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Privateers enjoy successful season debut in Watertown

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The Thousand Islands Privateers didn’t disappoint on Friday night in their inaugural game in Watertown.

Justin MacDonald scored the eventual game-winning goal and goalie Matt Anthony made 32 saves as the Privateers held off the Cape Cod Bluefins, 3-2, in their Federal Hockey League opener before a near-capacity crowd of 1,773 at the Watertown Municipal Arena.

“This was a huge win,” said Anthony, who returns as the team’s starting goalie.

“We were talking before the game and the week leading up to this about how important home openers are. Especially when you move to a new arena in a new city with a new base of fans.”

The game featured a strong start and finish for the Privateers, as well as some controversy in the third period, in their first official game in Watertown since relocating during the offseason from Alexandria Bay, where the franchise was located during its first two seasons.

“This was a good game for us,” MacDonald said. “For some of us, we just got here yesterday or a few days ago, so we haven’t even had time to really skate together much. But we all pulled together and showed some team chemistry out there.”

After Cape Cod drew to within 2-1 on Chris Campanale’s goal in the first minute of the second period, MacDonald provided the two-goal cushion the Privateers would need.

Watertown native Chris Greene won a faceoff in the Bluefins zone and sent a pass over to MacDonald, who scored on a screen 5:28 into the second period.

“Off the draw, Greene won it and sent it back to me and I just shot the puck,” MacDonald said. “I think it went through a screen and went between his legs and I don’t know if it hit anybody, but I’ll take it.”

Cape Cod got within a goal once more as Casey Mignone glided down the left wing and scored a short-handed goal with 38.9 seconds remaining in the period.

“We should hold onto that lead late in the period,” Thousand Islands coach Paul Kelly said. “That was a killer and I thought that might be a turning point for Cape Cod. So I challenged this team and they responded well.”

The Bluefins were held at bay the rest of the way — but barely as Cape Cod had a goal disallowed with 6:52 left in regulation — during a four-minute Cape Cod power play.

“Obviously we have a young team, this group is still developing,” first-year coach Dan Gordon said. “The guys fought hard, they did what they could and they battled back. It was a tough call on the disallowed goal, I don’t agree with it — but the referee was right there. We had a couple good chances and had chances all night, but we’ll learn from this.”

Five of Anthony’s 11 saves in the third period were during the pivotal Bluefins’ man advantage.

“He made some good saves,” Kelly said of Anthony. “I don’t think he really got tested a lot, but when he was he came up big for us.” In all the Privateers killed off all six power-play chances by Cape Cod, including five after the first period.

“I thought our effort was here and there, “ Kelly said. “We showed signs of the team we can be when we put in the effort and the team we are when we didn’t.”

Thousand Islands seized a 2-0 lead with a goal from both Peter Campbell and Adam McAllister within a span of 56 seconds in the first period.

Campbell struck first by one-timing a cross-ice feed from Jordan Bernier past goalie Bryan Kalczynski at 12:55.

McAllister, an original Privateer back in 2010, was parked out in front of the Bluefins’ net when he took a pass from MacDonald and drilled the puck home at 13:51.

Kalczynski finished with 36 saves, including 11 in the third period, for Cape Cod, but was outdueled by Anthony.

“We played well,” Anthony said. “We made some mistakes and there’s some things we can do better. But overall, for the first game where a lot of guys haven’t played together before, this is the end result that we want.

“ ... Everybody showed their support by showing up to the game,” said Anthony, “and you want to reward them for that with a win. ... This a good atmosphere to play in.”

n NOTES: Watertown Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham dropped the ceremonial first puck. ... Thousand Islands improves to 2-1 in both home and season openers. ... McAllister recorded Thousand Islands’ first shot on goal in Watertown in the first minute of play. ... The Privateers will host the Williamport Outlaws at 7:35 tonight. ... Thousand Islands will next face the Bluefins on Saturday, Nov. 10 at Cape Cod.

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