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Privateers stay stuck in frustrating pattern


The Danbury Whalers continued their recent mastery of the Thousand Islands Privateers on Friday night.

Mike Atkinson scored twice in the third period, including the game-winning goal, to spark the Whalers to a 4-2 victory over the Privateers at Watertown Municipal Arena and stretch their winning streak against Thousand Islands to four games in the Federal Hockey League.

But unfortunately for Thousand Islands, the outcome was more of the same for Privateers coach Paul Kelly, who watched his team blow another lead in familiar fashion.

“I thought we played pretty well at times,” Kelly said. “But I say the same stuff every single practice, every single pregame and every single intermission — and guys just refuse to do what they have to do. They refuse to get the puck deep ... some guys think they’re superstars and they’re not.”

With the game tied at two through two periods, Atkinson scored the go-ahead goal as he redirected a shot by Cody Ayers past Thousand Islands goalie Matt Anthony 12 minutes, 53 seconds into the third period.

“We played well tonight,” Atkinson said. “We’re just trying to play well and together as a team. As long as we keep doing that, hopefully we can keep it going against these guys.”

The Whalers capitalized on another Privateers turnover as Atkinson took a nifty backhand pass from Ayers and tucked a shot past Anthony at 16:30 for a 4-2 advantage.

“Those two turnovers cost us two goals,” said Kelly, whose team managed only five shots on goal in the third period. “I’m not going to name names, but those cost us the game. I know we lost a lot of guys to (recalls), but there are no excuses.”

Danbury (19-16) has won five of the six meetings this season with Thousand Islands (17-20), including a 4-3 victory against the Privateers in Watertown last Saturday.

“We’ve played them quite a bit the last two weeks,” Privateers center Peter Campbell said. “It’s frustrating when a team comes into our rink and implements their game plan for 60 minutes. We did ours for maybe 40 minutes and then we took some dumb penalties. ... it’s our rink and we have to find a way to get it done here against them.”

Kelly, who said he “lost his patience” with his team last month, remains frustrated by its lack of consistency.

“As a coach, it’s hard to watch every night,” Kelly said. “It’s like a teacher trying to teach a kid math and he just doesn’t get it. I feel like I’ve failed as a teacher, but it’s up to these guys to get it done if they want to win.”

After another disappointing defeat, Kelly hinted there might be further changes in store for the Privateers.

“Obviously with the team folding (Williamsport), there’s a lot of guys out there who want to play and I’ll be happy to give them a chance,” Kelly said.

Campbell opened the scoring by firing in a pass from Adam McAllister with 1:11 remaining in the first period.

After the Whalers got even at 1-1, as Andy Willock snapped the puck past Anthony 8:34 into the second period, the Privateers reclaimed the lead only 41 seconds later at 2-1 as Corey Belisle knocked in a rebound of a Campbell drive.

Danbury, however, responded with the tying goal on Kamil Vavra’s tally at 16:08 of the middle period.

“It was a good road win for us,” Danbury coach Phil Esposito said. “After being on the bus all day, the guys came to play tonight and played hard from the first period on. We grinded it out and played a solid 20 minutes of road hockey in the third period and got it done.”

The Privateers travel to play two games at Danbury this weekend at 7:35 p.m. on Saturday and at 5:05 p.m. on Sunday.

“These are big points for us,” Esposito said. “Thousand Islands is right behind us in the standings and that’s where we want to keep them.”

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