PREVIEW: Phantoms vs. Comets

Wednesday, December 27, 7:05 p.m.
PPL Center, Allentown, PA
Lehigh Valley (12-11-5) vs. Utica (10-11-3)

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms open a three-game homestand in their final games of calendar year 2023 and also play their first game back from the Holiday Break against the Utica Comets, AHL affiliate of the New Jersey Devils.
Tonight features pregame Happy Hour with $2 Yungling and Miller Lite’s on special until game time.
This is the only appearance in Allentown for the Comets which features the return of Max Willman who played for the Phantoms for four seasons. The Phantoms have points in four of the last six games (3-2-1) while the Comets have dropped three straight.
Up next on the homestand is a Saturday night encounter with the rival Hershey Bears on a Whiteour Night at PPL Center featuring a Knit Hat giveaway courtesy of The Morning Call. Sunday against the Charlotte Checkers includes New Year’s Eve Glowsticks from Penn Community Bank and then the World Largest Puck Drop after the game.

The Phantoms rallied from a pair of two-goal deficits to earn a standings point at Charlotte last Friday in a 5-4 shootout loss in the final game before the holiday break.
After trailing 2-0 in the first period, Lehigh Valley surged back to tie the game on goals by Louie Belpedio (1st) and Tanner Laczynski (8th). But the Checkers pushed back in front at 4-2 setting the stage for another Lehigh Valley comeback on goals by Wade Allison (6th) and Cooper Marody (7th). Both teams had phenomenal chances in a wild overtime that featured 12 combined shots but eventually the Checkers would win in the first shootout of the season for either team. Mackie Samoskevich led the Checkers’ attack with two goals and Brendan Perlini scored in Round 3 for the winner.

Dec 26 – Parker Gahagen (G) – Loaned to Reading by Lehigh Valley
Dec 26 – Cal Petersen (G) – Returned on loan to Lehigh Valley from Philadelphia

Lehigh Valley’s power play just gets better and better. The Phantoms are third in the AHL, and first in the Eastern Conference, at 24.8%. And Lehigh Valley’s 27.5% success rate on the road is best in the AHL.
The Phantoms have scored a power-play goal in 14 of the last 15 games going 18-for-56 (32.1%) since November 12.  The Phantoms are also on a streak of six straight games with a power-play goal (7-for-25, 28.0%) that immediately followed a nine-game streak. It’s been a balanced attack that has generated the team’s tremendous success on the man-advantage.
Cooper Marody (3-11-14) has the most power-play points of any Eastern Conference player and is one off the AHL lead. Samu Tuomaala (5-8-13) is tied for the most power-play goals for AHL rookies and is tied for second in rookie power-play points.
Olle Lycksell (6-6-12) and Tanner Laczynski (4-6-10) are both at double-digit power-play points as well.
Emil Andrae (2-7-9),  J.R. Avon (3-1-4) and Wade Allison (2-1-3) also have multiple power-play goals.

Philadelphia’s Round 2 selection in the 2021 NHL Draft is having a massive season in his first full pro campaign in North America. 20-year-old Finland product Samu Tuomaala (8-17-25) now leads the Phantoms in scoring and also rates third among AHL rookies in points and assists while leading the Eastern Conference in both categories.


  • Emil Andrae is on a five-game point streak scoring 2-6-8 since Dec 13. The Flyers round 2 selection in 2020 from Sweden is in his first full season of pro hockey in North America.
  • Tanner Laczynski has multiple points in consecutive games (2-2-4). The fourth-year pro out of Ohio State scored his second career overtime goal last Thursday
  • Cooper Marody has points in five of the last six games (2-7-9). The 28-year-old veteran of 257 career AHL games has 240 points across six seasons with Bakersfield and Lehigh valley
  • The Phantoms played consecutive games to overtime or shootout last week and have had overtime contests in three of the last five games
  • The Phantoms are:
    7-3-3 when scoring first
    10-2-3 when scoring three or more goals
    9-1-0 when leading after two periods
    9-2-2 when allowing three goals or fewer

Utica (10-11-3) arrives to PPL Center for its lone visit of the season. It’s the return of three former Phantoms as Max Willman (7-6-13), Kyle Criscuolo (5-9-14) and Ryan Fitzgerald all return to Allentown for the first time since they played for Lehigh Valley. Willman played 142 games with the Phantoms over four seasons from 2019-23 scoring 32-35-71 while also playing in 50 games with Philadelphia scoring 4-2-6.
The Comets have lost three straight and have scored only three goals during their pre-Holiday Break slump. Fourth-year pro Graeme Clarke (10-9-19) leads the offense. Rookie prospect Isaac Poulter (8-4-1, 2.33, .920) has done a commendable job keeping his team in games.
The Comets special teams feature the ultimate of highs and lows. Utica’s penalty kill is best in the AHL at 87.4% but the power play is dead last at a paltry 11.1%.

Phantoms Scoring Leaders
Samu Tuomaala 8-17-25
Cooper Marody 7-18-25
Tanner Laczynski 8-14-22
Olle Lycksell 12-8-20
Emil Andrae 3-11-14

Comets Scoring Leaders
Graeme Clarke 10-9-19
Xavier Parent 7-11-18
Ryan Schmelzer 5-10-15
Kyle Criscuolo 5-9-14
Max Willman 7-6-13

Lehigh Valley PP, 24.8% (3rd)
Lehigh Valley PK 80.5% (17th)
Utica PP 11.1% (32nd)
Utica PK 87.4% (1st)

The Phantoms return Saturday, December 30 taking on the rival Hershey Bears featuring Phantoms Knit Caps presented by The Morning Call on the team’s first Whiteout Night. Fans are encouraged to wear white to the game while the team wears its bold all-white look for the first time this season.
Sunday, December 31 against the Charlotte Checkers includes the World’s Largest Puck Drop after the game outside the arena as part of the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration which will also include a Glowstick giveaway courtesy of Penn Community Bank.

Wednesday, December 27 (7:05) – Utica Comets at Lehigh Valley Phantoms – Pregame Happy Hour. $2 Beers
Saturday, December 30 (7:05) – Hershey Bears at Lehigh Valley Phantoms – Phantoms Knit Caps presented by The Morning Call. Whiteout Night.
Sunday, December 31 (7:05) – Charlotte Checkers at Lehigh Valley Phantoms – World’s Largest Puck Drop! Glowsticks presented by Penn Community Bank