Spirit gets by Blizzard, 15-14

March 30, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

The second overtime goal of veteran Mike Stankovic's career put a glow on an otherwise listless effort by the Spirit last night.

With the NPSL American Division title clinched and the home-field advantage in the playoffs assured, the Spirit was drifting toward a loss to the Buffalo Blizzard last night before 6,529 at the Baltimore Arena.

But Clark Brisson's one-point shootout goal with 16 seconds left sent the game into overtime and Stankovic's power-play goal 1:15 into sudden death gave the Spirit a 15-14 victory.

For Stankovic, 37, it was the second overtime goal in 415 games over 13 pro seasons.

"I told the guys to try to keep patient and wait for a good shot," said Stankovic, the team's player-coach. "Randy Pikuzinski was marking me near the red line, but I had a perfectly open shot."

Said coach Kenny Cooper, "That was vintage Prince Mike. He told me as we went into overtime, 'Just give me the ball.' The winning shot was a rocket."

The win was the Spirit's 11th straight at home and raised its record at the Arena to 18-1. In six lifetime tries here, the Blizzard has never won.

The Spirit took a 4-0 lead on goals by Rusty Troy and Rob Ukrop before Dave Hoggan put Buffalo on the board. Goran Hunjak's two-point goal early in the second quarter raised his points total to 101, marking the second straight year he has reached 100.

Baltimore goalie Cris Vaccaro was hit on the nose in the second quarter and left the game, not to return. Shawn Boehmcke replaced him.

Baltimore led 6-2 when Vaccaro departed. The Blizzard scored six of the next nine points to pull within 9-8 at halftime.

Since the Spirit has already clinched the NPSL's American division title, team-scoring leader Paul Wright was held out because of a tender knee that has bothered him for several weeks. Wright, No. 8 in the NPSL points race, has tied or broken eight Spirit records this season.

"It was precautionary," Cooper said. "We don't want to take chances. We need everybody healthy going into the playoffs."

Joe Koziol (pulled hamstring) and rookie Lance Johnson (strained groin) also missed the game. Vaccaro started despite a slightly pulled hamstring. Cooper reasoned that Vaccaro, in his 14th pro season, knows his body well enough not to risk aggravating an injury.

NOTES: Speculation about the announcements at today's Spirit press conference centers on an Arena lease, a TV contract and/or corporate sponsorships. . . . Ricky Bush and Billy Reinhardt suited up as replacements for the injured players. "They'll see playing time these last few regular-season games," Cooper said. . . . Four Buffalo players who have totaled 313 points sat out: Rudy Pikuzinski (113, virus), Paul Doherty (100, virus), Ralph Black (53, back) and Nino Galich (47, calf). . . . The Spirit will entertain the Harrisburg Heat on Friday, then travel to Harrisburg on Saturday for the regular-season finale. The first 3,000 fans Friday will receive Spirit sports bottles. . . . The Famous Chicken performed for the 12th time in Baltimore.

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