Goalies at top of their games

Sparkling play by Simpson, Houser sends opener into 2 OTs


Both Toledo goalie Kent Simpson and Cincinnati goalie Michael Houser had to be brilliant in the first overtime period of Friday’s playoff opener.

Simpson made nine saves and Houser had 13 stops to send the tightly contested game into a second overtime.

Houser made two saves on an early Walleye power play. Simpson then made a game-saving stop with 15:24 left. Less than a minute later, Walleye defenseman Ben Youds had a chance to end it, but Houser made the stop.

Houser then came up with a big save on Adam Hobson to again keep the game alive for the Cyclones with 12:32 left in the first OT.

Toledo’s Willie Coetzee then nearly tallied the winner, but Houser got his stick on the puck and deflected it away.

Then a bad turnover in the Walleye end forced Simpson to come up with a game-saving stop with 7:47 left.

Simpson came in with a 20-14-5 record and a 2.36 goals-against average, while Houser (17-10-2) had a 2.55 GAA.

NO LONGER A ROOKIE: Simpson started his pro career in October and now has played in 41 games. Simpson, who played his junior career with the Everett Silvertips, has gotten stronger late in the season.

In March, he went 6-3-1 with a 2.01 goals-against average. In February, he was 4-2-1 with a 1.98 GAA. In January, he had a 3-2-1 record with a 2.16 GAA.

Simpson, who was drafted in the second round of the NHL draft by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, set Toledo team records for 20 wins, GAA, and save percentage (.912).

HOBSON HOPS BACK IN: Hobson, a veteran forward, returned to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 7. He replaced Nino Musitelli. Hobson had been on the injured reserve. He played in 21 games and had five goals and seven assists before his injury.

“It’s been a slow and tedious process,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said of Hobson’s recovery. “He was brought in to be a big gun.”

Musitelli, who signed with Toledo on Jan. 15, has 10 goals and 10 assists in 31 games.

BOOST TO LINEUP: Cincinnati received help from its AHL affiliates in San Antonio and Milwaukee as five players were recently sent down. David Pacan was reassigned from San Antonio. He has 52 points in 57 games for the Cyclones, including 38 assists.

BACK IN POSTSEASON: The Walleye are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2010. They lost three games to one to the Charlotte Checkers in the first round.

Vitucci also was coach of the Toledo Storm in 2007 when Toledo lost three games to none to the Cyclones in the playoffs. The last game in Storm history took place in Cincinnati.

FISH TALES: Cincinnati F Justin Vaive is the son of Rick Vaive, who played in 876 NHL games with the Maple Leafs, Blackhawks, and Sabres. … Simpson finished sixth in the ECHL with a 2.36 goals-against average. … The last time Toledo went to a playoff overtime was in 2010 when they lost to the Charlotte Checkers.