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Thursday, July 24, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 2/2/2013

Simpson, Walleye defeat Elmira 4-1, prepare for Eastern Conference leader Reading tonight

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Kent Simpson was in solid position to become the first goaltender in the franchise's history to post back-to-back shutouts.

The rookie finished with 29 saves, but Elmira's 27th shot of the night eluded the young goalie with 1:29 remaining in the game.

His Walleye teammates had already erupted for three goals in a span of 10:05 in the second period as Toledo rolled past Elmira 4-1 before a crowd of 4,577 at the Huntington Center.

Simpson had 20 saves in a 2-0 win over Cincinnati on Thursday night. He had eight saves in the first period, seven in the second, and 14 in the third on Friday. His shutout streak lasted for 178 minutes, 11 seconds.

“It's not difficult [to get over] at all really,” Simpson said. “We won the game 4-1. [A] shutout’s the last thing on my mind. It's tough to get scored on. You never want to get scored on. It's a stat. It's pretty selfish if that is what you are aiming for. It's not the end of the world. We won the game and that's what really matters.”

The Walleye (25-17-4) have won four straight and six of their last seven.

Defenseman Wes O'Neill opened the scoring at the 13:00 mark of the second period. Forward Byron Froese scored a power play goal to give Toledo a 2-0 lead with 3:22 left in second period.

Just 27 seconds later, Pat Knowlton tipped a shot past Elmira goalie Maxime Clermont (25 saves) for a 3-0 lead. Joey Martin added an empty net goal with 48 seconds left.

The Walleye have never had consecutive shutouts in three and a half seasons.

Simpson (11-9-4) had made 12 saves in the third before Louie Caporusso beat him with a backhander. Simpson made a nice sliding save early in the first period to continue the shutout streak.

Coach Nick Vitucci said Simpson was spectacular on Thursday and made about 14 good saves on Friday.

“Anytime a goalie loses one that late you feel bad for him,” Vitucci said. “Kent has gotten to the point in this locker room that guys are playing hard for him. When that last goal went in the guys were crushed. It says a lot about the respect he is gaining.”

O'Neill's perfectly placed shot beat Clermont over his right shoulder as the vet defenseman continues to have a career year. He scored his carrer-high 11th goal of the season and has 21 points in 43 games. His previous high was 15 points in a 54-game season. He credited Andrej Nestrasil, who had three assists on Friday.

“Maybe it's been six years of saved up aggression,” O'Neill said. “But when you have guys like Nesty making passes to you, it makes it easier to jump up into those holes. Getting a couple earlier in the year helped me. I felt I could still do this.”

Froese, who had a team-high five shots, had not appeared in a game since breaking his wrist on Nov. 30 until Thursday. He had collected 17 points (5 G, 12 A) in 20 games.

Toledo hosts Eastern Conference leader Reading today at 7:05 p.m.

“This is a pivotal time and a big weekend for us,” Vitucci said. “You want to play the best of the best and see how you fair against them.”

FISH TALES: Toledo is 7-0-1 when it is outshot by opponents. … Toledo went 1 of 5 on the power play. The team has scored on just five of its last 48 chances. It has the worst success rate on the power play at home (10 of 82). … Elmira F Kelly Miller is a Toledo native. He started his pro career playing for the Toledo Storm in 2000-01. He has played in 529 games and has 116 goals and 999 penalty minutes. … Knowlton, who was signed Jan. 9, scored his first goal in a Walleye uniform. He has six points in 10 games.



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