Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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Female coach to lead Privateers into playoffs

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Female coach to lead Privateers into playoffs
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History will be made Friday night at the 1000 Islands Privateers hockey game in Watertown. The team is making some changes and as a result, the coach on the bench will be a woman. Our Brian Dwyer explains the move and talks with players about the rare move in professional men's hockey.

WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- As he does before every game, 1000 Islands Privateers Head Coach Paul Kelly leads practice. The team gearing up for the final weekend of the regular season against Danbury.

But this time, Kelly will lace up the skates, deciding last week to start playing again as a player coach.

"As a coach, you do whatever you can to help your team win. I just felt like me being in the lineup would give us a little stronger lineup," Kelly said.

Kelly needed to play in five regular season games to be eligible for the playoffs next weekend. He'll continue to run practices and game preps, but at game time, the team needs a coach. And the perfect person was right in house: Team owner Nicole Kirnan.

"In a situation where he's physically fatigued, having to see who's going out next or matching up lines for the other team for example. You don't want a random person doing that. If you have someone with experience, that's a plus," Kirnan said.

Kirnan not only played college hockey at St. Lawrence, but also on junior national teams. She also coached six seasons at Manhattansville College.

"She knows her stuff. It doesn't change anything. We look at her the same way we look at Paul or any one of the other guys,” said Privateers forward Adam McAllister. “We respect each other."

"She can see some things that are happening out on the ice and give Kells (Kelly) and the rest of the boys another set of eyes to see what's going on," said goalie Matt Anthony.

Another day at work for the team, but a pretty historic day for the sport of hockey.

"I've never heard of it. I played eight years pro and it might be the first time ever. It's kind of a big thing," Kelly said.

"It was bound to happen. I'm a product of Title IX. I'm very fortunate to say that. I was part of one of the first scholarship classes, actually the first scholarship class at St. Lawrence University," Kirnan said.

Kirnan’s not worried about all that, saying she's focused on setting the tone this weekend as they'll see Danbury again in the first round of the playoffs next weekend.

Kirnan makes her debut Friday night at 7:30 in Watertown. The Privateers finish up the regular season Saturday night, also at 7:30 at the fairgrounds.

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