The question facing the Blast is whether the next 10 days will bring a happy New Year or point to the need for some strong resolutions.
The team returned last night from a two-game road trip against the division leaders with a split decision: winning in overtime in Kansas City, 6-5, and losing in overtime in Tacoma, 5-4.
In the process, the Blast blew an opportunity to tie for first place in the Eastern Division. And now it must make the most of five games packed into a 10-day period that begins at Dallas Thursday and winds up in Wichita, Dec. 29.
In between there is a home game with San Diego this Saturday, and back-to-back games against Kansas City, at Kemper Arena on Dec. 26 and at the Arena on Dec. 27.
"We've always been a goal-oriented team," said Blast coach Kenny Cooper, whose team is 9-8, one game behind Kansas City (10-7). "Our goal in these five games is to be in first place at the end of the year. It is a great opportunity for us."
* CHANGES BREWING? The Blast got a hat trick from leading scorer Billy Ronson in the team's victory in Kansas City. It also got a hat trick a night later in Tacoma from Dale Mitchell, a traditional league-leading scorer, in the loss to the Stars.
But Cooper admits his team has yet to get all it can from Mitchell, who is playing on the same line with Ronson.
"Dale is getting better and better," Cooper said. "But it is a little like the [Stan] Stamenkovic situation in that it is taking a little while for us to get all his moves down."
It took the Blast half a season to adjust to Stamenkovic, before it took off for its one MSL championship in 1983-84.
"I feel we've not totally found the right person to link up with him yet," Cooper said.
With that in mind, Cooper will take a look at skillful Mark Mettrick and Mike Reynolds at the midfield position on the line with Mitchell.
* INJURY UPDATE: The Blast continues to be hobbled by injuries. Mettrick (left groin) is expected to return to practice today, but Tim Wittman (back bruise), Reynolds (right knee) and Joe Barger (left ankle) were all sidelined Saturday and will visit team doctors today.
* MARINARO MARINATED: Cleveland forward Hector Marinaro, who started this season as the league's leading goal scorer, evidently is more than a little frustrated.
The six-year veteran picked up two misconduct penalties in the Crunch's 3-2 loss at Wichita Saturday. One of them came after the game in an argument with the refs.
* CALL HIM IRON DOC: Dallas defender Doc Lawson is the only 13-year veteran in the league and, therefore, something of a relic as the last active original MSL player. Friday, he notched the record for most games played with 445, surpassing the 444 of former Wichita and Blast player Andy Chapman, who is not in the league this season. Last night Lawson had two goals in a 10-6 loss to St. Louis.
* STATS OF NOTE: In that Dallas-St. Louis game, Storm midfielder Preki recorded his 500th career MSL point. Preki, who continues to chase Dallas' Tatu in the point race, got his fourth hat trick and 250th career goal Friday. Last night, Preki scored a goal and added two assists as the Storm took a 4-0 lead that grew to 10-3 in a six-goal third quarter. The Sidekicks' Tatu, who leads the league in scoring with 58 points, had two assists in the losing effort.
When Kansas City followed up Friday night's loss to the Blast with a 6-5 loss to San Diego Saturday, it marked its fourth loss of the season at Kemper Arena -- one more than all of last year . . . Tacoma's Steve Kinsey has scored in six straight games.
* MORE STATS: The Blast's Ronson is eighth among league scorers with 13 goals, 19 assists . . . Domenic Mobilio is in a four-way tie for 11th place, with 17 goals and seven assists for 24 points, and Mitchell is 15th on the chart with 14 goals and nine assists for 23 points.
Kansas City midfielder Carl Valentine had his first hat trick of the season against his former Blast teammates Friday. The achievement brings his season production to 14 goals, four assists. Meanwhile, the Blast handed Comets goalkeeper Jim Gorsek his first loss at home in the regular season, breaking a 14-game run.