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Examiner
  • Bill Althaus: Goalkeeper elevates play in playoff game

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  • “Where’s Danny?”
    No one near the locker room could seem to find the Missouri goalkeeper who had just turned in a performance that rivals the greatest moments in Comets history.
    In a span of just over a minute in the second period, Waltman made a kick save, a point-blank save off his chest and a diving save – flying through the air like Superman.
    “Danny was Superman tonight,” said forward Leo Gibson, who scored a team postseason record 11 points in the 20-6 MISL semifinal playoff victory over the Milwaukee Wave Sunday afternoon. “This is a memorable win for everyone.”
    It was a game that Waltman will never forget. It took him several minutes to leave the Independence Events Center field and join his teammates in the locker room because the fans simply wouldn’t let him go.
    For three periods, Waltman shut out the high-flying Wave, who have now lost five games to the Comets. The Wave came into the MISL playoffs with a 16-4 regular-season record – with all of those losses coming against the Comets.
    It was the fifth time this season Waltman has held the Wave to 10 or fewer points. The Wave were the second-highest scoring team in the MISL, averaging more than 16 points per game. The Comets averaged just a fraction more points per game than the Wave, but Waltman was the difference maker all season.
    “Danny Waltman is the MVP of our team and the league,” said defenseman Brian Harris, who was among the league leaders in blocks. “He sets the tone every game. What he did tonight was unbelievable, and I think it caused everyone else to raise their level of play.
    “I’ve never seen a goalie do what he did tonight.”
    Neither had defenseman Stefan Stokic.
    “This team has the best goalkeeper and the best defense of any team I have ever been a part of in the MISL,” the eight-year MISL veteran said. “Danny was amazing tonight. We opened the playoffs with a big win. Our defense played so well – shutting them out for three quarters. We score 20 points, and everyone is still talking about our defense and Danny.”
    Waltman did not want to stand in the spotlight alone.
    “First and foremost, give some love to my defense. Those guys were amazing,” said Waltman, who made 21 saves on 24 shots. “They set the tone. (forward Stefan) St. Louis made an early block, and Harris and Stefan and (John) Sosa and all the guys were working so hard out there.
    Page 2 of 2 - “And I got a little love from the posts.”
    Two Wave shots early in the game ricocheted off one post, hit another and then got cleared out by a Comets defender.
    “When they didn’t score on those goals,” Waltman said, “I thought to myself, ‘I better buy a lottery ticket after the game.’”
    Sure, there was some luck involved, but the high-flying goalie is the heart and soul of a team that is closing in on its first-ever championship.
    “We have a tough road ahead,” Gibson said, “but with Danny in the net, we feel like we win every time we play a game. The bigger the game, the better Danny plays.”
    Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at 350-6333 or bill.althaus@examiner.net. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC
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