CLEVELAND - Blast coach Tim Wittman had a smile on his face after an improbable, 9-7 victory over the Cleveland Force yesterday.
He also had a knot in his stomach and a few stern words for his team.
"We stole one," Wittman said. "I'm happy we didn't quit, but I'm not pleased at all that we didn't start playing until the second half."
Make that the final 6:05, when the Blast (20-8) scored five goals to turn a 7-4 deficit into its fifth win in five meetings this season with the rival Force (8-18).
"We feel good that we won, but we have work to do," said David Bascome, who scored the winning goal with 46 seconds to play. "We have to play a better overall game."
Cleveland fell to 0-9 against Eastern Division opponents despite scoring three goals in a 2:33 span early in the fourth quarter to seemingly take command.
"It looked like it was over and the only option was to go to the sixth attacker," said Wittman. "Fortunately, it worked out."
Carlos Farias triggered the comeback by assisting on three quick goals, including two with Lee Tschantret as the extra attacker.
Farias fed Denison Cabral on a restart at 8:55, then stole the ball from a Force defender and passed to Giuliano Celenza for another goal at 10:22.
Celenza buried yet another restart pass from Farias into the upper corner at 13:17 to tie it.
Both teams missed wide-open chances in a wild flurry with 1 1/2 minutes to play.
Tschantret shot wide on a 3-on-1 break with Force goalkeeper Jim Larkin out of the net. The Force got the rebound and went 3-on-2 the other way, but rookie Joel Bailey and Lee Edgerton each misfired.
Back came the Blast the other way, with Celenza sailing a shot just over the crossbar. The ball bounced back to an unmarked Bascome, whose low shot put the Blast ahead 8-7.
Chris Handsor added an insurance goal from 160 feet into an open net 20 seconds later.
"We just can't let guys run free like that," Force coach Andy Schmetzer said. "I'm proud of the young guys for stepping up, but we played scared at the end. We lost our focus, and they pounced on it."
Celenza had three goals, and Cabral and Handsor scored two apiece. Winning goalkeeper Scott Hileman made five of his 13 saves in the final quarter.
Justin Evans sparked the Force to a 3-1 halftime lead, scoring two goals and assisting on another by rookie Aduato Neto.
Blast 9, Force 7
Blast 0 1 3 5 - 9
Cleveland 1 2 1 3 - 7
First quarter: 1, Cle, Evans (Ball) 3:02. Penalties: None.
Second quarter: 2, Cle, Evans (Karic), RSG, 5:12; 3, Bal, Celenza (Bascome)6:46; 4, Cle, Neto (Evans) 11:17. Penalties: None.
Third quarter: 5, Cle, Neto (Bailey) 1:32; 6, Bal, Handsor (Bascome) 8:40; 7,Bal, Tschantret (Nelson) 12:53; 8, Bal, Cabral (Walker), 14:14. Penalties: Evans, Cle (misconduct), 1:53; Sutton, Cle (boarding) 4:39; Tschantret, Bal(pushing) 10:40.
Fourth quarter: 9, Cle, Cloutier (Edgerton) 3:48; 10, Cle, Bailey (Namazi)4:49; 11, Cle, Sutton (Edgerton) 6:21; 12, Bal, Cabral (Farias) RSG, 8:55; 13,Celenza (Farias) 10:22; 14, Celenza (Farias) RSG, 13:17; 15, Bal, Bascome(Celenza) 14:14; 16, Bal, Handsor (Nelson) 14:34. Penalties: None.
Shots on goal: Blast 10-8-11-10--39; Cleveland 6-10-7-12--35. Power playopportunities: Blast 0-1, Cleveland 0-1. Goalkeepers: Blast, Hileman 20 shotsfaced, 13 saves; Tschantret, 0 shots, 0 saves; Cleveland, Larkin 22 shots, 14saves; Evans 1 shot, 0 saves. A-6,102.