NEWARK, N.J. -- The Blast learned last night that it's not easy to beat a playoff-caliber team three times in less than two weeks. But Adauto Neto made sure that lesson wouldn't end his team's season prematurely.
Neto's goal with 2:20 remaining in the fourth quarter accounted for the Blast's only points in the second half. But it was just enough to lift the Blast to a 6-4 win over the New Jersey Ironmen at the Prudential Center. The Blast swept the two-game series and will host Milwaukee in Game 1 of the MISL semifinals Wednesday night at 1st Mariner Arena.
"It's a great feeling," Neto said. "We knew it was going to be a tough game. Sometimes you have chances but the bounces don't go your way.
"They made it a little difficult. But at the end, we got the goal, and it's great to win again. "
The Ironmen, who made the playoffs in their first season, matched the Blast's league-best defense for most of the game. The Blast broke a scoreless tie 9:14 before halftime when Ironmen goalie Tony Meola couldn't get off the turf in time to grab a loose ball that got behind him. The ball rolled toward the open goal, and P.J. Wakefield tapped it in.
The Blast tacked two more points onto their lead just before halftime.
Ibrahim Kante's shot from the left corner went just wide, and the ricochet off the boards triggered a breakout for the Blast. Lucio turned that breakout into a two-point goal with 31.2 seconds remaining when he buried a shot into the right corner of the net.
The Blast didn't score again for more than 28 minutes.
And when the Ironmen finally got on the board with two goals in 29 seconds early in the fourth quarter, it was enough to tie the game 4-4.
Neto's tiebreaking goal triggered a celebration among the large contingent of Blast fans, who filled an entire section of seats behind the team's bench. They were celebrating even more 2 1/2 minutes later after Sagu made a save just in front of his line and another Ironmen shot went just high, allowing the Blast to hang on.
"Like I told them, it's all about the wins," Blast coach Danny Kelly said. "Anytime you play a team three times within a 10-day span, they're going to figure out different ways to stop you. [The Ironmen] played well defensively. I think we were the better team, but just because you think you're the better team doesn't mean you're going to win."
Note -- Kelly said midfielder David Bascome should be ready to go Wednesday despite colliding with New Jersey's Stefan Stokic early in the second half. Bascome was able to walk off the field.
Blast 0 4 0 2 - 6
New Jersey 0 0 0 4 - 4
Second quarter: 1. Blast, Wakefield, 2 pt., (Celenza), 5:46; 2. Blast, Lucio, 2 pts., 14:29. Penalties: New Jersey, Kljestan, pushing, 10:31. Fourth quarter: 3. New Jersey, Moojen, 2 pt., (David), 5:36; 4. New Jersey, Vasic, 2 pts., (Namazi), 6:05; 5. Blast, Neto, 2 pts., (Garcia), 12:40. Penalties: New Jersey, Kante, pushing, 2:46. Shots-on-goal: Blast 8-4-5-3-20; New Jersey 2-5-8-3-18. Power-play opportunies: Blast 0-for-2; New Jersey 0-for-0. Saves: Blast, Sagu, 9; New Jersey, Meola, 8; Alavanja, 0. Att: N/A.