Wayne Simpson, a former Union College standout, had a record-setting playoff run for the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays.
But it wasn’t enough to help the Stingrays win the Kelly Cup.
Simpson wasn’t even named the playoff’s most valuable player.
But Simpson, who played for the Dutchmen from 2009-13, is hoping to parlay his postseason production into a chance to move up the pro hockey ranks and earn a shot of a two-way NHL contract.
Simpson, a second-year pro, set the ECHL mark for most points in a playoff year with 38, leading the Stingrays to the Eastern Conference title and a berth in Kelly Cup final. South Carolina lost the final to the Allen Americans in seven games.
With 13 goals and 25 assists in 27 games, Simpson surpassed the old mark of 34 points, set by Blaine Moore of Richmond in 1995 and tied by John Spoltore of Louisiana in 2000. Simpson’s 25 assists are second most in Kelly Cup playoff history. Spoltore has the record with 26, set in 2000.
“I was more focused on the team aspect the whole time,” said Simpson, who is sixth in Union’s Division I history with 118 points. “It was a real special team. It was a real fun run. I had the privilege to play on a good team and on a good line. I didn’t know it happened until I read it online.”
Simpson did get a taste of AHL play this year. He got into four games with the Providence Bruins, and scored a goal.
“I’m trying to move up and play at the highest level that I can,” Simpson said. “That wasn’t the main thought in my mind when [the playoffs were] going on. That’s a by-product of the play that we had as a team that allowed me to have that individual success. I just kind of roll with it. If it helps me career-wise, that’s awesome.”
Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery believes Simpson is ready for the next level.
“He’s catapulted himself into a very prominent, recognizable [name],” Carbery said. “Scouts and GMs knew he had a good rookie year [with 22 goals and 19 assists]. He got off to bit of a slow start [this past season], but he was solid. Now, he’s right in the conversation of, ‘Yes, this is someone we need to get into our organization at the American [Hockey] League level.”
Simpson, who had 16 goals and 39 assists in 65 regular-season games, had at least one point in 18 of the 27 playoff games. He had an eight-game point-scoring streak in which he had 21 points. Only twice did Simpson not get a point in consecutive games.
“I thought I was playing well,” Simpson said. “The points were reflecting that, and I just wanted to, obviously, keep learning, improving and doing the things that were making me successful. A lot of bounces went my way. It was one of those playoffs where I seemed to get a couple of breaks every night.”
Carbery was very impressed with Simpson’s effort.
“I’ve seen Wayne now for the past 160 games, and he was playing at a level that I hadn’t seen before,” Carbery said. “And when I say that, I don’t mean on a one-game level because I’ve seen him play really well and be really dynamic. But every single night for our playoff run, he was consistently leading the charge, standing out as a force every night.”
Simpson was more disappointed about not winning the Kelly Cup than he was seeing the playoff MVP go to Allen’s Greger Hanson, who was the playoff’s third-leading scorer with 29 points in 25 games.
“It was the last thing on my mind after losing,” Simpson said. “I guess I support the MVP should be on the team that won it all.”
Carbery thought Simpson deserved it.
“Maybe the league caught some heat for the previous year when [Cincinnati Cyclones] goalie Rob Madore won the MVP of the losing team,” Carbery said. Cincinnati lost to Alaska in the final. “If you’re looking at an MVP of the playoffs who single-handedly was most valuable to their team in the playoffs, I don’t think you think you would get an argument from any coach that Wayne was it.”