After 14-2 loss, Spirit is still 0-for-Buffalo

January 03, 1994|By Budd Bailey | Budd Bailey,Contributing Writer

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- There's something about Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium that brings out the worst in the Baltimore Spirit.

The Spirit dropped a 14-2 decision to the Buffalo Blizzard yesterday, by far the team's worst loss of the season. Buffalo's home field remains the only place in the NPSL that Baltimore has not won in its two seasons in the league.

About the only bright spot for the Spirit was that it avoided a shutout when Dan O'Keefe scored with 16.1 seconds left. Otherwise, Buffalo goalie Jamie Swanner and his defense were perfect for more than 59 minutes, as the Blizzard just missed the first shutout in team history.

"That was one of the greatest goaltending performances I've ever seen," said Spirit coach Kenny Cooper. "Buffalo had a magnificent game. They were relentless."

Swanner finished with 21 saves. He deserved Player of the Game honors, but was helped by a solid defensive effort that limited Baltimore's scoring opportunities.

"I wasn't thinking about the shutout," Swanner said of the final moments. "I just wanted to win the game."

He must have been about the only one in announced crowd of 5,605 that wasn't thinking about a shutout. That's because the verdict seemed to be decided in the first half.

Buffalo took a 4-0 lead after a period of play on goals by Nino Galich and Dean Kelly. Cooper thought the first period provided a key to the contest.

"We should have had four or six points by the time they scored," he said. "You get a lead in this game and you build on it."

The Blizzard did that in the second quarter, as Rudy Pikuzinski and Kelly scored. That made it 8-0 at halftime.

"We played a really good first half," said Buffalo coach Trevor Dawkins. "We really didn't need the halftime. I wish they could have put us right back out there."

The Spirit controlled play during much of the third period, but couldn't put the ball in the net. Swanner made a couple of outstanding saves on Paul Wright, where he barely got a hand on shots to deflect them away from the goal.

Buffalo didn't score in the third period but increased the lead to double digits less than a minute into the fourth quarter. Pikuzinski, with Doug Neely draped over him, cut to the middle and beat goalie Shawn Boehmcke. Dave Hoggan had an easy tap-in off a two-on-one break to increase the margin to 12-0, and the attempted shutout was the only question left to answer.

Cooper tried pulling his goalie with about 10 minutes left in an effort to get his offense going, but it didn't help. Jon Gardner converted on a shootout after a boarding penalty to Baltimore's Tarlik Walker, and Ralph Black added a one-point goal on the power play about a minute and a half later.

Even when Swanner wasn't skillful, he was lucky. O'Keefe had the ball five feet from an open net with about seven minutes left in the game, but he mis-hit the ball and it dribbled to Swanner harmlessly.

In the last minute, O'Keefe stole the ball away from Hoggan and led a five-on-three break. His blast from the left wing made it into the far top corner.

"I was thankful we didn't get shut out," Cooper said. The coach was concerned about how a shutout might affect his team, considering that Baltimore (12-3) will play Buffalo (10-6) again on Friday.

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