Serving as the Watertown Privateers backup goalie for much of 2013, Bryan Kalczynski had been waiting for this opportunity all season.
Kalczynski made the most of his chance on Wednesday as in his first start of the campaign he made 30 saves, including several clutch stops down the stretch, and the Privateers turned back rival Danbury, 4-1 in a Federal Hockey League New Years Day clash at Watertown Municipal Arena.
Andrew Harrison scored a pair of goals, including the eventual game winner early in the third period, and former Whaler James Ryerse generated his first pro tally, to spark Watertown (8-13), which won its second game in four days against the first-place Whalers (14-6).
After Danbury defeated the Privateers, 5-3 on Tuesday night, Kalczynski got the call to spell Matt Anthony, who had started the teams first 20 games this season, having faced 78 shots in the past two games against the Whalers.
I felt a little overwhelmed during the national anthems, thinking about family and friends and everyone who helped me get here, said Kalczynski, a native of Buffalo who made just his third appearance of the season for Watertown. But after they dropped the puck, it felt like just another game.
Kalczynski, who allowed a goal in the final seconds of the first period, stopped all 21 shots he faced over the final 40 minutes to record his first win of the season.
Since were playing like eight games in 10 days, we decided to give Bryan a couple games this week, Watertown coach Brad Zangs said. And it was a heck of a start for this young man. Hes been wanting this opportunity and when it came tonight, he took full advantage of it.
I felt great out there, Kalczynski said. The team played very well in front of me and we played the full 60 minutes. The defense really helped me out and let me see the puck.
Ludlow Harris also scored for Watertown, which has dealt Danbury three of its six losses thus far this season.
The last four games, weve been finishing a lot of teams off, Zangs, whose team has won three of their last four. Its finally going really well for us now. Youve got to give everybody credit from the goaltending to the defense to our forwards. Theyre staying within themselves and arent trying to do too much. The bottom line is this was a nice win for us.
The Privateers opened the new year with an auspicious start as Harrison took a pass from defenseman Liam Tully and ripped a drive from the top of the right faceoff circle through goalie Kevin Hoys legs, 14 minutes, 59 seconds into the game.
After Danbury tied the game on Ryan Patschs goal with 3.5 seconds remaining in the opening period, Harrison gave the Privateers the lead for good at 2-1 as he snapped a shot past Hoy just 1:35 into the third.
Its huge win for us, Harrison said. Obviously when you can beat the first-place team in the league is huge, especially when you can do it at home in front of a good crowd. We need all the points we can get and we had a lot of guys step up tonight.
Then Ryerse, having just signed with Watertown earlier in the day, lifted a backhanded over Hoy at 11:04 to provide Watertown with a two-goal lead.
Its awesome, thats my first professional goal as well, said Ryerse after he made his debut with the Privateers after he played for parts of three seasons with Danbury. The feeling is kind of priceless. ... After I scored the goal I handed the puck to the other coach (Danburys Phil Esposito) and said thank you for the opportunity and he wasnt too happy about that.
Harrison and Ryerse helped provide the Privateers with an offensive lift after then leading scorer Branden Parkhouse left the team after Sundays game and headed to Minnesota to sign with the Bloomington Thunder of the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Ludlow, who had scored the deciding goal to complete Watertowns rally against Danbury on Sunday, finished off a 2-on-1 break with Chase Tippin with 2:46 left.
Weve handed Danbury three of their losses this season, Zangs said. And any time you can take six points away from a first-place team its a very good thing.
Hoy stopped 21 of 25 shots faced for the Whalers as he was handed his first loss of the season.
Hoy made 42 saves to win against Watertown on Tuesday in Danbury in his season debut after Danbury goalie Mike Brown was assessed a game misconduct for attempting to spear a Privateers player on Sunday in Watertowns 6-5 victory.
nNOTES: Brown, who served his one-game suspension on Tuesday, didnt make the trip to Watertown. ... Danbury is 5-3-0 in the season series with Watertown. ... The Privateers next play at 8:05 p.m. Friday at Danville and play at Dayton on Saturday and Sunday.