Lauren Lyssy | Special to The Journal Gazette The Komets celebrate after Mike Embach’s first-period goal Thursday. Embach scored both goals for the Komets.
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.
Friday, May 20, 2016 10:09 pm
Embach gets Komets back in it
Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette
ALLEN, Texas – Mike Embach was definitely the hero. But he could have been the goat.
Embach, who was scoreless in the first two games of the Western Conference finals, netted both goals of the Komets’ 2-1 victory Thursday over the Allen Americans.
Allen still has a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series at Allen Event Center, where there was a crowd of 5,075.
"This was a relief, yeah. I really needed to contribute in a big way tonight," said Embach, who opened the scoring 4:11 into the first period by getting to a rebound firing a 20-foot shot. "I felt I should have been producing a little bit more with the way I played in the first two games. You could see that we were getting a lot more traffic tonight (in front of their net) and that was important for us.
"It felt great to go out there and get a goal on the first shift and it was because of that great play by (Cody) Corbett, who had the shot from the blue line. That allowed me to get to the net and send the puck in and get us started in the right way."
Embach scored again at the end of a 2-on-1 rush 19:18 into the second period.
After Allen’s Gary Steffes scored off a rebound at 11:36 of the third period, Embach had a chance to cement the victory with the goalie pulled and 20 seconds left. But Embach missed the net from the left circle, and the Americans almost responded with a tying goal at the other end.
"The puck hopped on me, and I thought, ‘Oh, here we go.’ I went from (believing) I’d have a hat trick and we’d have the win and get ready to tie this up on Saturday, and then I’m hustling back to the other end. Thankfully, they didn’t score," Embach said.
Embach’s teammates were able to laughingly give him a hard time after the game – their first ever at Allen Event Center, where they will play Saturday and Sunday – but they also knew that goaltender Pat Nagle’s 27 saves bailed them out, especially after a third-period Corbett goal was disallowed by referees Andy Thackaberry and Peter Tarnaris because of Jamie Schaafsma’s incidental contact with the goalie.
Corbett hadn’t played in 11 games but was inserted to provide offense.
"Those first couple of minutes in, you saw, that’s what I am – I’m a shooter," Corbett said. "I shoot the puck. Emmer did a great job going to the net hard and buried a rebound. That’s his go-to and that’s my go-to. We’ve just got to keep playing our roles."
The Komets improved to 5-1 on the road in the playoffs, and Allen dropped to 5-3 at home.
Allen had a new goaltender, Jake Hildebrand, who was 5-1-0 with a .925 save percentage in the regular season. He stopped 35 shots after a 10-game layoff.
"The first goal was exactly what we’d talked about," Komets coach Gary Graham said. "We were getting pucks to the net and having guys around the net to get to the rebounds. They’ve just been defending so well on the edges and in the corners, taking away time and space from us. We just have to try find a way to get anything we can through, as well as they’re defending, so I thought the first goal was exactly what we needed to get going – especially to get our confidence going. But we’ve got a lot of room to improve."
The series remained physical – Fort Wayne was 0 for 4 on power plays and Allen was 0 for 1 – and the ECHL is likely to review on hit by Allen’s Kyle Neuber on Shawn Szydlowski and a hit by Fort Wayne’s Garrett Meurs on Vincent Arseneau.