Jason Chaimovitch, vice president of Communications for the American Hockey League, presented Observer-Dispatch sports reporter Ben Birnell with the James H. Ellery Award before Friday's game between the Utica Comets and Springfield Thunderbirds at the Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.

The honor is presented annually in recognition of outstanding AHL media coverage and was awarded to Birnell for his work covering the Utica Comets during the 2017-18 season.

The award first was presented in 1964-65 and is named in honor of the late Jim Ellery, former publicity director for the AHL. Robert Esche, president of the Utica Comets, nominated Birnell for the award.

Birnell began covering the Utica Comets during the 2015-16 season.