UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Utica Comets were handed one of the worst defeats in franchise history, as they dropped a 7-2 decision to the Abbotsford Heat, Saturday evening on home ice in front of a sold out crowd at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Tonight’s game concluded the season series between Utica and Abbotsford, with the Comets victorious in seven of twelve meetings.
Jeremy Welsh and Alex Biega scored for Utica, which fell to 29-29-4-4 with the defeat. The Comets received 18 saves form Joacim Eriksson, who took the loss, and 12 saves from Joe Cannata in relief. Ben Street led all scorers with three points (1-2-3) for Abbotsford, while Brett Olson had two goals. Netminder Joni Ortio made 32 saves on 34 shots to earn the victory.
Abbotsford used an extended stead in the offensive zone to get on the board first, 14:38 into the game. Winger Jordan Kremyr let go a backhanded effort from the slot that slipped between Eriksson’s five hole to put the Heat up 1-0. Tim Miller and Kane LaFranchise picked up assists on the goal, the first of Kremyr’s professional career.
Utica knotted the score at one just 30 seconds into the second period as Welsh fired a slap shot past Ortio from the left wing. Welsh was sprung by a feed from Alex Friesen, who collected his eighth point over his past ten games. Defenseman Peter Andersson also picked up an assist, his first point since he picked up an assist on Jan. 28 against Lake Erie.
The Heat scored their first of five during the middle stanza at the 3:40 mark of the second, as Zachery Davies beat Eriksson off of a cross-ice feed from Max Reinhart. Davies’ finish came from the lower left circle for his second goal of the season. Street also had an assist on the play.
Olson made it 3-1 just over a minute later as he found the back of the net just seven seconds into a David Marshall hooking minor. The center picked up his 12th goal of the season on the play, with the assists going to Corey Locke and Derek Smith.
Olson found his second of the night less than four minutes later, this a shorthanded marker as the score moved to 4-1. The Heat forward collected a deflected pass from Street in his defensive end and went the length of the ice before he slid a backhander through Eriksson’s legs. With the brace, Olson recorded multiple goals in an AHL game for the first time in his career.
The Heat made it 5-1 as Street potted his first goal of the evening to give him his third point. The tally chased Eriksson from the game, with Cannata joining the fray in relief. Eriksson finished with 18 saves on 23 shots. Josh Jooris and Reinhart each collected an assist on the play.
The Heat finished a nightmare of a period for Utica, as Jooris converted on a penalty shot after he was hooked on a breakaway. The Union College graduate beat Cannata for the first time and extended the score to 6-1.
The second did not officially end, however, until a series of fights broke out in front of Ortio’s net. Darren Archibald and Brandon DeFazio each picked up misconduct penalties, with the two wingers totaling a combined 29 penalty minutes. Jooris picked up a misconduct of his own and Dean Arsense also recorded five for fighting for the Heat.
Abbotsford added their final tally of the evening as a point shot from Shane O’Brien beat Cannata to extend the Heat advantage to six goals. Sven Baertschi and Kane LaFranchise got in on the scoring with assists on the play.
Alex Biega and the Comets drew one back with the game’s final tally just 4:23 from the final buzzer. The defenseman laid into a pass from Friesen and wired a slap shot past Ortio to make it 7-2. The goal was the second shorthanded marker of the season for Biega, which ties him with Colin Stuart for the team lead. It’s also Utica’s fifth shorthanded goal since Feb. 5. DeFazio picked up an assist on the play as well.
The Comets face an enormous game tomorrow, with the Iowa Wild in town for the final game of the weekend. Utica, which remains within striking distance of the playoffs, is in need of a victory to remain so. Tomorrow’s contest is a matinee, with puck drop slated for 3:00 pm at The AUD.