The Shreveport Mudbugs signed three new players for the upcoming NAHL season slated for September 2016. Andrew Lane, Garrett Hallford and Teddy Rotenberger will be the first to join the Mudbugs family.
Lane’s done his research on the area. He said he’s looking forward to the food, but on the ice, the Mudbugs organization will be looking forward to the 19-year-old defenseman’s skills in the team’s inaugural North American Hockey League season.
“I’m definitely looking forward to playing in the NAHL with Shreveport because it’s such a great opportunity, especially with the people in the organization,” he said. “It was an exciting feeling when I heard I was tendered because it was coming from a team I heard was going to be great and would create a lot of good experiences.”
The Howell, Mich., native was tendered by the Mudbugs after spending time with the GOJHL’s
Waterloo Siskins and will be an integral member of the Shreveport blueline.
A self-described offensive defenseman, Lane put up 30 points in 49 games with the Siskins last season.
“I like to join the rush and be the fourth man in,” he said. “I definitely enjoy making plays and seeing the ice from the back end.”
While Lane has never been to Shreveport, he’s counting down the days until the start of the franchise’s first season.
“I’ve only heard great things from the coaches and from the Total Package Hockey guys,” he said. “It’s definitely exciting and is going to be a really cool experience.”
Hallford moved away from his Dallas home at 14, and he hasn’t gotten many chances to go back.
As a member of the Mudbugs, the 18-year-old forward will be only three hours from home while helping lead his North American Hockey League team on the ice.
“After seeing how close I was, immediately I was excited,” Hallford said. “I also talked to our coach (Karlis Zirnis) and the things he told me about Shreveport, how the fans are and how nice the rink is really got me pretty excited as well.”
Hallford, who was acquired via a trade with the New Jersey Titans, brings experience and speed to a Mudbugs team that will compete in the NAHL for the first time in the 2016-17 season.
The 5-foot-8 forward said he knows he isn’t the biggest player on the ice, but will use his agility and hockey IQ to help create scoring chances for the Mudbugs this season.
“I can make plays and find the open man,” said Hallford, a Little Caesars and Honeybaked product. “I can be the high man waiting for the pass but if I need to, I’ll go into the corner and hit someone and make a play for my teammates. I’ll compete as hard as I can.”
Having played 78 games in the NAHL and 18 in the USHL with the Muskegon Lumberjacks, Hallford
hopes his experience can help his new Mudbugs teammates assimilate to the league. Hallford’s tallied 16 goals and 15 assists in the NAHL career to go along with three assists in the USHL.
“Some of the guys we’ll have on our team next year have never played in the league before, so it’s a bit better and quicker,” he said. “At first it’ll take some time to get used to, but being able to talk to them about my experiences can help them make better decisions and hopefully will help them go further with their hockey careers.”
Living in Shreveport, near the Barksdale Air Force Base. is something Hallford is looking forward to as his mother lived on a base growing up and both of his grandfathers served in the U.S. military.
“Just being around that environment and community will be pretty neat because I’ve never lived close to a base,” he said. “Having the military men and women and the people who serve our country at our games will be great as well.”
Hallford is ready to compete in front of Shreveport’s passionate hockey fan base and give his all on a nightly basis.
“It’s something that’s going to be really awesome,” he said. “It’s going to be great to give the fans the thrill that you get from being out on the ice playing hockey.”
The Mudbugs are also excited to acquireRotenberger from the Springfield Jr. Blues, an experienced defenseman who will help lead the franchise in its first NAHL season.
Rotenberger, a native of Huntsville, Ala., has played in 63 career NAHL games and is set to play Division I hockey at the University of Alabama-Huntsville in 2017-18.
“It’s obviously very special and I’m honored to be a Mudbug,” the 20-year-old Rotenberger said. “I’m happy to be in a spot where I can be confident in myself and be a leader.”
The 5-foot-11 blueliner has extensive experience playing for teams within the Total Package Hockey program. Rotenberger began his career playing for the TPH/North Alabama Hockey Association, which was recently awarded for its efforts to convert more Try Hockey for Free kids to youth hockey players.
He then made the jump to the AAA level, where he captained the TPH Thunder for three seasons before moving on to the NAHL.
“I did all of the TPH camps growing up,” Rotenberger said. “Everyone at TPH has helped me – from being a mite and going to camps and eventually going up to playing AAA hockey in the south. To play junior hockey with them and the Mudbugs is going to be pretty exciting.”
Rotenberger is proud of the successful hockey career he’s carved out playing in the southern U.S. He saidhat former Alabama-Huntsville players helped get him on the ice as a child and that it will make playing in Shreveport, and eventually back home at the Division I level, all the more special.
“It’s cool to have the UAH connection and the Thunder gave me the opportunity to play AAA hockey in the south and compete to win,” he said. “I’m really grateful for everyone who has helped me out.”
A consummate leader, Rotenberger will be a standout member of the Shreveport community and expects to be a shutdown part of the Mudbugs blueline.
“I’m excited to get down there not only be a hockey player but be involved in the community,” he said. “I’m honored and I’ll work my hardest to make the Mudbugs an important part of Shreveport on and off the ice.”
— Cindy Smith/Kalmbach Smith Meadows