In the fourth quarter of its game with the Kansas City Comets last night, the Blast undertook to resurrect its past. It beat the Comets, 11-6, with an offensive outburst reminiscent of last season's championship team that numbed Kansas City.
With newly returned defender Danny Kelly (one goal, three assists) leading the fourth-period charge at both ends of the field, the Blast overcame a 6-4 deficit. It scored on its first five shots of the final period and set off a wild celebration among its 4,014 fans at 1st Mariner Arena.
But the question lingered long after the game was over. Was the fourth quarter enough to wipe out the worry created by three periods of inept defense?
"We did some good things in the fourth period we should build on," said team captain Tarik Walker, who was found with his arm stiffly outstretched and his hand pushing hard against the arena's concrete wall more than 40 minutes after the game.
"I'm just trying to calm down," he said of his posture. "We can't afford to lose any games. We have to fight and battle and keep our focus every night. The most frustrating part is we don't come with the effort for the whole 60 minutes - and we have to know by now that's what it takes."
For nearly 45 minutes last night, the Blast was defensively challenged, sucked in to the Comets' zone and then beaten on odd-man rushes and counter-attacks.
The Comets' 5-4 record coming in was good enough for fourth place, the last qualifying spot for the playoffs, in the MISL standings.
Though the Comets' record could have been suspect, given four of its previous five victories had come against San Diego and Monterrey, which no longer exist, and Chicago, which until last night was tied with the Blast for last place in the standings, the Comets were still a winning team, something the Blast (7-9) hasn't been since the third game of the season.
Yet, the Blast appeared to believe a haphazard defense would be good enough to stop the Comets, a hard-scrapping team with offensive talent that goes beyond Dino Delevski and his 46-game point-scoring streak.
"I don't know what it was," said Giuliano Celenza (two goals, two assists). "They were counter-attacking. I always say we've got enough offensive power and our scoring chances will come if we get all five men behind the ball, but for three quarters tonight we didn't do the little things."
If not for the brilliance of the Blast's offense and the play of goalie Brian Rowland (16 saves), the Comets would have romped. Chile Farias had three goals. Kelly had a timely assist just before halftime on a power-play goal by Farias and then, when the game was on the line in the fourth period, scored unassisted from beyond the midfield line and then added two assists.
And the power-play unit, which is the worst in the MISL - scoring on just 33.3 percent of its chances - had an unusually successful night with three goals on four opportunities.
The Wave, who the Blast hosts tonight, is the top team in the league. Time will tell if the Blast's fourth quarter last night was a lasting return to form or just a momentary re-enactment of past glory.
Kansas City 1 2 3 0 - 6
Blast 1 2 1 7 - 11
First quarter: 1. K.C., Steele (Koehler) 4:18. 2, Blast, Schweitzer (Celenza) (PPG) 8:44. Penalties: Delevski, KCC (boarding), 7:22. Second quarter: 3. K.C., Barton, 2:31; 4. Blast, Farias (Bascome) 4:41; 5. K.C., Evans (Andonovski) 8:51. 6. Blast, Farias (Kelly) (PPG) 14:32. Penalties: Maher (Stokich), K.C. (Violent Conduct), 4:56. Gilbert, Blast (unsportmanlike conduct), 4:56. Tschantret, Blast (dissent), 7:49. Evans, K.C. (removing shirt), 8:51. Koehler, K.C. (Handball), 12:38. Third quarter: 7. K.C., Koehler 0:10; 8. Blast, Celenza (Schweitzer)(PPG) 3:41; 9. K.C., Perkins (Woods) 8:12. 10. K.C., Delevski (Koehler) 10:59. Penalties: Steele, K.C. (boarding), 3:23. Fourth quarter: 11. Blast, Farias (Celenza) 4:06. 12. Blast, Kelly 4:46; 13. Blast, Millwood (Eller) 5:18; 14. Blast, Wakefield (Kelly) 8:50; 15. Blast, Celenza(Tschsantret) (RSG) 9:13; 16. Blast, Schweitzer (Wakefield) 9:46. 17. Blast, Bascome(Farias). Penalties: Walker, Blast (unsportmanlike conduct), 0:10. Martin, K.C. (unsportmanlike conduct), 0:10. Bench (Celenza), Blast (3rd misconduct), 0:10. Shots on goal: K.C. 4-7-10-9-30; Blast 6-13-6-9-34. Penalty kick conversions: K.C. 0 of 0; Blast 0 of 0. Shootout conversions: K.C. 0 of 0; Blast 0 of 0. Power-play conversions: K.C. 0 of 1; Blast 3 of 4. Saves: K.C, Chris Damico 10, Sanaldo 1; Blast, Brian Rowland 16, Lee Tschantret 0. A: 4,014.
Matchup: Milwaukee Wave (10-5) vs. Blast (7-9)
Site: 1st Mariner Arena
Radio: WCBM (680 AM)
Outlook: The Wave celebrated the new year with a New Year's Eve, 6-5 overtime victory over the visiting Chicago Storm. But things have gotten tougher this weekend. Milwaukee played another home game last night, losing to St. Louis, 6-5, which left it tied with the Steamers for first place in the MISL. After that taxing meeting, Milwaukee had to board a flight to Baltimore to face the Blast tonight. So far this season, the Wave has taken advantage of nearly every opportunity against the struggling Blast, winning two of three meetings, including the most recent one, a 6-1 victory Dec. 17.
- Sandra McKee