Walleye inch closer to playoff spot with 3-0 shutout over EvansvilleWritten by Vincent D. Scebbi | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Toledo Walleye (34-24-9) continue to hold on to the eighth and final playoff spot after blanking the Evansville IceMen 3-0 March 20.
Goalie Kent Simpson made 26 saves to record his second shutout of the season.
Evansville had a few good chances against the rookie netminder, including a third period attempt where Simpson, who was sprawled on the ice, used his legs to stop the puck from going behind him.
Simpson has started in the Walleye’s last four games beginning Friday in Wheeling, W.V.
“It’s a good feeling; it’s good having the coach’s confidence in you and hopefully the player’s confidence in you,” he said. “It’s good coming off a game on Sunday where bounces didn’t go your way, you can get back in there and can almost redeem yourself. It’s really good mentally to just keep rolling.”
Walleye head coach Nick Vitucci said his team started the game a bit sluggish, but was able to use a media timeout in the first period to regroup his team.
From that point on, he felt the Walleye improved and never looked back.
“We had a few terrible shifts where we were running around in our zone and just felt it was time to kind of send a message to our team that we’ve got to pull up our bootstraps and play a little harder,” Vitucci said. “The middle part of the first period we got a little better and after seven or eight minutes of the first period, we played great and I thought from that point on, we grabbed control of the game.”
IceMen goalie James Reid finished the game with 40 saves and kept Evansville in the game until Trevor Parkes banged in an empty-netter with 37 seconds left in regulation.
The game’s first goal came 1:46 into the middle period when Randy Rowe’s pass from behind the net was deflected off Darick Ste-Marie and into the back of the net. The pass was intended for Kyle Rogers, who was charging the net.
Joey Martin and Rogers picked up assists on Rowe’s 13th goal of the season.
“You get a lucky bounce where it bounces off their D-man and goes between their goalie’s legs. That was probably one that we deserved but maybe not that way,” Vitucci said. “We got it deep, as we asked them too, a little cycle and go get a puck to the front of the net and good things happen when you play right and that was a right play even though it was a broken-play goal.”
Willie Coetzee scored to make it 2-0 with 17 minutes left in regulation on a tic-tac-toe play between him, Parkes and Aaron Bogosian.
Coetzee took the puck and danced around the defensemen and was able to slide it underneath Reid’s pads and to the twine.
The goal was Coetzee’s team-leading 25th of the season.
Parkes added an empty net goal with 37 seconds left in the game with assists coming from Wes O’Neill and Ben Youds.
The victory tonight increases their cushion over the Kalamazoo Wings to seven points.
The Wings lost in a shootout to the Wheeling Nailers after giving up a 1-0 lead in the third period.
Despite being in the last playoff position, Toledo is only four points behind the Florida Everblades and Elmira Jackals, who are fourth in the conference with 79 points.
The Walleye travel to Kalamazoo, Mich. March 22 to face the Wings in a pivotal game.
“Every game from here on is pretty much playoffs,” Coetzee said. “I think all the guys know that; I think that’s why Simpson is playing so hard for us and I know that’s why all of us are playing hard, back checking, making good defensive plays first and then worrying about offense later.” The Walleye can clinch a playoff spot as early as Saturday with a regulation win against the Wings March 22 and a win against the Reading Royals the next night in Toledo.
Opening faceoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Wings Stadium