For the first half and a minute more, it looked as if the Blast would have another easy time manhandling Norfolk on Friday night.
Instead, the expansion SharX showed just enough gumption in the third quarter to make things interesting. It proved a temporary obstacle for the Blast , however, as they came away with an 18-10 win in front of an announced crowd of 5,764 at 1st Mariner Arena.
"It was a battle," Mike Lookingland said. "We came out and looked really good with a really good first quarter and then started to work a little bit more, make it a little more difficult and scored a couple goals. But I think we rebounded well. They're a very chippy hard working team, but we just dug in found a way to add a couple more goals and put them in the rearview mirror a little bit."
J.T. Noone and Lookingland each scored two goals and added an assist, Max Ferdinand added one goal and two assists and Machel Millwood scored twice to lead the offense. Rookie goalie Akira Fitzgerald, who was The Sun's All-Metro Player of the Year in 2005 for Loyola, made his home debut a successful one with 10 saves.
"It was fun this being my first start at home," Fitzgerald said. "I had some friends and family [at the game], so it was good. I thought I played pretty well, still gave up too many goals. But it's something to work on…it's a team effort and most importantly we got the win. It's super fun playing here, the energy is great in the arena and that gets you going … ."
The Blast improves to 12-4 on the season and increases its lead in the Major Indoor Soccer League's Eastern Division, now to five games in front of Rochester.
After sinking the SharX, 18-2, at home last week, the Blast enjoyed an 8-2 halftime lead Friday after a dominating first half that appeared to pave the way for another comfortable win.
Ferdinand made it 10-2 in the opening minute of the third quarter, but the SharX found a pulse when Miguel Ferrar scored a three-point goal and Tennant McVea added another goal to cut the deficit to 10-7 with 7:59 left in the third quarter.
Quickly refocusing, the Blast received a a key goal from Noone late in the third quarter and the first two goals in the fourth quarter from Adauto Neto and Millwod to push the lead to 16-7.
The Blast didn't score its first goal until nine minutes had gone by in the first quarter. But by then, it appeared that the visiting expansion team was overmatched defensively as the Blast spent the majority of minutes with the ball.
Carlos Garcia provided the ice-breaking first goal -- a nifty side-winding half volley – and Millwood and Noone followed with goals to give the Blast a 6-0 lead after the first quarter.
The SharX didn't record their first shot on Fitzgerald until the opening minute of the second quarter and scored their first goal courtesy of Matt Delicate with 2:10 to play in the first half.
Norfolk 0 2 5 3 -- 10
Blast 6 2 4 6 -- 18
Scoring: 1. Blast, Garcia, 2 pt., (Ukah), 8:06; 2. Blast, Millwood, 2 pt., 8:57; 3. Blast, Noone, 2 pt., (Ferdinand), 12:51.
Scoring: 4. Blast, Lookingland, 2 pt., (Ferdinand), 9:29; 5. Norfolk, Delicate, 2 pt., (McVea), 12:50.
Scoring: 6. Blast, Ferdinand, 2 pt., (Neto), :31; 7. Norfolk, Ferrer, 3 pt., (Brooks), 4:09; 8. Norfolk, McVea, 2 pt., (Clare), 7:01; 9. Blast, Noone, 2 pt., (Ukah), 12:56.
Scoring: 10. Blast, Neto, 2 pt., (Lookingland), pp., 1:52; 11. Blast, Millwood, 2 pt., (Noone), 7:17; 12. Norfolk, Lewis, 2 pt., pp., 9:02; 13. Lookingland, 2 pt., (Uah), 9:44.
Penalties: Norfolk, Hinkey, (tripping), :19; Norfolk, Marshall, (boarding), 3:15; Blast, Fitzgerald, (hand ball), 3:15; Blast, DeRoux, (tripping), 3:15; Blast, Neto (pushing), 9:02; Norfolk, Lewis, (holding), 12:49.
Shots on goal: Norfolk 2-7-10-5 -- 24; Blast 7-6-7-10 -- 30.
Saves: Norfolk, Lieberman 1-5-4-7 -- 17 ; Blast, Fitzgerald, 0-3-4-3 -- 10.
Power-play opportunities: Norfolk 1-for-2; Blast 1-for-2.
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