ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Goalie Russ Prince made his comeback a memorable one.
Prince had been working out with an amateur club when Chicago Power player-coach Pato Margetic called him for a second chance. Margetic had dealt Prince to the Denver Thunder Nov. 30 in exchange for a conditional draft pick -- at a time when the Power had only one other experienced goalie.
But yesterday, Prince, 22, resurrected his career with a 9-6 victory over the Baltimore Spirit in a National Professional Soccer League game.
It was a far cry from his opening-night bomb at the Baltimore Arena Nov. 7, when the Spirit pounded the Power, 19-12.
In his rookie season, Prince had helped the Power to the playoffs, taking over after the team's top goalie was sidelined by knee surgery. This season, Prince lost his opening game and the starting job, then was traded to the last-place Thunder. The Thunder suspended him before he played a game.
"It was like a fairy tale, wasn't it?" said Blast coach Kenny Cooper. "From a Prince to a king. He played extremely well and kept us from getting a lot of rebound opportunities."
Again, it was a knee injury to starting goalie Mark Simpson that opened the door for Prince. Simpson's season ended last week JTC when he tore his good knee while playing forward in practice.
"I'm just glad to be back on the field," said Prince. "It's too bad it took an injury to Mark for it to happen."
Prince smiled at a suggestion that a shutout would have made his return more dramatic.
"I'll have to save that for another time. I got a little winded at the end. I'm not in tip-top condition yet."
After a scoreless first quarter, the Power's Michael Richardson scored a three-pointer six seconds into the second period. The other two Power goals in the first half were penalty-related. Teddy Krafft converted on a shootout after a tripping call against the Spirit's Joe Koziol, and Mirko Castillo scored a power-play goal after Rusty Troy was sent off for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Carrera and Richardson scored in the third quarter to extend the Power lead to 9-0. At that point, the Power chose to lay back on defense for the final 15 minutes.
With Kevin Smith on as a sixth attacker, the Spirit spoiled Prince's shutout with a fourth-quarter scoring flurry. In the final 4 1/2 minutes, the Spirit got three goals, one by Steve Boardman and two by Koziol. Down 9-6, Cooper kept goalie Cris Vaccaro on the bench, hoping for a game-tying three-pointer. But the game ended with Prince making a leaping save and hurling the ball just wide of the vacated Spirit net.
"Looking back, I could kick myself for not going to the sixth attacker at the beginning of the fourth quarter," said Cooper. "But that expends a lot of energy, and since we played last night, I thought maybe we could get a goal first and then pull the goalie."
Just ahead of the NPSL roster freeze at midnight, the Spirit activated assistant coach Mike Stankovic and placed midfielder Doug Neely on the injured list.