BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH Enlarge
Yet again, Kent Simpson came close to another shutout. And yet again, a late-game goal cut Simpson’s bid short.
But after the Walleye’s 2-1 win Saturday over the Reading Royals. Toledo’s goalie didn’t appear fazed by the prospect of a second fleeting shutout.
Instead, Simpson focused on the fact that his team won its fifth consecutive game.
“It was everybody doing their jobs in the defensive zone, and I think that’s what really got us to the victory,” said Simpson, who finished with 31 saves. “In the game of hockey, momentum’s such a big thing, and when you start winning a couple games and guys get that good feeling and that good vibe, I think it just kind of rolls from there.”
After Simpson and the Walleye earned a 2-0 win Thursday at Cincinnati, Simpson was in position to earn his second shutout Friday before Elmira forward Louie Caporusso scored with 1:29 left in regulation in Toledo’s 4-1 win.
Saturday at the Huntington Center, Reading forward David Vallorani ended Simpson’s bid for his second shutout in three nights when he scored a power-play goal with 15.6 seconds left.
Walleye coach Nick Vitucci, however, considered the bigger picture for his team, which kicks off a four-game road trip Thursday at Greenville.
“This was a weekend when we needed to make a statement in the league, that we’re playing division leaders, we’re playing conference leaders,” Vitucci said, referring to Reading and Cincinnati, which lead the Atlantic and North divisions. “For us to come victorious in three games against three very good teams is a huge statement.”
Randy Rowe gave Toledo a 1-0 lead at 11:40 of the first, and Cody Lampl’s open-ice hit on Reading defenseman Adam Comrie midway through the second sparked three separate fights on the ice and left gloves, sticks, and helmets scattered on the ice and resulted in nine penalties — including game misconducts for Lampl and Reading forward Alex Berry.
With 20.2 seconds left in the second, Travis Novak gave the Walleye a 2-0 lead when he spun in front of the Royals goal and beat Reading goalie Drew MacIntyre.
“You can’t get pulled into something like that, or getting off your game with something like that,” Simpson said. “It’s hockey. It happens. But our guys responded really well. We didn’t get rattled by it, we didn’t get too involved in it, but we stood up for each other.”
Simpson’s shutout bid ended after the Walleye took two penalties in the final 2:07 — an elbowing call against Phil Rauch and a roughing minor against Phil Oreskovic with 1:16 left — and Vallorani scored in a 6-on-3 situation, with MacIntyre pulled in favor of an extra skater.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.