Veteran forward Mike Embach decided if he couldn’t beat the Toledo Walleye, he’d join them.
Embach, who has played in 371 ECHL games, signed a contract with the team Sunday.
Embach, who had been playing overseas this season in Scotland, played last season for Toledo’s rival, Fort Wayne. The Walleye knocked Embach and the Komets out of the playoffs in 2015 and 2017.
The Walleye's Jake Paterson protects the goal against the Fort Wayne Komets' Mike Embach shot during a game last year.
Blade/Amy E. Voigt Enlarge
“I’ve always loved the way they played,” Embach said after Toledo’s 6-2 win Sunday against Cincinnati. “It’s a tough team to play against. So I’m going to enjoy playing with them.
“They are the team that has ended my season. So for me, it was getting into a situation that gave me the best chance to win a championship. This organization is top notch with the way that it is run.”
Embach, 30, collected 51 points in 61 games for the Komets last season. He scored 18 goals to go along with 33 assists.
Overall, Embach has scored 124 goals in his ECHL career to go along with 163 assists for 287 points. The native of Orland Park, Ill. also has 322 penalty minutes.
“For me as an older guy, I hope to be a voice in the locker room and play the right way,” Embach said. “I want to bring a little grit and sandpaper, too.”
Walleye coach Dan Watson said the team had only 10 forwards with Alden Hirschfeld and A.J. Jenks on injured reserve, so he wanted to bring in a veteran.
“He’s a guy that’s going to bring some leadership,” Watson said. “He plays the game the right way. He plays hard. He will provide a spark to our lineup. I expect him to be a big piece.”
Embach won the ECHL’s Community Service Award last season.
He was teammates with goalie Pat Nagle in Fort Wayne last year. Nagle and Embach also were roommates in college together at Ferris State University, where he also played with Toledo forward Kyle Bonis.
“I’ve been very lucky to know Mike,” Bonis said. “He plays the game the right way and the fans are going to love him when they see him out there.”
Embach did not play in Sunday’s game against the Cyclones.
He said he knows several of the team’s current players, including Nagle, A.J. Jenks, Shane Berschbach, Bonis, and Beau Schmitz.
“I’m super familiar with the organization,” Embach said. “They’ve been the Achilles’ heel in my career.”
Embach served as the best man at Nagle’s wedding. He said Nagle spoke highly of the Walleye organization’s facility and staff.
Watson said it was logical to bring Embach in with three of the team’s veterans out. ECHL rules allow teams to carry just four veterans, players with 260-plus pro games played, on the active roster.
“I like to have a competitive lineup every night,” Watson said. “It didn’t cost us a lot. There were no trades or releasing of guys.”
The left winger tallied 19 points, including seven goals, in 35 games for Braehead Clan this season. Embach said his team was struggling and had a new coach.
“I wasn’t happy with the situation,” he said. “So it’s the later years in my career and I told them I wanted to win a championship.”
In three days he traveled from Glasgow to London to Chicago, then to Toledo.
“So it just all kind of fell into place,” he said.
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