After about 35 minutes of play last night, many in the crowd of 4,101 watching the Blast take on Cleveland were wondering if Hector Marinaro had accompanied the Crunch to town and, indeed, was playing.
The high-scoring superstar must have read their minds. Hardly a presence to that point in the third period, Marinaro scored a three-pointer to boost his team into a four-point lead, its first solid advantage of the evening.
A bit later, he hit a two-pointer, then a three-pointer, then another deuce and tossed in an assist for good measure. Yes, Marinaro was on board as his 11-point evening in Cleveland's 24-11 victory attests.
Thing is, Marinaro did it all with his alter ego Zoran Karic in the penalty box serving out 12 minutes in misconduct penalties.
The dramatic reversal wiped out the Blast's best start of the season, as it jumped out to a 6-0 first quarter lead.
"Another brilliant halftime speech by the coach," Marinaro said of coach Bruce Miller's talk with his team. "He didn't have to tell us much. We're a veteran team and we knew what we were doing wasn't enough."
That all changed when Marinaro hit his first three-pointer from 50 feet with the entire Blast team lined up to stop it.
"It's a tough ball to read," said Marinaro. "I toed the ball and I thought [goalie Khalil] Azmi had it until it dipped at the last second.
"The second one was a bender that, I think, made it through the wall."
The Blast was within 11-9 late in the third period before the visitors scored the next dozen points.
The first period, however, proved to be payback time, with the Blast doing to the Crunch what happened to it last week in Cleveland -- pushing out to a 6-0 advantage.
The goals were beauties: Tarik Walker set up Jason Dieter, who scored on his own rebound; Brad Smith sent a grounder through the wickets of Crunch goalie Otto Orff; and Barry Stitz strolled in from the corner, waited for Orff to commit, then flicked the ball past the goalie.
The Blast (2-6) had 10 shots in the session and, besides the scores, had three other excellent opportunities.
The strong start was all for naught, however, as Cleveland answered with a six-point burst of its own in the second quarter.
Goran Vasic scored his eighth and ninth goals of the season early and late on terrific assists from Karic, and in between, Lester Felician slipped a two-pointer past Azmi on a restart.
With the resumption of play, the Crunch just kept on going, scoring five points to one for the Blast in the next 10 minutes.
Denison Cabral scored Baltimore's lone point with a shootout goal and halted an 11-1 run by the visitors with a two-pointer later.
NOTES: Former Baltimore Spirit scoring machine Bo Vuckovic just leaped ahead from last place in the Midwest Division to first place in the North Division with his transfer from Kansas City to tTC Detroit. Bo was scoring two goals per game and had 19 points when unloaded by the Attack, which is averaging a paltry 8.3 points a game.
The Blast is on the road next weekend, visiting Florida and Harrisburg, then returns to host Philadelphia Dec. 18. The Milwaukee Wave puts its 7-0 record on the line tonight in Cleveland, then the teams do it again in Milwaukee tomorrow.
Site: Baltimore Arena
Radio: WJFK (1300 AM)
Outlook: The Heat has won its first two games on the road, which it needed since it lost its first three at home before defeating Kansas City last night. Gino DiFlorio, Cincinnati's top point man last season, leads Harrisburg's offense, averaging five points per game. The Heat is allowing 13.4 points per game, the Blast 14.6, so it should be a high-scoring affair.
Pub Date: 12/05/98