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The Journal Gazette

  • Lauren Lyssy | Special to The Journal Gazette Goaltender Pat Nagle of the Komets, middle, makes a save in the first period at the Allen Event Center on Thursday night. 

  • Lauren Lyssy | Special to The Journal Gazette The Komets celebrate after Mike Embach's first-period goal at the Allen Event Center.

Thursday, May 19, 2016 10:09 pm

Embach's 2 goals lead K's to win

Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette

ALLEN, Texas – Forward Mike Embach is one of the Komets’ top forwards, but he hadn’t produced a point in the first two games of the series. Tonight, he broke out in a big way, netting two goals as the Komets defeated the defending-champion Allen Americans 2-1.

Allen remains up 2-1 in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals.

Goaltender Pat Nagle stopped 26 shots for Fort Wayne, which had never before played at the Allen Event Center, where there was a crowd of 5,075.

Embach missed an empty net from 25 feet out – without a defender – with 15 seconds left and Allen got another scoring opportunity. But he was able to leave the ice as the hero and with a breath of relief.

Fort Wayne outshot the Americans 37-27.

(Some video highlights are above. More are coming later.)

The Komets came to Texas needing to win 2 of 3 games to force the series back to Memorial Coliseum, a situation they had been in before. In the first round, they dropped the first two games to the Cincinnati Cyclones, then won the series in seven games before sweeping Utah.

The Komets improved to 5-1 on the road in the playoffs and Allen dropped to 5-3 at the Allen Events Center, where the teams will meet again in the best-of-seven series Saturday and Sunday.

Allen had a new goaltender, Jake Hildebrand, who was 5-1-0 with a .925 save percentage in the regular season and had come into the night 0-1 with a .840 SP in the postseason. He hadn’t played in the previous 10 games. Riley Gill, Allen’s No. 1 goalie, took himself out of Game 2, a 3-2 victory by Allen in overtime on Gary Steffes’ goal, with an injury and was replaced by Joel Rumpel. 

Fort Wayne defenseman Cody Corbett, who had been a healthy scratch the previous 11 games, set up the first goal with a shot from the blue line. The rebound was put in at 4:11 by Embach.

Nagle had to be strong in the ensuing minutes, stopping shots by Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Spencer Asuchak and David Makowski from point-blank range.

The physical tone of the first two games continued, starting when Fort Wayne’s Garrett Meurs checked Vincent Arseneau from behind. Arseneau then delivered big hits on Cody Sol and Alex Belzile, getting a penalty from referees Andy Thackaberry and Peter Tarnaris for the second.

In the second period, shortly after Fort Wayne’s Garrett Thompson doled a crushing check to Spencer Asuchak, Steffes shot a breakaway opportunity but was stopped by Nagle. Hildebrand was tested often too – Fort Wayne had 20 of the first 38 shots – and a Brett Perlini shot went off his mask 13:24 into the second period.

Within the next minute, Fort Wayne defenseman Jordon Southorn stopped what would have surely been a goal by crouching to block a Kyle Neuber shot toward an open net, and the Komets’ Mason Geertsen was stopped by Hildebrand on a shot from 10 feet out.

Seconds after another magnificent Nagle save – he foiled J.P. LaFontaine off a rebound – an odd-man rush ended with Embach scoring on a low shot from the right circle for a 2-0 lead.

A goal by Corbett 3:54 into the third period, on a shot from the left circle, was disallowed because of incidental contact with the goalie. That loomed large as Steffes scored off a rebound at 11:36.

Notes: To make room for Corbett, Komets coach Gary Graham scratched Justin Hamonic, who had one assist in 13 playoff games. … Allen’s Gregor Hanson was back in the lineup after missing one game because of a family obligation. …. Fans that sit behind the Fort Wayne bench were doing their best to taunt the Komets, including blowing vuvezelas from just inches away. They are known for this, though, and it irked Missouri a lot in the second round.

jcohn@jg.net