Lost Blast can't seem to find its way back


The losses are starting to add up. Oh, they've been adding up right along in the loss column, but yesterday, for the first time, frayed nerves showed in the Blast's locker room.

The atmosphere, after the team's ninth loss in its last 10 games, was different from what it has been. Always there has been a sense of hope, that the troubles would pass, that this team would right itself.

Yesterday, after the St. Louis Storm had rallied from a 4-2 deficit for a 6-5 victory on a richocheted shot by Thompson Usiyan with 32 seconds left, there was doubt in a room of gloom.

"This is one of the lowest points since I've been here," said three-year Blast veteran Rusty Troy. "I think we're all at the end of our ropes. We're doing the things it takes to win, but at the end of the day, we don't win."

Troy could barely find the words to voice his feelings.

He had been at the top of the box when Usiyan spun for his shot, and he had tried to block it. If he had missed the ball, it would have gone safely into goalkeeper Scott Manning's hands. As it was, he only got a toe on it, just enough to move it out of Manning's reach.

Troy was doing what he was supposed to do, but it didn't turn out the way it was supposed to.

"I don't know what to say," he said. "We're up 4-2. We're tied 4-4. We're up, we're down. I don't know. Every time we get something going, it doesn't last very long. We just need something to turn for us."

For the Blast (20-27) it is like playing in the Twilight Zone.

"I think that's the way it feels," said forward Dale Mitchell. "You do the right thing, and it doesn't turn out."

For the Blast, right is wrong. Left is right. Mike Stankovic scores four goals, the team plays well overall, but in the end, it is another loss.

If Cleveland hadn't managed to beat Wichita yesterday, things would be a whole lot worse. As it is, the Blast holds a 1 1/2 -game lead over the Wings (19-29) for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Division.

"I think when you lose, you find a way to lose," said Usiyan. "Either it is one goal or overtime or something. It is always something when you are losing. They have lost, how many at home? Ten? It is too many. In the fourth quarter, when we came back, you could see the pressure they felt. We all knew it was just a matter of time."

Of course, everyone isn't buying it. Blast coach Kenny Cooper, while admitting, "It appears we're not good enough," still believes as long as his team keeps trying -- it gets its next chance Wednesday in Kansas City -- good things will start to happen.

"Maybe for some players the well appears dry," Cooper said. "One-goal games have been killing us, but the solution is to keep digging. We've played well enough to be in first place, but we haven't yet had the ability to reach out and grab those games."

St. Louis defender Fernando Clavijo, who did his part to stymie the Blast attack, doesn't believe the Blast's destiny is fixed either.

"They are good players and they have a great coach, but things aren't clicking for them," Clavijo said. "I think they are really missing Wittman [forward Tim Wittman sidelined due to knee surgery]. He made things happen. I think when they get him back, they'll be all right.

"I think Baltimore will prevail in the race for the playoffs, because sooner or later things have to turn around. They have to. The Blast can not go the whole season like this. They have the players and they are working hard. You can see that.

"I don't ever count them out. They are one of the toughest teams to play around the league, and it is not just my opinion. I think half the players in the league will tell you that."

And yet the losses, like yesterday's 16th one-goal loss of the season, keep piling up. Stankovic, who has been in a Blast uniform for good times and bad, has never seen things go wrong so long. "How long can it go, when things don't go your way?" he wondered.

With five games left, two with Cleveland, one each with St. Louis, Kansas City and Dallas, the road to the playoffs isn't getting any easier.

"But we are not giving up," said Stankovic. "We are like the tough, experienced boxer. We may go down with a punch, but we get back up. We may be on the ropes, but we'll battle back. I know we will."

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