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Blast's fourth-quarter burst secures 5-2 win over Heat

There was a time not long ago when the Blast comfortably had their way against the once-meager Harrisburg Heat.

Not so much these days.

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The Blast were put to the test by the visiting Heat for most of Saturday night's Major Arena Soccer League game, leaning on their power play and defense early before a sudden burst of offense in the fourth quarter secured a 5-2 win before an announced 5,102 at Royal Farms Arena.

After falling to the Heat for the first time since the franchise returned in the 2012-13 season — a 7-3 loss on Dec. 30 in Harrisburg — the Blast went into Saturday's game seeking a rare measure of revenge.

They got it, but it didn't come easy.

After the Heat cut the Blast's lead to 2-1 with 3:10 left in the third quarter, the home team had an immediate response.

Jereme Raley scored less than a minute later to close out the third quarter scoring and then Lucas Roque and Jonatas Melo scored 20 seconds apart early in the fourth quarter to give the Blast hold of the game with a 5-1 edge.

The Blast improved to 8-3 on the season, owning a three-game lead in the MASL's Eastern Division with Harrisburg falling to 4-6. The Heat only won one game last season, but have taken significant strides under former Blast star Denison Cabral, who received a warm ovation in his return to Baltimore. Roque scored two goals to lead the Blast with leading scorer Tony Donatelli adding two assists to give him 13 goals, 13 assists for 26 points on the season. The Blast have a 2-1 series edge over the Heat this season.

"When the game was 2-1 it was obviously a tight game and anything can happen, but I felt confident that we were going to continue creating chances and finish some," Blast coach Danny Kelly said.

Roque, who was playing in his fourth game since returning from a two-month leave of absence, said the emphatic celebration from Heat defender Jose Luis Birche after he cut the lead to 2-1 provided a spark for the Blast's three-goal burst soon after.

"I thought it was disrespectful the way he started celebrating like crazy even losing the game. In our house, it fired us up even more," he said.  "So we kept our heads and knew more chances would come and we would have to put the ball in the back of the net."

Blast goalie William Vanzela finished with seven saves.

In taking a 2-0 halftime lead, the Blast took what the Heat gave them and that was two converted power-play opportunities in the second quarter.

Vini Dantas opened the scoring with his 12th goal of the season and Eastern Division high sixth on the power play, posting up in front, collecting a pass from Pat Healey and quickly turning and shooting to beat Heat goalie Hugo Silva with 13:20 left in the second quarter.

On the Blast's second power play, Roque put home a rebound on Donatelli's shot to make it 2-0 with 6:59 to play.

Looking to avenge their earlier loss against Harrisburg, the Blast didn't come out particularly fast with both goalkeepers taking the lead role in a scoreless first quarter.

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Vanzela came up big for the Blast on two occasions, coming out aggressively to shut down an opportunity by Tom Mellor with 5:46 to play in the quarter and then a point-blank save on Leandro Alvas Duarte's shot coming with 5:10 left.

Dominic Francis scored for the Heat with 1:19 to play to close out the scoring.

"It's a good rivalry and they want to beat us," Kelly said. "I'm sure every game is going to be interesting.  In the big picture, it's good for the league but we've dominated this rivalry for a long time and we're going to continue to do that."

The Blast hit the road for two games next weekend, taking on the Cedar Rapids Rampage on Friday before heading to Milwaukee on Saturday to face the Wave. They'll return to Royal Farms Arena on Sunday, Jan. 24 to host the St. Louis Ambush with game time set for 4:05 p.m.

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