No matter how dire, the Blast haven’t come across a situation they couldn’t handle in their run of Major Arena Soccer League dominance.
Another one arrived Monday night at Utica City.
Down one game in the best-of-three Eastern Division championship, the three-time defending champions rallied for a 7-3 win in Game 2 and got a goal from veteran defender Adriano Dos Santos with a 1:33 remaining in the ensuing 15-minute mini-game to advance with a 2-1 victory.
Forward Andrew Hoxie was pivotal, scoring three goals and adding an assist in Game 2 before tying the mini-game with 5:35 to play to set the stage for Dos Santos.
Jumping into the offense, Dos Santos found Vini Dantas in the left corner and charged to the goal to finish a return pass for the game-winner.
“As a team, from myself on down, we felt like we were much better than we showed at home [on Saturday] and we were confident coming into this building,” Blast coach Danny Kelly said. “We finished with a win against them here [in the regular season] and we knew we could win here. There was no worry factor, no panic factor — it was just a matter of doing our job on the field and executing. And to a man, these guys came to play.”
The Blast will travel to Milwaukee on Sunday to take on the South Central champion Wave in a one-game winner-take-all Eastern Conference title game set for 3:05 p.m.
Hoxie and the Blast took charge of Game 2 with a dominant first half. He opened the scoring two minutes into play, set up Tony Donatelli later in the first quarter for a 2-1 lead and scored two more goals in the second quarter before Dantas pushed the lead to 5-1 on a penalty kick with under two minutes to play in the half.
After Utica City closed the gap to 5-2 less than four minutes into the third quarter, the Blast buckled down on defense and got a fourth-quarter power-play goal from Dos Santos and an insurance goal from Donatelli. Blast goalie William Vanzela had five saves in the second half to help protect the lead.
Utica City opened the series with a 12-9 win in Baltimore on Saturday. The Blast rallied from a four-goal deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game before the visitors scored the final three goals.
Next up is the Wave, who finished with an Eastern Conference-best 21-3 mark in the regular season before sweeping the Kansas City Comets in the South Central Division championship.
“Obviously, Milwaukee is a great team. We have a lot of respect for them and it’s going to be a battle,” Kelly said. “They’ve put together the total package in terms of offense and defense, and they’re going to be a tough out, but we’re not going there to lose.”