Simpson saves 35 as Walleye win 3-1 against WheelingWritten by Vincent D. Scebbi | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Goalie Kent Simpson played his best game of the year, stopping 35 of 36 shots to lead the Toledo Walleye (33-23-9) to a 3-1 win over the Wheeling Nailers (27-26-11) on March 16.
“These are the games you play for all year; it’s basically playoff hockey,” said the rookie netminder, who recorded his 16th win between the pipes. “Every balance, every goal, every save can make that little bit of a difference. I was just happy I could help the guys out tonight a little bit and they helped me out just as much I’d say.”
Simpson made 21 consecutive saves before allowing a game-tying goal with 10:32 left in the second stanza.
“[Simpson] won this game single-handledly for us,” said Walleye head coach Nick Vitucci. “You can’t play 20 minutes of hockey and expect to win a game. And we played 20 minutes of hockey and won the game because of this kid.”
Simpson made 14 saves in the first period, including three big ones while Wheeling was on the power play.
After forward Joey Martin was called for interference, the Nailers moved the puck and fired a shot from the slot and Simpson made a pad save after sliding laterally from left to right.
The Nailers outshot Toledo 36-29 on the night and allowed only five shots on net during the second period.
Toledo is 11-1-2 on the season when outshout by their opponents.
The Walleye’s penalty kill thwarted eight Wheeling power plays, including two five-on-three advantages for the Nailers.
“The penalty kill did a great job, but obviously your best penalty killer has to be your goaltender and he was,” Vitucci said.
The Walleye capitalized on an early Wheeling penalty to get the early lead.
Trevor Parkes scored on the power play after Nailers defenseman Reid McNeill was called for holding in the game’s first nine seconds. McNeill was also assessed a game misconduct.
Martin threw the puck through a Wheeling player’s legs to the front of the net and Parkes deflected the rubber past the netminder to score his 11th goal with the Walleye.
“If [Parkes is] not scoring them, he’s wreaking havoc in front of the net where pucks are getting through like the second one,” Vitucci said.
Wheeling equalized the score after Chris Barton poked a loose puck past Simpson with 10:32 left in the middle period. Matt Germain and Paul Crowder assisted the play.
Up to that point, Simpson stopped 21 straight shots.
Toledo has seemed to struggled in the second period compared to the other two. The team is -4 in the middle frame (53 goals forced, 57 goals allowed), +9 in the first (60 GF, 51 GA) and +26 in the final stanza (88 GF, 62 GA).
Toledo scored its second power play goal with 9:20 left in regulation to take a 2-1 lead. Coetzee’s shot from the blue line got behind a screened goalie to light the lamp. Martin and Parkes assisted on the goal.
The Walleye netted the insurance goal 36 seconds later when Martin’s put-back shot from the left side of the net deflected off a Wheeling player and to the top shelf. Defenseman Cody Lampl fired the first shot and captain Kyle Rogers assisted the play also.
The win tonight gives Toledo some cushion in the playoff push. The Walleye sit in the eighth and final playoff spot and have a six-point advantage over the ninth-place Kalamazoo Wings, who lost 4-2 to the Evansville IceMen tonight.
Toledo is also tied with the Elmira Jackals at 75 points and trail the Greenville Road Warriors by one for the sixth seed.
“There’s been a ton of worry; I have no fingernails left,” Vitucci said.
“We’ve got a battle on our hands and we have to win every single game here to feel good about ourselves and it seems as if you drop one, a team’s within two points of you possibly. Every one’s a playoff game for us from here on out.”
The Walleye complete their three-game weekend series with Wheeling at the Huntington Center at 5 p.m. March 17.
Vitucci said Simpson is expected to start tomorrow for the third straight game.
Tags: Toledo Walleye