Michael Houser smothers Cyclones chances for Komets’ 2-0 series lead

Komets goaltender Michael Houser takes a first-period shot form Cincinnati's Winston Day Chief, number 17, off the armpit. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)
Komets goaltender Michael Houser stopped a breakaway by Cincinnati's Brandon McNally during the second period. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)
Komets center Dennis Kravchenko earned a high-sticking penalty during the first period as he battled Cincinnati forward Justin Vaive. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)
Komets defenseman Daniel Maggio and Cincinnati's Arvin Atwal battle in the corner during the second period after a rough play. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)
Komets winger Mason Baptista scores the game-winning goal in the third period Sunday night. The puck hit the stick of Cincinnati goaltender Jonas Johansson who pulled the puck behind him into the net. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)
Cody Sol's power-play goal in the second period gave the Komets a 1-0 lead. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)
Komets goaltender Michael Houser makes a toe save during a Cincinnati power play in the first period. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)

Like the mother of any goaltender, Monica Houser sometimes gets a little anxious and nervous watching her son Michael play. There’s always so much pressure on her son, especially during a high-intensity playoff game.

Sunday night, she could have relaxed and enjoyed watching the game because her son smothered the Cincinnati Cyclones. Houser made 33 saves as the Komets won 3-1 at Memorial Coliseum to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven series against Cincinnati. By continually coming out from his crease to challenge shooters, smacking away rebounds and consistently challenging shooters and making them attempt moves to beat him, Houser never let the Cyclones have a chance.

“I thought I was a little more aggressive tonight,” he said. “When goalies are seeing the puck well and making saves, you can see guys start to force passes a little bit. That’s what we wanted to do, especially on the power play. We always say I’ll take the shot, and the guys will take the passes. After five periods last night, I knew I had to be better tonight than I was last night if we didn’t have our legs going.”

Because he looked calm and even comfortable, so did his teammates. A couple of early testers didn’t look as difficult as they actually were as he took first-period shots off the shoulders, one off his mask an another off his neckguard, but Houser calmly covered any rebound before the Cyclones could get there, and they were trying to crash his crease and distract him, especially early. He even smacked away a few passes to the crease before they could get to the Cyclones shooters.

“Mikey was on it right away and you could see it from the start,” defenseman Daniel Maggio said. “When you have that confidence in your goalie it carries over through the whole team. When he’s playing like that, he just gives us a second wind. He made a couple of big saves early on and we could see he was dialed in, so let’s go!”

The Komets couldn’t crack the Cyclones’ Jonas Johansson until Cody Sol’s power-play slap shot early in the second period. Houser made the 1-0 lead stand up until Mason Baptista’s freak goal at 17:31 of the third period finally gave Fort Wayne some breathing room. Cincinnati scored with 37 seconds left on a power play, but Garrett Thompson’s long backhand into an empty net with 17 seconds left ended the comeback threat.

“There were a couple of chances they had on the power play where he came up big and saved a lot of momentum for us,” defenseman Bobby Shea said. “It really looked like he was sound in net, very structured. He was there. He wasn’t getting lucky with these saves, he was there every time.”