Heat rips Spirit in regular-season finale

April 03, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Its Interstate 83 rival clinched the fourth and final playoff spot in the NPSL's American Division, but that's not necessarily good news for the Spirit.

For two straight nights, the Harrisburg Heat treated the Spirit shabbily, following Friday night's victory in Baltimore with a 20-5 drubbing last night before 6,101 at the State Farm Show Arena. It set up a first-round playoff series between the Spirit and Heat.

In the final two regular season games, the Heat outscored Baltimore, 35-10. The Spirit's lowest points total in one game was two against the Buffalo Blizzard on the road this season.

When Baltimore faced Harrisburg last season in the opening round of the playoffs, also as the American Division champion, it was unceremoniously eliminated in two games.

"This won't work on us mentally, not at all," coach Kenny Cooper said. "If we'd had a full team, yeah. But we were minus six players. Now we have a week to get ready and to regain our focus."

But the fact that six Spirit players, including goalie Cris Vaccaro and scoring leader Paul Wright, missed the game with injuries may do little to send the team into the playoffs bubbling with confidence.

So Baltimore vs. Harrisburg it is. The Canton Invaders, who went into the evening tied with Harrisburg, lost to the Chicago Power, 17-10, and finished fifth.

The best-of-three series will start here Friday night where the Spirit is 1-6 in two years. Its lone win was last November in overtime on rookie Rob Ukrop's goal.

"That November game proved we can win here when we're at full strength," said captain Rusty Troy. "With all the players missing, it's not right to think we can't win and score in this building."

The second game will be played Saturday night in Baltimore and a third, if necessary, April 11.

Franklin McIntosh and Bob Lilley each had two goals for Harrisburg. Troy, Goran Hunjak and Barry Stitz scored for Baltimore.

The Spirit took 18 shots but was held scoreless in the first half, thanks to goalie Brett Phillips and his tenacious defenders. He had 17 saves; the 18th shot was blocked.

John Prow opened the scoring 4:13 into the game with his fifth goal of the season. Danny Kelly chipped in a one-pointer on a shootout for a 3-0 first-quarter lead.

In the second quarter, the Heat's Lilley, Angelo Panzetta and Mark Pulisic banged in two-pointers for a 9-0 edge.

Harrisburg coach Jim Pollihan led with his hottest goalie, Phillips, whose victory Friday night in Baltimore was his fourth straight, raising his record to 8-13. He has alternated this season with Jorge Valenzuela, who has a bad thumb.

"He's [Valenzuela] been playing," Pollihan said. "It's just that Brett is hot right now."

NOTES: With the intent of having everyone healthy for the playoffs, Cooper held out the slightly injured, as well as the badly injured, including Vaccaro (fractured nose), Wright (knee), Joe Koziol (pulled hamstring), Lance Johnson (strained groin), Tarik Walker (pulled hamstring) and Doug Neely (back). All

are expected to be ready for the playoffs with the possible exceptions of Walker and Koziol. . . . Lee Tschantret, Harrisburg's No. 2 scorer, played despite a broken toe. . . . The Spirit entered last night's game with a 1-6 record in games in which Vaccaro hadn't started. Shawn Boehmcke, a rookie out of Loyola College, again started; his record after Friday night's defeat was 2-4.

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