Buffalo blanks Spirit in first half, wins, 9-4

December 19, 1993|By Mike Haim | Mike Haim,Contributing Writer

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- You couldn't blame the Spirit for dreading last night's trip to Buffalo.

Winless in its two visits here last season and fresh off its first loss of the season Friday night, the Spirit fell behind 7-0 in the first half and wound up losing to the Buffalo Blizzard, 9-4, before 6,409 at Memorial Auditorium.

Spirit coach Kenny Cooper attributed the loss to the Blizzard's tenacious play early in the game.

"They came out flying," Cooper said. "They lost 17-3 in Baltimore and had something to prove. It was important this game to get the first few points. We came up short, but we were still well in the game."

The real key to the game was Buffalo goalkeeper Jamie Swanner. He faced 28 Spirit shots, giving up just two third-quarter goals.

"I think we wanted it more," Swanner said. "We decided we had to push up right away and force them. In Baltimore we kind of backed off and gave them a lot of space."

The Blizzard took charge early. The first quarter's only goal was a two-pointer by Buffalo's Rudy Pikuzinski 3:42 into the game. The Blizzard tacked on five points in the second quarter, and the Spirit couldn't score.

Things improved for the Spirit in the second half. In the third quarter, two-point goals by John Abe and Goran Hunjak narrowed the margin to 7-4. Abe's goal was the result of good pressure on Swanner. Hunjak scored when he tipped a pass intended for Swanner.

Play was concentrated in the Buffalo zone in the final quarter, as the Spirit outshot the Blizzard 8-3. But Buffalo scored the period's only goal, a two-pointer by Nino Galich with 8:17 left.

"The effort in the second half was tremendous," Cooper said. "But when the [opposing] goalkeepers play well, as they did these past two games, it's tough."

With 5:23 remaining, Baltimore's leading scorer, Paul Wright, replaced Vaccaro in goal to give the Spirit six attackers. The Spirit held off the Blizzard, but could only manage a few good, but unsuccessful, scoring opportunities.

Cooper said: "We had incredible chances. Swanner defensively played great. When you're 10-0 you hope you can win forever. But teams are getting geared up for us. Hopefully, with a week off here, we can re-evaluate some things, and come back strong."

The Spirit's next game is next Sunday in Cleveland, and its next home game is Dec. 29 against Dayton.

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