Mission accomplished for the Laredo Bucks, who protected home ice with a 3-1 win over Bossier-Shreveport Saturday evening to take a 2-0 series lead as the Presidents Cup Finals shift to Louisiana for Game 3 Tuesday evening. Special teams were the difference in Game 2, with the Bucks converting 2 of 5 opportunities with the man advantage while holding the Mudbugs scoreless in 7 chances.
Live CHL Playoff Scoreboard
CHL Playoff Bracket
The CHL Playoffs on CHLTV.com
Game 2 was far more hotly contested than the opener, with both clubs showing more fire and chippyness throughout the contest, along with much more physical play. The contest opened as well as the Mudbugs could have hoped, scoring just 18 seconds into the contest on a Blair Mannings 4th of the post-season, cashing in a rebound to silence the crowd of 6,200+ on hand at the Laredo Entertainment Center. The Bucks continued to dominate the opening frame, with tenacious forechecking keeping the Bucks on their heels for the majority of the period.
Laredo weathered the storm, and scored the equalizer 6:28 into the second period, scoring on a 5 on 3 power play. Bucks Captain Brent Cullaton and Jeff Bes set up James Hiebert at the side of the net, and Hibert wired a wrist shot his fifth of the post-season (all coming on the power play) off of goaltender Ken Carrolls glove and into the net. Carroll, the CHLs Most Outstanding Goaltender this season, was making his first start since injured in a 5-3 win in Youngstown on February 24th.
The game would remain tied into the third period, with Bucks goaltender David Lemanowicz, who finished with 24 saves on the night, making perhaps his biggest stop of the night on a two on one chance for the Mudbugs, stopping sniper Brett Smith with his glove hand. Minutes later the Bucks would take their first lead of the game, again scoring on the power play, with Cullaton finding Bes for his 8th goal of the season.
The Bucks had an opportunity to close out the game late, but Carroll answered the bell with big stops on a Bes breakaway and on a Hiebert / Steve Simoes two on one chance. Carroll excelled throughout the contest, finishing the night with 35 saves, and allowing just the two man advantage scores.
With Carroll pulled for an extra attacker, Cullaton intercepted a pass and played give and go with Bes, with Cullaton closing out the scoring with an empty net marker with five seconds remaining for his fourth of the playoffs.
Bossier-Shreveport's power play unit failed to score in seven chances, falling to 1 for 12 in the first two games of the series, while the Bucks man advantage unit continues to find success, scoring twice in 5 opportunities to improve to 4 for 13 in the series.
The Mudbugs will now need to use a different formula than in the first two playoff rounds, where they earned road splits with both Wichita and Colorado and then won three straight at home to close out series wins. Tonights loss ensures the Mudbugs cannot capture the Presidents Cup on home ice, and Laredo will at worst, even with three consecutive losses in Louisiana, return home for Game 6 on May 9th and Game 7 two days later if necessary.
Bossier-Shreveport is now forced to win at least two of three home games to prevent Laredo from celebrating a championship on Mudbugs ice. The Game 2 win improves Laredo record to a perfect 8-0 at home in the post-season, while Bossier-Shreveport falls to 2-4 on the road. The Mudbugs will definitely look to turn the tables at home in front of their fans, where Bossier-Shreveport is also perfect with a mark of 6-0. Game 3 Tuesday will be crucial as Bossier-Shreveport seeks to regain some momentum at home, knowing that one more Laredo win will put the Mudbugs on the brink of elimination.