RICHFIELD, Ohio -- Considering the long and successful history of the Baltimore Blast, it hardly seems possible that a regular-season game could be called "the greatest win for us . . . ever."
However, that's what Blast coach Kenny Cooper said after his team overcame a two-goal deficit in the final 7 minutes, 14 seconds of regulation with midfielder Billy Ronson in the net to beat the Cleveland Crunch, 8-7, in overtime last night before 6,068 at the Richfield Coliseum.
"It was a miracle," said Cooper. "Our guys refused to quit. They wanted to win so badly for [regular goalie] Cris [Vaccaro]. Ronson did a brilliant job [in the net]."
Vaccaro was knocked out of the game by a shot from Dave Hoggan with 7:14 left in regulation. Vaccaro took the full force of the shot in the face and was unconscious for several minutes. He was treated for about 15 minutes before being taken off on a stretcher. Vaccaro was taken to Marymount Hospital in Cleveland in a neck brace. X-rays on his neck were negative, although he suffered whiplash, and he was expected to be released early this morning.
Domenic Mobilio capped the comeback by knocking in a wall pass from Doug Neely 1:57 into overtime.
"Our team has come together in the last five games," said Mobilio, who had scored in every game this year except for his two efforts against the Crunch. "We are a tough team to beat, and we're on a roll now.
"Cleveland's been able to shut me down because I haven't been shooting the ball, but tonight I took my shots."
The Blast (7-5), which has won six of its past seven games overall and four straight on the road for the first time since 1986, scored five goals in the fourth period to force the overtime.
Just 1:25 after Vaccaro's injury, Mobilio headed in the rebound of Mike Stankovic miss to make it 7-6.
With 2:08 left, Emil Dragicevic tied the game as the ball bounced off his body into the net after Cleveland goalie Otto Orf had stopped a shot by Ronson.
Ronson had put the Blast, which avenged a one-goal loss to Cleveland at home last Friday, ahead 2:50 into the contest as he converted the rebound of a shot by Rod Castro. The assist extended Castro's point-scoring streak to seven games.
With 15 seconds left in the period -- and just after Vaccaro made a tough save to rob Cleveland's Chico Moreira -- Iain Fraser sent a cross-field pass to Kevin Sloan who was all alone at the far post for an easy tap-in. It was Sloan's first MSL point.
The Crunch cut the deficit in half when Gregg Willin headed in a pass off the head of Kai Haaskivi.
Cleveland tied it 3:28 before the half when Hector Marinaro put in a feed from Hoggan at the end of a three-on-two counterattack.
Just 2:15 later, Marinaro scored again, heading in the rebound of a shot by Moreira.
Late in the third period, Zoran Karic sent a restart kick from the top of the box into the net to make it 4-2.
Things then got wild, as each team scored three times in a 4:48 span of the final period to leave the Crunch ahead, 7-5.
Marinaro, Hoggan and Karic scored for the Crunch. Joe Koziol, Neely and Stankovic got the Blast goals.
Twenty-eight seconds after Stankovic's goal, Vaccaro went down.
Blast midfielder Rusty Troy missed his second straight game with a severe case of strep throat and is doubtful for tonight's 7:35 contest against the Dallas Sidekicks at the Baltimore Arena.
Baltimore 2 0 0 5 1 -- 8
Cleveland 0 3 1 3 0 -- 7
First period--1. Baltimore, Ronson (Castro), 2:50. 2. Baltimore, Sloan (Fraser), 14:45. Penalties--none.
Second period--3. Cleveland, Willin (Haaskivi), 8:46. 4. Cleveland, Marinaro (Hoggan), 11:43. 5. Cleveland, Marinaro (Moreira), 13:47. Penalties--none.
Third period--6. Cleveland, Karic (unassisted), 13:02. Penalties--Baltimore, Stankovic (unsportsmanlike conduct), 5:26.
Fourth period--7. Cleveland, Marinaro (Karic), 2:28. 8. Baltimore, Koziol (Dragicevic), 2:53. 9. Cleveland, Hoggan (Karic), 4:36. 10. Baltimore, Neely (unassisted), 4:54. 11. Cleveland, Karic (Schmetzer), 6:48. 12. Baltimore, Stankovic (Ronson), 7:16. 13. Baltimore, Mobilio (Stankovic), 8:41. 14. Baltimore, Dragicevic (Ronson), 12:52. Penalties--none.
Overtime--15. Baltimore, Mobilio (Neely), 1:57. Penalties--none.
Shots on goal--Baltimore 6-0-3-11-2--22; Cleveland 5-7-5-5-8--25. Fouls--Baltimore 1-3-3-3-0--11; Cleveland 2-1-3-5-1--12. Goalies--Baltimore, Vaccaro (52:46), 9 saves; Ronson (1-1) (9:11), 0 saves; Cleveland, Orf (1-1) (61:57), 8 saves.