Sports

Ferriero works OT magic for second straight night as Comets edge Heat 4-3

The Utica Comets – and the Vancouver Canucks fans in attendance – celebrated Benn Ferriero
The Utica Comets – and the Vancouver Canucks fans in attendance – celebrated Benn Ferriero's overtime game-winner on Saturday at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
— image credit: Clint Trahan / Abbotsford Heat

Overtime, apparently, is the right time for Benn Ferriero.

For the second straight night, the Utica Comets forward scored in the extra session to lift the Vancouver Canucks' affiliate to victory at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.

Ferriero, whose goal at 2:22 of OT on Friday was the only goal of the game, was sprung on a partial breakaway in Saturday's rematch and hammered a top-corner slap shot past Abbotsford Heat goalie Joey MacDonald to give his team a 4-3 victory.

"It feels good to help the team like that," Ferriero said afterward. “I love four-on-four hockey (in OT). More space to move, so I can use my speed and shot to my advantage.”

Playing before 6,247 fans, the Comets got off to a strong start, but the Heat rallied twice from one-goal deficits over the first two periods.

Utica forward Brandon DeFazio took advantage of a fortuitous bounce to open the scoring at 2:05 of the first period. A shoot-in off the end glass took a strange carom and bounced over the Heat net, where DeFazio pounced on it and chipped the puck past a stunned MacDonald.

Markus Granlund drew the Heat even on the power play at the 7:42 mark of the opening frame, blowing a top-corner wrist shot over the glove of Utica goalie Joacim Eriksson.

Comets forward Alexandre Grenier restored his team's advantage at 7:51 of the second, but Granlund and Max Reinhart combined on a shorthanded marker just over three minutes later to knot the score once again.

Abbotsford took its first lead of the game on a terrific individual effort by Brett Olson – he stole the puck from Utica defenceman Yann Sauve and ripped a wrist shot over Eriksson's shoulder at 7:18 of the third.

But shortly after Olson's goal, MacDonald and Heat blueliner John Ramage got their wires crossed on a dump-in behind the net, and Pascal Pelletier forced a turnover which led to a tap-in goal by Grenier.

That set the stage for OT, where some bad luck for the Heat paved the way for Ferriero's winner.

On a three-on-two rush, Abby defender Chris Breen took a drop pass and leaned into a slap shot, but his stick snapped in half. Sauve pounced on the loose puck and fed it ahead to Ferriero, whose slap shot left a vapour trail as it hummed past MacDonald.

“They had a good rush going there but they got a little unlucky when the guy broke his stick on a one-timer," said Ferriero, who has five goals and five assists during an eight-game point streak. “I saw there was the one D man that I thought I could catch. Sauve made a great pass to me. I’m pretty happy about that one.”

Heat head coach Troy Ward lauded Ferriero's shot as "a great goal."

"That would have gone in in the NHL," he said. "That was a goal-scorer's goal – he had one intent, and that was to shoot it as hard as he could. He did that, and I give that guy a lot of credit."

Olson had gotten off to an excellent start to his second pro season, posting 21 points in his first 29 games, but he hadn't registered a single point over his previous 13 games and Ward said afterward that he was almost a healthy scratch for Saturday's game.

Olson said that the goal felt like "the proverbial monkey off the back."

"It happens in all sports, not just hockey, where guys go into a little bit of a slump," he said. "The hardest thing is to not let that get into your head.

"It's a long season, there's a lot of things that can happen throughout the year. Sometimes they just don't go your way and sometimes they do. You've got to ride that wave a little bit, and now hopefully things will turn around."

Reinhart and Granlund exhibited tremendous chemistry all night – they combined for four points and seven shots on goal, and were named the first and second stars of the game, respectively.

"Their chemistry is right on," Ward said. "Granny is just a young star in the waiting, in my opinion. He's going to be a very good player. He's a little inconsistent, but that's part of being a first-year guy.

"Reino's just a real competitive guy, whether you're playing three-on-three or whatever with him."

In the end, Ward wasn't overly concerned about the hard-luck OT results or the fact the Comets have now won six in a row vs. the Heat, noting that his squad "got some guys going in the right direction" on the weekend.

In addition to Olson's slump-busting goal, mild-mannered centre Corban Knight showed a competitive spark, dropping the gloves with Alex Friesen in the first period for his first pro fight.

"We got two points out of the weekend and I'm happy with that, and we made some huge individual strides," Ward said.

"Our chemistry has continued to change, which is part of our thing that we've got to work through right now. We just got (Corey) Locke and (Derek) Smith in there, and it's going to take some time. We were used to (Paul) Byron and (Michael) Ferland and (Blair) Jones for a long time, and we had a certain pace to the game. Right now our pace is a little off. We've got guys trying to figure out the way we play."

• The Heat are back in action on home ice next week, when they host the Hamilton Bulldogs in a Friday-Saturday set (7 p.m. both nights, AESC).

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