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Blast earns triple-overtime win over Silver Knights in Game 1 of Eastern Division playoffs

The Blast were 23.7 seconds away from the taking the first game of the Major Arena Soccer League's Eastern Division championship series.

Syracuse's Joey Tavernese, however, ruined the celebration with a close-range goal aided by a sixth attacker that forced overtime. In the extra period, Blast defender Onua Obasi hit the underside of the crossbar that was just inches away from providing the winner.

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The Blast had a barrage of shots blocked in the second overtime, but could not manage the final touch. Tony Donatelli's goal with 9:42 left in the third overtime finally provided the Blast with a 6-5 victory before an announced 4,041 at Royal Farms Arena on Friday night.

"There was a lot of things going through my mind," Donatelli said. "It was a hard-fought game for us. I had a lot of chances throughout the game that I wasn't putting away. So, I was a little frustrated. Obviously, to get that one at the end was a bit of a relief."

The Blast, which finished 15-4 as regular-season Eastern Division champions, travels to Syracuse on Sunday for Game 2. If the Silver Knights win, a deciding mini-game, consisting of two 10-minute halves, will be played immediately afterward to determine the series winner.

Jinho Kim traded goals with Syracuse's Slavisa Ubiparipovic midway through the third quarter for a 5-2 Blast lead. The Blast committed a careless penalty for too many men on the field that helped the Silver Knights edge closer. With one minute remaining on the power play, defender Darren Toby fired a shot into the top of the goal to cut the margin to two.

Another tripping penalty on Adriano Dos Santos gave Syracuse a shootout, but Vanzela stuffed Doug Miller's attempt. The Silver Knights, though, bounced back and pulled to within 5-4 on a header by Antonio Manfut with5:34 left in the game. Syracuse went to a sixth attacker and tied the game with on the goal by Tavernese. Neither could score in the first or second overtimes before Donatelli ended the marathon.

"It was a great game for the fans," Blast coach Danny Kelly said. "As a coach, maybe not so much. I thought we played well early on. We allowed them back in the game. Give Syracuse credit for taking advantage of the opportunities. But for me, too many of their opportunities that resulted in goals were us just not being smart."

The Blast went 4-4 over its final eight games of the regular season. Baltimore started strong against Syracuse, but faded later in the game.

Defender Pat Healey helped set the early tone for the Blast by scoring two goals in less four minutes to open the game, including a deft volley off a pass from Lucas Roque.

Roque, who had been hindered by a tight hamstring, provided a three-goal margin 36 seconds into the second quarter. The Silver Knights, however, finally got on the board on a close-range goal by Tavernese. The Blast responded with a goal by Levi Houapeu in the final minute that provided a 4-1 lead at the break.

The Blast has reached the championship series in each of the past five seasons and were 3-1 against Syracuse in the regular season. The Blast, however, must continue their quest for a title without forward Vini Dantas, who was the team's leading scorer before being lost for the season with a toe injury.

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