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  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets defenseman Cody Sol and goaltender Michael Houser thwart a scoring attempt by Cincinnati's Rob De Fulviis during the first period of Sunday's playoff game at Memorial Coliseum.

Monday, April 16, 2018 1:00 am

ECHL Playoffs

Houser gives K's energy boost

Posts 33 saves to help secure 2-0 series lead

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Schedule

Who: Komets vs. Cincinnati

What: Central Division semifinals

Series: Komets lead 2-0

Game 1: Komets 4, Cyclones 3, 2 OT

Game 2: Komets 3, Cyclones 1

Game 3: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, at Cincinnati

Game 4: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, at Cincinnati

Game 5: 3 p.m. Sunday , at Cincinnati*

Game 6: 7:30 p.m. April 24, at Coliseum*

Game 7: 7:30 p.m. April 25, at Coliseum*

* if necessary

With just about every kick of his leg, every catch with his glove hand, Komets goaltender Michael Houser thwarted the Cincinnati Cyclones and injected some needed energy into his teammates.

“He was playing great for us tonight. He made some big saves, some timely saves. He was definitely our star player tonight,” captain Jamie Schaafsma said after Houser's 33 saves led the Komets to a 3-1 victory Sunday over the Cyclones in Game 2 of the Central Division semifinals.

“It definitely gets the bench fired up when he makes a save. There was one in the third period we saw – a guy was winding up and he had a good angle, and (Houser) sprawled and made the blocker save – and the bench got fired up. He was a huge catalyst for us tonight.”

With the Komets coming off Saturday's 4-3 double-overtime victory, which was cemented by a Schaafsma goal, Houser knew his teammates might not have the same amount of energy at Memorial Coliseum. So Houser kept it scoreless long enough for Cody Sol to score off a 45-foot slap shot during a 5-on-3 power play 6:06 into the second period, and Mason Baptista to make it 2-0 by swatting at a Garrett Thompson cross-ice pass 17:31 into the third period.

“I wanted to make sure (because) you never know how the team is going to come out after a game like that. Will we have legs? Will we not have legs?” Houser said. “It was a long (Game 1). I thought we battled well today considering we played almost five periods last night. But I knew I had to be a little better tonight.”

Only Justin Vaive got a shot past Houser, during a power play 19:23 into the third period, but Thompson quickly responded with an empty-net goal as Fort Wayne took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series that shifts to U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati for Game 3 on Thursday.

“(Houser) was awesome,” Sol said. “He battled hard for us, made some big saves, a couple of breakaway saves. And when he makes saves like that, it keeps you in the game, keeps us in the lead, and we feed off those.”

Houser came into the series feeling he had a good sense of the Cyclones' shooters, having played alongside some of them last season. The others he got to know during the regular season when Cincinnati won 5 of 9 meetings.

Houser has turned away 59 of 63 shots in the series, including stopping a first-period shot from Brandon McNally from point-blank range, a second-period McNally breakaway and a third-period Daniel Muzito-Bagenda backhand.

“When you make a couple saves like that, you see guys want to sell out and block some shots,” said Houser, who got plenty of assistance, including Bobby Shea stripping Vaive before he could unleash a 12-foot shot with Houser sprawled on the ice in front of 5,814 fans.

Cincinnati's Jonas Johansson has stopped 103 of 109 shots, including 35 of 37 on Sunday.

The Komets dressed only 17 players, one short of a full lineup.

The latest player missing was Justin Hodgman, who suffered a head injury on a Game 1 hit from Dominic Zombo, who was suspended one game by the ECHL. The Komets were also without injured players Curtis Leonard, Marco Roy, Ryan Culkin and Artur Tyanulin, while Trevor Cheek and Zac Larraza remained with Tucson of the higher-level American Hockey League.

jcohn@jg.net