Spirit gamble produces OT win over Blizzard Simmons' 3 with no goalie, Vuckovic seal 14-12 victory

March 10, 1997|By Bob Summers | Bob Summers,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Spirit coach Mike Stankovic -- who says the decision to pull the goalkeeper late in a losing game is "like going to Las Vegas or Atlantic City" -- hit the jackpot yesterday.

The tactic worked perfectly as the Spirit rallied for a 14-12 overtime win over the Buffalo Blizzard in a NPSL game.

The Spirit's Ronnie Simmons tied the game with a three-point goal with 41 seconds left in regulation. Then Bo Vuckovic, who entered the game tied for No. 8 in the NPSL scoring race, nailed the winner at 1: 24 of overtime.

At first, it looked like Stankovic had rolled snake eyes. Down 10-9 with 2: 24 to play, he replaced keeper Jim McCombs with sixth attacker Doug Neely and just 25 seconds later Buffalo midfielder Randy Pikuzinski intercepted an errant pass and beat Neely to make it 12-9.

The crowd of 10,724 was still celebrating when Simmons turned Marine Midland Arena silent with his soft 55-foot shot that Buffalo goalkeeper Pat Harrington said, "I didn't get a good look at."

"I was surprised," Simmons said. "I was just trying to hit it back post. The defender really closed pretty well. I just happened to hit it with the outside of my foot. It had some spin on it and it went in. I was more surprised than anybody."

Vuckovic, whose pass set up Simmons' shot, then won the game with a right-footed shot into the far corner of the goal from deep in the right corner.

"I faked left, pushed the ball right and I guess I caught Pat [goalie Harrington] on the wrong foot," Vuckovic said.

"It was sweet," he added, recalling that in the teams' previous meeting, Jan. 11 at the Baltimore Arena, Pikuzinski won the game with a goal with 40 seconds to go.

The Spirit's first win in four overtime chances improved Baltimore's record to 18-18, 1 1/2 games behind Harrisburg in the East Division race. Buffalo slipped to 16-16, but remains a half-game ahead of Detroit in the North. Division winners get first-round playoff byes.

Baltimore's Jimmy Glenn scored the game's first goal, but Buffalo led 6-2 at halftime and extended the advantage to 8-3 late in the third period. The Spirit stormed ahead, 9-8, on two-point goals by Lance Johnson, Glenn and Branko Segota.

Buffalo's Doug Miller beat McCombs midway the fourth period on a two-point penalty kick to put the Blizzard up, 10-9, and set up the closing fireworks.

Pub Date: 3/10/97

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