TACOMA, WASH. OLB — TACOMA, Wash. -- The book on the Blast coming to the Tacoma Dome has been remarkably consistent of late: four visits stretching over parts of the last two seasons had resulted in four one-goal losses -- three in overtime.
Baltimore would have none of that last night, rallying from a 3-2 halftime deficit to post a 6-4 win -- thanks to two goals each by Rusty Troy, Joe Koziol and rookie Kris Kelderman.
Thus, the Blast (8-8) was able to break a three-game losing streak in its first game without injured veteran midfielder Mike Stankovic.
From here, the Blast will take on the Storm in St. Louis tonight and then play host to San Diego on Sunday.
While Stars coach Keith Weller locked the doors to his dressing room last night, Baltimore coach Kenny Cooper was, of course, more than willing to discuss things.
"Both teams had great chances [Tacoma outshot Baltimore 26-23]," Cooper said. "But we just happened to score at the right time. It was a big game for both franchises, obviously.
"With us being on the road at Christmas and traveling 6,000 miles, I told our guys not come away empty-handed.
"For a while it looked like a typical Tacoma-Baltimore game -- maybe 4-3 in overtime. But I thought the effort was incredible and we really showed what was in our shirts tonight."
What was there was the ability to reach a little deeper when the game was on the line.
"It's real simple for us," Cooper said. "When you lose a Stankovic, who can be a game-winner, it's like Tacoma losing Carl Valentine. You have to adjust and adapt very quickly.
"That's why this was a big game for us. It's just a matter of everybody working. I thought we worked very hard off the ball."
Cooper also was pleased with the play of Kelderman, who moved into the starting lineup with the injury to Stankovic.
"He had a real good training camp," Cooper said. "He's been real patient. I just couldn't keep him off the team any longer. He played like a first-round draft choice."
Kelderman was all smiles.
"I guess I was patient," he said. "At the beginning, I wasn't seeing a whole lot of [playing] time. I guess I just had to pay my dues and wait for my opportunity.
"When it came I had to make the most of it. Tonight, things just seemed to work for me. I'm pretty excited about it."
Kelderman said it was important for the club to win without Stankovic, who doubles as an assistant coach.
"Mike definitely is a big loss," he said. "The team was really worried about that. We tried to play real well without him and it worked out."
Down 3-2 at halftime, Baltimore limited Tacoma to three shots in the third quarter to build a 4-3 lead.
Then, with Tacoma turning on the pressure, Baltimore struck with two counter-attack goals in the fourth to put it away.
"I was pretty angry at halftime," Cooper admitted. "It goes without saying I was a little bit ballistic. I felt we had made a couple of mental errors, which we have made [a lot of] in this
building. I just felt we had to do a little better defensively."
Kelderman scored the first on a breakaway, fed by Doug Miller, at 7:45.
Koziol scored his second to put Tacoma away at 8:41 by converting a rebound from the penalty area.
The Stars, in the sixth-attacker mode, did get a goal from Ralph Black at 10:17, but it was too big a wall to climb.
Baltimore took the lead 4-3 with two quick goals late in the third quarter.
On the first one, Rod Castro stole the ball in the Tacoma end and hit Kelderman. Kelderman, from right wing, chipped a high ball over the head of Tacoma keeper Mike Dowler 11:22 into the quarter. Castro's assist extended his scoring streak to 11 games.
Just 1:05 later, Troy surprised Dowler with a shot from outside the red line that easily beat the Tacoma keeper inside the left post.
"I got a little lucky," Kelderman said of his chip. "It wasn't really a shot. I saw Billy Ronson at the far post. It hit a defender and deflected in."
VS. TACOMA STARS
* WHEN: Tonight, 10:35.
* WHERE: Tacoma (Wash.) Dome.
* RADIO: WCAO-AM (600).
* OUTLOOK: The Blast (7-8) takes a three-game losing streak into tonight's game and will be playing without M Mike Stankovic, who underwent knee surgery Monday. F Domenic Mobilio (18 goals, five assists) leads the Blast, and F Rod Castro (seven goals, 10 assists) is second in scoring. Tacoma (5-7) has been idle for 11 days and was trounced, 15-4, by San Diego in its last game. Former Blast F Dale Mitchell (14 goals, seven assists) tops the Stars in scoring, and former Blast M Carl Valentine (three goals, nine assists) is third. Baltimore and Tacoma have split two games this season.