport has a sparkling record of 50-19, including a home mark of 31-5 the playoffs, while Laredo is 12-8 (6-4 both home and away) in their playoff history. In head to head action this season, Bossier-Shreveport won two of three meetings. January 11th, Laredo posted a 6-3 home win by scoring five times in the second period. Patrik Nilson (two goals) and Jeff Bes (a goal and two assists) led the attack, with Chris Grenville rounding out the scoring with an empty net goal. February 29th at the CenturyTel Center, the Mudbugs earned a 5-2 win behind s stellar performance from rookie Craig Soke, who broke a 2-2 deadlock with a goal in the second period and two more in the final frame. Bossier-Shreveport took the rubber match 4-1 in Laredo on March 9th, with Craig Minard setting up three of the Mudbugs four goals in a spirited contest that saw a combined 106 penalty minutes assessed and ended the Bucks CHL-record home winning streak.
A pair of highly competitive coaches will lead their clubs in the Finals. Laredos Terry Ruskowski enjoyed a 15 year professional playing career in the NHL and WHA, wearing the C as Captain in 10 seasons and playing alongside such stars as Gordie Howe, Stan Mikita and Mario Lemieux. Bossier-Shreveports Scott Muscutt has been a key cog in Mudbugs hockey since their inception in 1997/1998. As a player he won two WPHL titles in 1998/1999 and 1999/2000, then took over as Head Coach as the Mudbugs completed a three-peat in his first season behind the bench. Expect both clubs to try to establish themselves early in the series in an all-out effort to win Game One on Monday, as in 16 historical CHL and WPHL championship series, the team winning the opening contest has gone on to win the title 15 times. Expect a tight, physical series and special teams to play the largest role in determining who ultimately hoists the 2003-2004 Ray Miron Presidents Cup.
Watch All President's Cup Finals Games on CHLTV
CHL Playoff Bracket
Laredo Bucks Playoff Roster
Laredo Bucks Playoff Statistics
Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs Playoff Roster
Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs Pkayoff Statistics
CHL Playoff Special Teams Statistics
January 11th, 2004: Bossier Shreveport 3 @ Laredo 6
February 29th, 2004: Laredo 2 @ Bossier-Shreveport 5
March 9th, 2004: Bossier-Shreveport 4 @ Laredo 1