After Sunday's embarrassing 7-4 loss in Dallas, the Blast hardly needed a pep talk to realize the disastrous potential of another loss last night against first-place Kansas City at the Arena.
But coach Kenny Cooper, never one to downplay any midseason game, decided to emphasize the importance of a win over the Comets in a one-way discussion.
Did he read his team the "riot act?"
It depends on whom you ask.
"He got on us pretty good," said defender Bruce Savage. "Of course, that's his job. But, I've been here for a few years so I've seen worse."
Cooper's monologue must have sparked something positive in the road-weary Blast, because last night's impressive 9-6 win over Kansas City made it look more like the playoff team the coach expected to see from training camp.
"It was probably the best game we've played all year -- especially our play in the first half," said Cooper, whose team led 3-1 at the intermission. "There was really no alternative but to win this game. Our guys knew that and we responded."
Coming into the game in second place and three games behind the Comets, the Blast not only would have fallen four back in the standings, but would have been down 4-2 in the season series, which would have playoff implications if the teams were to tie at the end of the regular season.
The win pulls them within two -- with four of the next five games at home. Plus, the three-goal victory narrows the overall goal differential in the six games with Kansas City to two. This would decide a tie in the series, which has two games remaining.
As usual, Cooper wasn't quick to praise individual play, but the fine efforts of goalie Hank Henry and forward Domenic Mobilio didn't need the coach's news conference approval.
Henry, who finished with 13 saves, was superb in the first half, allowing just one goal. Mobilio, celebrating his 22nd birthday in style, got the otherwise sluggish offense off to a quick start, scoring the first two goals and adding another in the fourth quarter to raise his season total to a team-leading 28.
"It was really a matter of the offense and defense working together for everyone's benefit," said defender Billy Ronson, who had a fourth-quarter goal. "We were terrible in Dallas and it was a battle for personal pride. We knew that we were coming home and a winning streak had to start somewhere. All we need now is some consistency."
After jumping out to a 5-1 lead seven minutes into the third quarter, the Blast's worries weren't over with the feisty Comets. Kansas City cut the lead to 5-3 with goals from Doug McLagan and Paul Pechisolido, but the Blast roared back with Mobilio's third goal and another from Rusty Troy. The Comets never got back to within three.
"It's impossible in this league to hold a team down to two or three goals in a game," Cooper said. "Especially when you're talking about a first-place team like Kansas City. They're going to fight back, but you just have to keep working and we did."
The Blast is prepared to send MSL commissioner Earl Foreman the game tape from Friday's loss in Wichita to have the play on which goalie Scott Manning was injured considered for league action. The Blast allege that Wings forward Chico Borja struck Manning inside the penalty area with intent to injure. Manning has missed the past two games with a ligament sprain that resulted from the play, and will be out for at least two more weeks.