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Local pro hockey: Whalers send Privateers to 5th straight loss


Thousand Islands Privateers coach Paul Kelly didn’t mince words after what has become almost commonplace recently for the team — yet another loss.

The Privateers’ struggles continued as the Danbury Whalers rallied with three unanswered goals to prevail 4-3 on Friday night at Watertown Municipal Arena to deal Thousand Islands its fifth consecutive loss in the Federal Hockey League.

The Whalers (16-15) also handed the Privateers (15-19), who have been hit by a wave of recent player moves, their ninth loss in their past 10 games.

“There are no excuses,” Kelly said. “We’ve got to go with what we’ve got and right now we’re just not getting it done. It’s not that we’re not good enough, we just keep shooting ourselves in the foot. I just keep repeating it and I feel like it’s going in one ear and out and the other. ... It seems like everyone’s got an excuse. But excuses don’t get you wins.”

Thousand Islands, which hasn’t won in two weeks, also hasn’t won at home in more than a month, losing five straight in Watertown.

“Some guys just want to do their own thing,” Kelly continued. “And you know what happens when you do your own thing — you lose by one game at home or we lose by two goals on the road. It’s just so repetitive and we’re so inconsistent that I’m just going to have to look at other guys.”

Julian Fraser scored the game-winner after he assisted on the tying goal to spark the Whalers, who snapped a five-game road losing skid of their own.

“This is a good road win for us,” Danbury coach Phil Esposito said. “We’ve been playing better and we’ve had a lot of changes in the last couple weeks and we have some new guys. We’re making that transition into the second half of the year.”

Trailing 2-1 after 20 minutes, Danville seized the lead by scoring a pair of goals in the second period as defenseman Mark Vida took advantage of a screen from Fraser to beat goalie Matt Anthony 5 minutes, 47 seconds into the period.

Fraser scored the go-ahead goal for a 3-2 edge at 13:18 by throwing the puck at the net and past Anthony from in close on the right side.

“It’s tough,” assistant captain Adam McAllister said. “The work ethic is there, we’re working hard, but it seems like we’re making the same mental breakdowns at bad times.”

The Privateers got within a goal while on a two-man advantage on defenseman Nikolas Temple’s blast from the right point with 16.7 seconds remaining in regulation, but would get no closer.

“We’re in a rough slide right now,” Temple said. “We’re battling hard, haven’t been able to put it all together. We’ve just got to keep working hard.”

Thousand Islands has recently lost a host of players to call-ups — including two of their top scorers — with forward Brent Tamane the latest. He was loaned to the Huntsville Havoc of the Southern Professional Hockey League on Friday.

Forward Justin MacDonald, who was Thousand Islands’ second-leading scorer was traded to Danville on Jan. 9 for two players, including Max Mobley, who was called up by the Fayetteville FireAntz of the SPHL on Wednesday.

“They’ve all been tough,” Kelly said of his team’s current slide. “It’s always tough when you get guys called up and they go to different leagues — we’ve lost seven key guys who have been with us for a while. ... But you can’t blame that. Our season doesn’t stop because of call-ups.”

The Privateers’ last home win was a 9-3 decision over the New York Bluefins on Dec. 15.

“I’ve got guys who are calling me all the time wanting to play,” Kelly concluded. “I’m not going to settle for this — it’s too much — something’s got to change.”

Danbury opened the scoring as Matt Caranci deflected in a centering feed from Kamil Vavra 6:30 into the game.

Playing in only his seventh game with the Privateers, A.J. Tesoriero scored the tying goal with a drive from the right faceoff circle which clanged off the left goal post and into the net at 12:22.

McAllister put Thousand Islands up 2-1 by one-timing a feed from Corey Belisle past goalie Nick Neidert (28 saves) at 16:27.

The Privateers will host the Bluefins, formerly of Cape Cod, at 7 tonight.

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