Diving save preserves 13-12 win, ousts Spirit Cleveland wins series, 3-1, as Crunch's Orf denies Vaudreuil late in game


With just over 2: 30 left in the game and the Spirit trailing 13-12, Dave Vaudreuil hammered a shot at the goal that had fifth and deciding game written all over it.

Cleveland Crunch goalie Otto Orf, who had been making spectacular saves all evening, had one more left. He deflected the ball high over his head but behind him. Without hesitation, he turned and dived back and, with two hands, batted the ball back onto the playing field.

That was the final: Cleveland 13, Spirit 12. But it was a lot closer than that, believe.

"You can pick so many spots in the game where things might have changed," said Spirit coach Mike Stankovic, who turned in a heroic performance. "But when you have a goalkeeper having a game like that, well . . ."

On some of his efforts, Orf seemed to defy gravity, the laws of physics and what can normally be expected of the human body. He was remarkable.

"I couldn't hit shots better than some of the ones I sent his way," said Stankovic, "but Otto was there.

"Our team was tremendous. I'm so proud. So many good things happened this year; we've got something great to build on for next year."

From an 8-6 deficit at halftime, Cleveland took off like a team that had changed legs in the locker room.

The visitors put 10 shots on goal in the third quarter to Baltimore's three, and several of Cris Vaccaro's saves had to be above and beyond the call of duty to keep the Spirit from falling behind by more than 13-10.

The Crunch's run from the end of the first period to the end of the third was 11-3, and it was the team with more energy as the rivals headed into the last 15 minutes.

Cleveland started out with a decided advantage in time of possession and scoring chances, but had to feel snake-bitten when it hit two crossbars and a post with nary a two-point goal in the first period.

Meanwhile, John Garvey hit Baltimore's first two goals and Jason Dieter the third, all set up expertly by Stankovic. Kevin Sloan and Hector Marinaro matched shootout scores and Henry Gutierrez converted a power play, giving the home team a 7-2 lead after the quarter.

Cleveland tightened up markedly in the second quarter, restricting the Spirit to a Sloan tally on a power play. Once again it was a seeing-eye pass from Stankovic that made it possible. Cleveland got two-pointers from Glenn Carbonara and the ever-dangerous Marinaro, so Baltimore hit intermission with an 8-6 edge.

Vaudreuil ended a 14-minute Spirit scoring drought when he hit a goal on a terrific setup from Sloan six minutes into the final period.

From that moment on, the Spirit was in Cleveland's face.

With just five seconds remaining, Stankovic got a pass off to Orf's left and rifled a pass through the box, where Sloan just couldn't get a foot on it to send it in.

"We came up one game short," said Stankovic. "It's great experience and it will help us. They had the best record and they're a very good team."

He stopped short of saying the Crunch deserved to be heading for the final. But he wasn't about to say they were lucky to get by the Spirit either.

OC Like his players, Stankovic was a fierce competitor to the end.

Cleveland .. 2 .. 4 .. 7 .. 0 .. -- .. 13

Spirit ..... 7 .. 1 .. 2 .. 2 .. -- .. 12

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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