An old friend comes back to town on Friday night when the Lehigh Valley Phantoms visit the Adirondack Bank Center to take on the Utica Comets.
Cal O’Reilly is one of the beloved players in Utica Comets history. As the team captain, he was an integral part of the Comets team that made a magical run to the 2015 American Hockey League Calder Cup Final. Although they fell to the Manchester Monarchs, it is still very fondly remembered by every Comets fan. O’Reilly played for two seasons in Utica (2013-14 and 2014-15), totaling 17 goals and 89 assists in 124 games played.
On Friday night, O’Reilly will be wearing a Lehigh Valley Phantoms uniform, and will be facing a much different Utica Comets team than the one he played for. When O’Reilly was in Utica, the Comets were the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks, whereas now they wear the red and black of the New Jersey Devils. It will not be the first time O’Reilly plays at the Adirondack Bank Center as the opponent, as Lehigh Valley is the fourth AHL team he has played for since leaving Utica.
Cal O’Reilly isn’t the only member of that 2015 Utica Comets squad to be returning with the Phantoms on Friday night. Adam Clendening, who played eleven regular season games and every playoff game for that team, will also be in the visitors locker room with O’Reilly. Lehigh Valley is Clendening’s fifth AHL team he has played for since leaving Utica.
That was then, however, and this is now. The red-hot Utica Comets enter this game in first place in the AHL North Division with a 3-0-0-0 record – one of only three undefeated teams left in the American Hockey League. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms find themselves on the opposite end of the scale. They are winless in five games so far with a 0-4-1-0 record, which puts them last in the AHL Atlantic Division. Regardless of the result on Friday night, streaks will either continue or be broken.
The Comets will have an addition to the team on Friday Night. The New Jersey Devils reassigned defenseman Colton White to the Utica, it is unknown yet if he will play or not. The Comets have also named their captain and alternate captains for the season. Per https://uticacomets.com, Ryan Schmelzer is now captain, with Joe Gambradella and Brian Flynn serving as alternate captains.
Comets season leaders (totals in parentheses)
- Goals: Alexander Holtz (3)
- Assists: Reilly Walsh (4)
- Points: Reilly Walsh (4)
- Shots: Alexander Holtz (15)
- Wins: Akira Schmid (2)
- GAA: Akira Schmid (0.97)
- Save percentage: Akira Schmid (.966)
Phantoms season leaders (totals in parentheses)
- Goals: Max Willman and Gerry Mayhew (2)
- Assists: Morgan Frost and Cam York (2)
- Points: Max Willman, Gerry Mayhew, Morgan Frost, Cam York, and Tyson Foerster (2)
- Shots: Max Willman, Gerry Mayhew, and Connor Bunnaman (12)
- Wins: none
- GAA: Samuel Ersson (2.05)
- Save percentage: Sam Ersson (.925)
Power Play: 16.7% (1/6)
Penalty Kill: 100% (12/12)
Power Play: 7.4% (2/27)
Penalty Kill: 83.3% (3/18)
Notes: With Marek Mitens being optioned to Adirondack, the only goaltender currently on the Utica roster is Akira Schmid. Expect another goaltender to be added to the Comets soon….Lehigh Valley boasts three recent first round picks of the Philadelphia Flyers: Morgan Frost (2017), Cam York (2019), and Tyson Foerster (2020)….The Comets should be well rested, their last game was on Saturday in Syracuse. Lehigh Valley last played on Wednesday night in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton….This is the first of four meetings between the Comets and the Phantoms. Their next game is on New Years Eve at the Adirondack Bank Center.