The present that Kevin Healey is looking for today cannot be found under a Christmas tree. More than anything right now, the Blast coach would like two victories for his team. Not two out of three or two out of four, two out of two.
"I think that's all we need to get going," he said. "Two wins would give us confidence. It would mean we're attaining consistency. It would be a great starting point."
Since starting out 0-4, the Blast has been on the win-one, lose-one treadmill to arrive at 4-9. "Early in the season, we knew what our problem was: giving up too many goals. We've corrected that, holding Philadelphia to five and six points and, discounting late scores when we pulled our goalie, allowing four points in Florida and 11 in Edmonton," Healey said.
"Right now, we're not scoring enough, but that will take care of itself as the offense gets more cohesive and we get a couple of players back from injury. Look at Tarik Walker, for instance. He was terrific over the weekend. And as Franklin McIntosh arrives at fitness after a late start, he'll become more and more of a factor."
The schedule is set up for a Blast move. After playing the ThunderCats (7-8) at Baltimore Arena today (7: 35 p.m.), the team returns the favor in Florida on Jan. 3. Then it's home against the Philadelphia Kixx, Milwaukee Wave and Detroit Rockers. "Good teams, but we're playing well at home [4-3]," said the coach.
The Blast game tonight has a buy-one-ticket-get-one-free deal for lower reserved sections.
A month ago, Detroit (5-3) had a decent lead over the Edmonton Drillers (2-4) in the North Division. Then the schedule reared its ugly head. While the Drillers were home for seven games and winning them all, the Rockers ran into a couple of three-game weekends and lost them all. Not so suddenly, Edmonton (9-4) is in first and Detroit (5-10) is last.
The Buffalo Blizzard's 18-16 victory over the Wichita Wings in double overtime last weekend was the fourth-longest game in NPSL history at 84 minutes, 15 seconds. Numero uno is the 94: 05 marathon in 1987 in which the Toledo Pride beat the Tampa tTC Bay Rowdies, 4-3. With its 16-14 home overtime win against the Cleveland Crunch, Florida eased by the Harrisburg Heat and into second in the East behind Philly. To refer to the ThunderCats as an expansion team is erroneous. They purchased the rights to all the players of the Seattle Seadogs, a team clearly superior to the opposition in the now-defunct CISL.
Seems like old times: Zoran Karic's four-goal, three-assist game in Harrisburg boosted him into second place behind teammate Hector Marinaro in the league scoring race. These two have been 1-2 in the scoring the past six seasons. The Blast trails Marinaro 5-4 in three-point goals.
There wasn't much doubt about only the second loss of the season by Milwaukee last weekend. Philadelphia waltzed, 19-4, after the Kixx had lost in Baltimore, 12-5, the night before. After two months of action, Wichita finally got to play just its second road game this week. Milwaukee (8-0) and Philly (6-0) are still perfect at home, and it has paid off for the Kixx: It's averaging nearly 9,000 at the Spectrum. The Montreal Impact is averaging less than 3,000 at home.
Edmonton goalkeeper Pat Onstad, with his 9-3 record and 8.35 goals-against average, is the NPSL Player of the Week, the first goalie to be so honored this season. Home teams are winning at a .679 clip (57-27). It's going to lead to the reputation boxing has for home fighters winning. Home teams win at a .634 pace in the NFL, .569 in the NHL. The NBA doesn't play road games.
Opponent: Florida ThunderCats
Site: Baltimore Arena
Time: 7: 35
Radio: WJFK (1300 AM)
Outlook: The East Division rivals have split two games, each winning at home. The 'Cats (7-8) are playing just their third game in the past 20 days, so they are well-rested. Mark Thomas (44 points) leads the team in scoring and Scott Hileman (6-6) is among the league's best goalkeepers with a 9.77 goals-against average.
Pub Date: 12/26/98