Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Spirit pulls away from Blizzard for 21-14 win Buffalo climbs back within 2 in final period


The Spirit let down its guard for a stretch in the second half and almost paid dearly for it.

Leading by six points at halftime, the Spirit let the Buffalo Blizzard creep back into the game and had a two-point edge with 4 1/2 minutes gone in the fourth quarter.

The Spirit then awoke, scored five of the game's next seven goals and defeated the Blizzard, 21-14, last night before 3,181 at the Baltimore Arena. It raised the Spirit's record against Buffalo at the Arena to 9-1.

Asked whether he was happier with the big start or the big finish, coach Dave MacWilliams said: "I'm happy with both, but I'm not happy with what happened in between. The same thing happened in the opener, and it's something I'm concerned with. VTC I've got to see why we lose discipline in those situations."

After Buffalo inched within two points, rookie Ronald Simmons launched the Spirit's awakening with a two-pointer. Bobby Joe Esposito made it 16-10, but Randy Pikuzinski trimmed the lead to four points.

Kevin Sloan, the Spirit's leading scorer last season, then scored a one-point shootout and a two-point goal within 20 seconds, all but clinching it.

The Spirit jumped to a 6-2 lead on a deft header goal by Lance Johnson on an arching pass by Franklin McIntosh, and two goals within 1:17 by Mike Stankovic. Stankovic added a third later in the first quarter.

Buffalo's Marco Rizi was carried off the field in the second quarter with a leg injury after a collision with the Spirit's Ronald Simmons, who drew a major misconduct penalty. Rizi was taken to University Hospital for X-rays of a leg possibly broken in two places.

The Spirit played without player-coach Cris Vaccaro after the veteran goalie aggravated an injury to his right arm in practice Friday. Joe Mallia again attended goal and rookie Jim McCombs was his backup.

Vaccaro hyperextended his elbow the second week of camp while stopping a shot. He was expected to start last night after yielding to Mallia in the opener against the Harrisburg Heat, but reinjured his arm while throwing.

"I feel for Cris," said coach Dave McWilliams. "But we want to get this right, so it doesn't linger. We're not going to rush it. He's

doubtful for next week too."

What gnaws at Vaccaro, a 16-year indoor veteran, is that the Spirit is two games into the season and he's in the unfamiliar position of having not played a minute.

"It's very disappointing," Vaccaro said. "I was ready to play this week until I hurt it again."

NOTES: Spirit forward Brad Smith (sprained knee) and defender Omaid Namazi (sprained ankle) missed the game. . . . Spirit midfielder Barry Stitz played in his 78th consecutive game, leaving him two shy of the team record, set by Eric Dade. Stitz has been in more Spirit games (119) than any other player. . . . Buffalo's Paul Dougherty, number six in the NPSL with 171 points last season, signed a one-year contract Friday and played last night, assisting on the first goal. . . . Former Spirit president-general manager-coach Kenny Cooper will bring the expansionist Tampa Bay Terror to the Arena to face his old team Saturday. Baltimore City Police Commissioner Thomas Frazier will serve as guest referee for the halftime game involving 18 mascots, including the Orioles bird.

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