CINCINNATI, Ohio – Mike Embach’s hat trick was enough to lift the Fort Wayne Komets (22-14-6-4) over the Cyclones (26-18-1-1) by a 4-2 final score in front of 2,235 at U.S. Bank Arena on Wednesday night. Netminder Ben Meisner (W, 13 saves, 9-10-2-0) turned aside 13 of the 15 shots he faced in the tilt. In the defeat, Josh Birkholz recorded his fifth point in eight games since returning from injury.
Both squads swapped power play opportunities to open the game, but neither team was able to convert on their chance. The tilt remained scoreless for most of the period, but with just 29 seconds remaining in the frame, the Komets found the back of the net. After a couple fantastic saves by Rob Madore (L, 23 saves, 11-9-0-0), the visitors capitalized on a lucky bounce off the wall that awarded Embach with his 17th of the season. The Cyclones, who were outshot 10-5 in the period, entered the first intermission trailing by one.
The home team looked energized to start the second stanza and momentum shifted further in their favor when Captain David MacDonald dropped gloves with Nathan Martine. Although the Cyclones registered a few quality scoring chances on an early power play opportunity, they were unable to score the equalizer. They evened the score, however, when Jonathan Hazen found a streaking Josh Birkholz who buried his sixth of the season top-shelf at 9:59. After holding the Komets to just three shots on goal in the period, the Cyclones entered the final frame with momentum on their side.
The tilt took a quick turn, however, when a turnover at the blue line led to Embach scoring his second of the night at 5:22. Just 36 seconds later, Brandon Marino, the ECHL’s leading scorer, recorded his 20th of the season, giving his team a two-goal advantage. Cincinnati answered back with a goal of their own as an initial shot by Brian Nugent was poked by several Cyclones until Phil Bushbacher finally pushed it past the goal line at 8:00. When Madore was pulled late in the period in an attempt to spark a rally, Embach completed his hat trick, sealing the 4-2 victory for the Komets.
“I thought the effort was there,” said MacDonald. “I just think guys are maybe gripping their sticks a little too tight. It’s just we have some missed assignments, but they’re a good team, so you have to tip your hat to them.”
“I think we played well enough to win tonight,” he added about the rematch with their Hoosier State foes this Friday. “We just have to clean up on a few things on our end and limit the turnovers and it should be a good game.”
The same two teams will reunite at Memorial Coliseum this Friday night at 8:00pm.