The silence in the Baltimore Blast locker room last night told the story.
The Blast had just lost its third straight home game, falling to the Wichita Wings, 3-2, before 5,459 at the Baltimore Arena.
Mike Stankovic, team leader and assistant coach, sat despondently on a chair, facing surgery tomorrow for a possible career-ending knee injury.
Blast coach Kenny Cooper was trying to figure out how his team had squandered four excellent scoring opportunities in the fourth quarter after Chico Borja had given the Wings a 3-2 lead 1 minute, 24 seconds into the final quarter with a goal.
Borja made the Blast's third straight loss even harder for Cooper to take when he said he mis-hit the shot from 35 feet that proved to be the winning goal.
"All the shots I hit hard, Cris Vaccaro stopped," said Borja. "Then I mis-hit one and it goes by him. That's probably why he missed it, because it took a funny twist."
The win enabled Wichita (9-4) to remain in first place. The Blast dropped to 7-8, despite having Vaccaro back in the goal after missing two games.
Stankovic, 35, will undergo arthroscopic surgery tomorrow to determine the extent of the near-certain ligament damage.
If it is a medial collateral tear, Stankovic most likely would be out eight to 12 weeks. But if it's an anterior cruciate tear, Stankovic will be out for the season.
Stankovic ran into Terry Rowe's knee at 10:45 of the first quarter as he tried to retrieve a ball that had eluded him while he was attempting to beat Rowe one on one.
"This injury came at the wrong time," said Stankovic. "But even if I never play again, I can't complain because I've had a great career in Baltimore."
Cooper said: "It's a tremendous loss, losing Mike. He sets an example for the other players."
The Blast looked as if it had tied the game at 3 at 6:18 of the fourth quarter when Mark Mettrick's header eluded Wichita goalkeeper Kris Peat at the right post.
But referee Felix Fuksman ruled that Mettrick had pushed Wichita's Danny Pena from behind to knock in the header off a chip pass from Doug Neely.
Mettrick said: "It was a clean header as far as I could tell. I didn't come down on top of him, which usually constitutes a foul."
Cooper said it was a judgment call by Fuksman and didn't criticize the call.
"When you're not hitting the target like we are, things like that are magnified," said Cooper. "We have to give people a reason to come out to the Arena to see us, and right now we're not doing it. We have to regroup and put our chances away."
Cooper said he would use rookie defender Kris Kelderman and veteran defender Neely as replacements for Stankovic at
"Both players did a good job tonight in place of Mike," said Cooper. "Kris Kelderman has just gotten better and better each day for us. It's time for him to start for us. He's won the job."
OC Dale Ervine and Perry Van Der Beck had scored to give Wichita a
2-0 lead before Baltimore rallied on goals by Mettrick and Rusty Troy to tie the score at 2 at 7:33 of the second quarter.
But neither team scored again until Borja hit the eventual game-winner early in the fourth quarter.