Robertson Cup Most Valuable Player Jaxon Castor made 15 saves and the Shreveport Mudbugs allowed just eight shots over the final two periods Monday to win the North American Hockey League and USA Hockey Tier II Junior championships in just their second season, with a 2-1 victory over the Minot Minotauros at Fogerty Arena in Blaine, Minnesota.
Cole Quisenberry scored the championship-deciding goal early in the third period after Brendan VanSweden scored in the second period to erase a 1-0 deficit.
Minot had an 8-6 shot advantage in the first and took the lead when all-tournament defenseman Nolan Sawchuk got a shot through traffic. Ondrej Pavel won a faceoff to get the puck back to Sawchuk at the point. Dominick Procopio, who joined Sawchuk as the all-tournament defensemen, took a wrist shot from the point for Quisenberry’s deflection on the game-winner.
Castor was named goalie on the Robertson Cup all-tournament team. The 21-year-old from Phoenix went 9-2-1 with a 1.66 goals against average and .929 save percentage in the postseason. He won his last four starts with a 1.00 GAA and .949 save percentage in those games.
The forwards were VanSweden and Ryan Burnett from Shreveport and Miroslav Mucha from Minot. Burnett finished with 12 points, one less than Robertson Cup leader Sam Renlund from the Janesville Jets, who had eight goals and five assists in eight playoff games.
CUP RECAP: Minot went into overtime of the deciding third game of the semifinal series in Blaine before getting past the top-seeded Fairbanks Ice Dogs with a 5-4 win Sunday.
Minot set up the overtime win by scoring three times in the third period, rallying first from a 3-1 deficit, then from 4-3. Sawchuk scored to force overtime, then Pavel turned a steal into a breakaway to end the series. Samu Lonkila had 30 saves in Saturday’s 2-0 shutout win to help Minot recover from losing the series opener.
Game 2 was scoreless into the third period. Miroslav Mucha scored the game-winner and Alex Adams added an empty-net goal. Jax Murray had two goals and an assist to lead Fairbanks to a 5-2 win in Friday’s series opener.
Shreveport swept the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights in the other semifinal, 2-0 and 2-1. Two third-period goals — Burnett’s for the tie and Gueorgui Feduolov’s for the win — lifted the Mudbugs to the clinching win.
The Mudbugs allowed just 32 shots and one goal in the series. Castor needed only 11 saves to post Friday’s shutout. Burnett scored in the first period and VanSweden added an insurance goal in the third period.
CLARK CUP: The United States Hockey League’s best-of-five Clark Cup Final is tied at a game apiece as it heads to Youngstown’s Covelli Centre for games Friday and Saturday, May 18-19.
If the series goes to a fifth game, it will return to Scheels Arena in Fargo, where the teams split the first two games Friday and Saturday.
The Fargo Force won the opener, 4-1, before the Youngstown Phantoms tied the series with a 3-2 victory in overtime. The Phantoms shook off a tying goal in the final minute of regulation to win on Nicolas Cardelli’s partial breakaway goal 6:32 into overtime.
Cardelli had scored one goal and assisted on the other for Youngstown during regulation.
Already ahead in the series, Fargo came out in Game 2 and had four power-play chances and a 16-4 shot advantage during the first period, only to have it end scoreless. Defenseman John Schuldt scored 4:24 into the second period to give Fargo the lead.
Cardelli tied the game on the power play off a backdoor feed from Max Ellis. Eric Esposito went to his backhand to score on a breakaway, off a lead pass from Cardelli, to put the Phantoms in front. Fargo pulled the goalie while playing shorthanded late and got the tying goal from Griffin Loughran with 52.6 seconds left in regulation.
Youngstown had a 6-2 shot advantage in overtime, including Cardelli’s winner. The score was set up by a pass from Joey Abate after defenseman Liam Dennison forced a turnover.
Fargo used three power-play goals to win the series opener. Defenseman Evan Bell scored the first power-play goal and had an assist on the second for a 2-0 lead.
Strauss Mann made 26 saves in the win.
COLLEGE COMMITMENT: Mitch Walinski, a two-year forward with the NAHL’s Bismarck Bobcats, has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey at the United States Air Force Academy beginning in the fall of 2019.
The 19-year-old from Lincoln, Rhode Island, started out in the NAHL with the Minnesota Wilderness. Since a December 2016 trade to Bismarck, Walinski has 24 goals and 13 assists in 64 games.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc