Defense opens door for Blast to smother KiXX, 17-6; Offense gets untracked in opener's second half


Blast coach Kevin Healey constantly preached defense during the preseason and, for at least one match -- its season opener -- the team responded.

The defense held Philadelphia to two points in the first half -- keeping the Blast in the game until the offense came alive in the third quarter -- leading to a 17-6 win over the KiXX last night in front of 9,541 at Baltimore Arena.

The teams will play again tonight in Philadelphia at 7: 30.

"We've been talking about it all preseason and even before the preseason," Healey said. "I thought our defense played well. We have to continue that."

After struggling often last season, the defense was the major question mark for the Blast.

But with the scorers struggling in the first half, it was the defense that came through in the first half, keeping the game at 2-2 at halftime.

The defense broke down briefly at the beginning of the third quarter, allowing a goal by Don D'Ambra 21 seconds into the period.

That goal seemed to wake up the offense as the Blast went on a 15-0 run in the third and fourth quarters.

It also focused the defense, which did not allow another goal until the Blast was up 17-6 at 11: 53 of the fourth period.

"If you play good defense, you stay in the ballgame," Healey said. "Then when the offense comes around, it takes you over the top.

"I talked at halftime about how we were letting them dictate the tempo of the game.

"We needed to dictate the tempo of the game. The players put that into play and shot the ball into the back of the net."

It was defender Doug Neely who got the Blast going in the third quarter. Midfielder Danny Kelly tied the score at 4 with 5: 27 in the period.

Two minutes later, Neely scored the first of back-to-back two-point goals that seemed to deflate the KiXX.

"I think we were just waiting to break out," Neely said. "I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I didn't do anything special. I think we just started to feel the momentum from there.

"We came in at halftime and felt confident in the way we were playing. They got that one 30 seconds in and that woke us up right there.

"We knew we had to go after them. The key for us was defensive free kicks. That was our weak point last year."

Neely's second goal came off a rebound from a shot by forward Erik Rasmussen, who was playing in his first game with the Blast after coming over from Wichita. Rasmussen had three assists in the game.

"We had a lot of chances in the first half, as well," Rasmussen said. "You know that it's a 60-minute game and the chances will come. We kept on producing chances."

Rasmussen and Paul Wright, both 100-point scorers last season, were solid in their Blast debuts. But it was midfielder Denison Cabral who was the leading scorer in the game, producing a two-point goal and two one-pointers.

After a scoreless first period, the KiXX got on the board when forward Domenic Mobilio scored an unassisted goal at 5: 29 of the second period.

The Blast answered at 7: 23 when Cabral put in Rasmussen's shot.

Healey said the low-scoring first half had a lot to do with the first-game excitement. It will be a similar atmosphere today when the Blast travels to Philadelphia for the rematch.

"They'll enjoy this evening, but we'll meet tomorrow," Healey said.

"I think they know what the goals of the team are. I think they will focus tomorrow. We talk about that too often for them to forget it after one night."

Philadelphia 0 2 2 2 -- 6

Blast 0 2 7 8 -- 17

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