Stitz's late goal boosts Spirit past Heat, 19-17 Win improves record to 5-0

November 20, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

The Baltimore Arena magic worked again for the Spirit.

But it didn't work for Rob Ukrop. After being elbowed in the face by Harrisburg's Dennis Hamlett, Ukrop had to undergo jaw surgery last night at Union Memorial Hospital. He is expected to be out at least six weeks.

The Spirit has won 11 straight regular-season home games, last losing Jan. 23 to the Wichita Wings. The team has a 21-3 overall record at the Arena.

Undefeated at 5-0, the Spirit edged the Heat, 19-17, last night before 4,701 in the opener of a five-game home stand. Last weekend, on the road, the Spirit beat Harrisburg in overtime.

The winning two-point goal was scored by Barry Stitz with 3:16 remaining on a club-record sixth assist by Tim Wittman. The kick broke a 17-17 tie.

The final period was spiced by the ejection of the Spirit's Doug Neely and assistant coach Mike Stankovic. The ejections stemmed from arguing with officials over the elbowing call against Hamlett.

The teams piled up 43 penalty minutes, one shy of the National Professional Soccer League record.

"We're all embarrassed about this and devastated by what happened to Rob," coach Kenny Cooper said. "It was a case of a soccer game turning into an ice hockey game, but without pads and helmets.

"The doctor said Rob looked like he had been in a car accident. His teeth as well as his jaw were affected. He could be out six weeks, or three months."

An explosive third quarter followed a relatively uneventful second period.

Lance Johnson and Dan O'Keefe raised the Spirit's lead to 10-5, but Doug Miller made it 11-10, Harrisburg, with a hat trick (six points) in a mere 2:40. Miller played for Loyola College and the Blast.

The Spirit responded with two-point goals by Ukrop and O'Keefe for a 14-11 edge. It was O'Keefe's third of the game. Both he and Ukrop have at least one goal in every game. Todd Smith brought the Heat within 14-13 near the end of the quarter.

Franklin McIntosh provided Harrisburg with a 5-2 first-quarter lead. A former Blast player, who last week became the first National Professional Soccer League player to collect more than 600 points, McIntosh scored a two-pointer barely two minutes into the game and boomed in a three-pointer with a minute left in the period. Rusty Troy scored the Spirit's lone goal.

Cooper maintains that Harrisburg was the best team the Spirit played last season. The Heat had a 5-2 edge over Baltimore, including two victories that knocked the Spirit out of the playoffs. "They were bigger and stronger," Cooper said.

During the off-season, the Spirit acquired Tarik Walker, O'Keefe and Ukrop, all 6 feet 2 and weighing between 185 and 200. "Now we have the biggest team I've ever had," Cooper said.

NOTES: Stitz was given clearance to play after missing both of last weekend's games with a sprained ankle. Spirit assists leader Goran Hunjak sat out his third straight game with a sprained ankle. Team points leader Paul Wright hasn't missed a game, but is still hampered by a pulled hamstring. . . . The Spirit will entertain the unbeaten (3-0) Milwaukee Wave on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.

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