Blast works until the end to beat Sockers


SAN DIEGO -- They became the first San Diego Sockers' opponent this season to go scoreless in a half. They also lost a lead in the fourth quarter and trailed by one goal with 40 seconds to play.

No problem. Led by Billy Ronson and Mike Stankovic, the Blast cleared those hurdles last night, beating the Sockers in overtime, 5-4, before 4,490 fans at the Sports Arena.

Baltimore (4-4) kept the Sockers (3-6) winless at home, a span of three games, and beat them for just the third time in the last 10 games.

It was the smallest Sports Arena turnout since 1982 and the third-smallest home crowd in Sockers' history.

The fans who showed brought grudges with them. They repeatedly booed Stankovic, who had predicted Baltimore would beat San Diego in last season's championship series. They cheered him, too, -- when the veteran defender whiffed on a shot in the first quarter.

Although admittedly frustrated by Sockers goalkeeper Victor Nogueira, who had 27 saves, Stankovic won out by assisting the tying goal and the winner.

The first made it 4-4 with 36 seconds left. Stankovic, who got free in the box and won a board pass, ripped a 15-foot shot at Nogueira. The goalie's diving deflection caromed toward the right post, where stood Blast forward Domenic Mobilio, unguarded. His putaway gave him his second goal of the night, his ninth of the season.

Resuscitated, the Blast nearly collapsed early in overtime, but goalkeeper Hank Henry made a point-blank stop, robbing Brian Quinn.

Unable to convert that opportunity, the Sockers attempted a nearly impossible shot. Waad Hirmez, from near the red line, hit a scissors kick that smacked into the glass above and wide of the left post.

The ball richocheted to Ronson, who, with Hirmez grounded by his kick, began a breakaway by passing to Stankovic.

After dribbling to the red line, Stankovic drew defender Kevin Crow toward him, setting up Ronson for a 35-foot liner, which he sent by Nogueira and inside the left post.

"He played a good ball to me and I tucked it in there," said Ronson. "It sounds easy, but it wasn't."

"That was not a good decision by Waady," said Sockers coach Ron Newman, referring to Hirmez's shot.

For Henry, it was his second straight win since his Blast debut, an 8-7 loss to the Sockers last week in Baltimore. He made eight saves and survived Paul Wright's shootout attempt -- Wright used more than the allotted five seconds, negating a second-quarter goal.

It was Nogueira who starred early, though. He had 12 saves in the first half, guiding San Diego to a 2-0 lead. But the Blast, getting goals from Mobilio, rookie Chris Haywood (his first) and Dale Mitchell, scored thrice in just 3:33 to take a 3-2 lead. Wright and Hirmez scored in the fourth quarter to rally San Diego.

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