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Bills’ Hamlin on the minds of many — including Comets

Ben Birnell
Sports writer
email / twitter
Posted 1/6/23

The Utica Comets have a few loose ties to the Buffalo Bills.

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Bills’ Hamlin on the minds of many — including Comets


The Utica Comets have a few loose ties to the Buffalo Bills.

Most notably, captain Ryan Schmelzer — who wore a T-shirt featuring Bills quarterback Josh Allen during an interview earlier this season — and defenseman Dylan Blujus are Bills fans. Both were born in Buffalo.

The Bills have been in the news after safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field Monday in Cincinnati and has made remarkable progress in his recovery since his heart stopped, according to reports.

Football and hockey are two sports that can have high impact scenarios.

Comets coach Kevin Dineen said as of Thursday, he hadn’t spoken to his team about Hamlin and the surrounding circumstances.

The Comets were in Toronto on Monday night and then played at Toronto on Tuesday before returning to Utica early Wednesday morning.

“I think that has played very heavily on a national stage ... and beyond sports. I think anybody that has been in a crisis situation certainly might strike a chord of how you react to it,” Dineen said. “The benefit is that we come to work every day with qualified medical people around. We have great comfort in that and are fortunate to have support around us. In saying that, that was eye-opening for everyone I would say.”

The team’s staff includes athletic trainer Jon Williams, who is on the bench and assistant athletic trainers Katie Davis and Ryan Monaco.

Farzad Jalilvand is the team’s strength and conditioning coach.

“We play an aggressive sport and contact is not an option. You understand that (contact) is part of the package,” said Dineen, who played more than 1,100 pro games in the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s and has been a coach at various levels of the hockey since 2005.

Utica Comets at Springfield Thunderbirds

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: MassMutual Center, Springfield, Mass.

BROADCAST: KROCK 94.9FM or (free), (subscription video).

SEASON SERIES: Utica leads the two-game series following a 7-3 home win Dec. 17.

WHAT TO KNOW: Springfield, the St. Louis Blues affiliate, is in the middle of the standings in the eight-team Atlantic Division. The team was tied for the best points percentage in the Atlantic last season. ... The Thunderbirds were 6-3-1-0 in the last 10 games entering Friday’s matchup with visiting Bridgeport. ... Springfield is 2-3-0-1 against North Division teams this season. ... Matthew Highmore’s 31 points entering Friday were among the top-20 scorers in the AHL. ... Nolan Stevens, who was part of the Blues organization in Utica and played last season in Springfield, has two goals against Springfield. Entering Friday, he needed 10 points to match his career-best of 31 with San Antonio in 2019-20. ... Graeme Clarke has six goals in his last four road games, which is tied for the longest active streak in the AHL. He has 14 points in his last eight road games, which is the second-longest AHL active streak. ... Utica is 6-5-3-0 on the road this season.

Utica Comets at Providence Bruins

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: Amica Mutual Pavilion, Providence, Rhode Island.

BROADCAST: KROCK 94.9FM or (free), (subscription video).

SEASON SERIES: Providence leads the six-game series 2-0-0-0 following a 4-3 shootout win Nov. 2 in Utica. The teams also meet next Friday in Providence and Jan. 28 in Utica

WHAT TO KNOW: Providence, which is the Boston Bruins’ affiliate, finished an eight-game road stretch on Friday. The team had won three consecutive entering the game. ... Providence is 7-3-3-2 at home this season. ... Vinni Lettieri has two goals against Utica this season. He led the team with 26 points entering Friday. ... Nolan Foote (goal, two assists) and Ryan Schmelzer (three assists) each have three points against Providence this season. ... Utica was 7-0-0-0 in games played on Sunday last season.


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