The Blast recently hit a rare spell of mediocrity, which made a visit from the Harrisburg Heat a welcome sight Sunday.
In its regular-season finale, the Blast was significantly improved in every phase of play and came away with a 9-0 win before an announced 7,984 at Royal Farms Arena.
The Blast, which already had clinched the Major Arena Soccer League's Eastern Division, is 14-3 and closes out its regular season on the road against the St. Louis Ambush on Friday and the Missouri Comets on Saturday.
"We're going to take these two games to improve, and we're obviously going to go wanting to win, but the goal is to just get better as a team, getting our confidence up and getting ready for the playoffs," Blast forward Andrew Hoxie said.
Sunday's win completed a five-game sweep of the Heat (0-16) this season. Blast goalkeeper William Vanzela finished with five saves for his second shutout of the season and further lowered his league-best goals-against average. Blast rookie Sofiane Tergou scored two goals and added an assist, and Hoxie scored once and assisted on three other goals in the win.
After starting the season 11-0, the Blast went 2-2 on an extended road trip. When it returned home, it suffered a bitter 5-4 overtime loss Friday to the Comets in a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference finals.
The hosts bounced back with a thorough, businesslike performance Sunday.
The visiting Heat worked hard to keep it close, mostly defending, but it was apparent that Harrisburg couldn't match the Blast's talent and depth.
The game stayed scoreless until Tergou converted a feed from Hoxie with 41 second left in the first quarter. Levi Houapeu (UMBC) scored two minutes into the second quarter, and Jonatas Melo added a goal with just over a minute left in the half to give the Blast a 3-0 lead at the break.
The Blast outshot the Heat 17-6 in the first 30 minutes, but Vanzela still was tested. With the score 2-0 midway through the second quarter, he made a brilliant save on a point-blank shot from Kenny Fultz.
After making it 4-0 in the third quarter, the Blast, which possessed the ball throughout the game, wore the Heat down with five goals in the fourth quarter.
"They went to a zone, and it's something we're used to and see from a lot of teams that struggle with our pace and possession," Blast defender and captain Pat Healey (Towson University, Calvert Hall) said. "So if we keep the ball long enough, don't let them out, don't give them life, [we can] put them away."
Note: The Blast announced that forward Vini Dantas would miss the remainder of the season and undergo toe surgery this week. Dantas, who was injured in a Jan. 24 road loss to the Syracuse Silver Knights, was leading the team in scoring at the time of his injury, with 20 goals and 10 assists.
Harrisburg 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Blast 1 2 1 5 -- 9
Scoring: 1. Blast, Tergou, (Hoxie), 14:19.
Scoring: 2, Blast, Houapeu, 1:57; 3. Blast, Melo, 13:54.
Scoring: 4. Blast, Tergou, (Hoxie), 12:26 .
Scoring: 5. Blast, Tayou, (Healey), 1:42; 6. Blast, Hoxie, (Tergou), 3:51; 7. Blast, Roque, (Kim), 5:30; 8. Blast, Raley, (Hoxie), 7:47; 9. Blast, Kim, 13:12.
Shots: Harrisburg 4-2-1-8 -- 15; Blast 7-10-10-12 -- 39.
Power-play opportunities: Harrisburg 0-for-0; Blast 0-for-0.
Goalie saves: Harrisburg, Mehl 3-5-3-5 -- 16; Blast, Vanzela 2-2-0-1 -- 5.