Seemingly out of it after seeing a three-point lead dissolve into a three-point deficit with less than three minutes remaining last night, the Spirit staged a memorable stretch run to beat the Cincinnati Silverbacks, 17-14, and escape the ranks of the winless at Baltimore Arena.
Taking the cue from a spectacular five-goal performance by Bo Vuckovic and Shane Dougherty's first career hat trick, the Spirit was all over Cincinnati in the final 30 minutes after trailing 6-3 at halftime.
"Our record of 0-and-4 looked much worse than it was considering how unlucky we've been," Vuckovic said. "We were in just about every game and three of them were on the road.
"It affected everybody, not winning, but it has been especially hard on the young guys. But all along we've played hard, stuck with it and never hung our heads. It was our believing in ourselves that was so important."
Clobbered by the Silverbacks in Cincinnati on Wednesday night, 23-10, the home team played a strong defensive game to stay close before unleashing a 10-point fourth quarter. The Spirit outshot Cincinnati 15-7 in the final 15 minutes.
"The thing that has been killing us is free kicks," Vuckovic continued. "That's where veteran teams are so good. In the overtime loss to Philadelphia in our first game, 18 of [its] 21 points were off free kicks.
"In that game and others, we've outrun and outplayed teams going up and down, but then been hurt by free kicks.
"When we played St. Louis here, it was 8-8, then they got three goals on free-kick goals. We've been working hard in practice to correct the situation and it was important to get some results."
The Spirit, trailing at intermission in a game that had little to recommend it offensively, got to within a point when play resumed, old reliable Vuckovic accounting for his 10th goal after just a minute and a half of play.
Baltimore got on top for the first time with a minute remaining in the third quarter when Mike Henning set up Dougherty in close for his second goal of the evening and a 7-6 margin.
The floodgates were officially open. Held scoreless in the third period, Cincinnati began pushing hard and ended up scoring four goals on just seven shots in the concluding quarter.
After assuming a 14-11 lead at the 12: 16 mark, though, the Silverbacks were no match for the swarming Spirit. Vuckovic scored two two-pointers for a 15-14 lead with 59 seconds remaining and Chris Scotti closed out the scoring with a two-pointer 26 seconds later.
"Besides showing the guys what hard work, hustle and believing HTC can do," said Vuckovic, "the game showed you don't quit, even if you're down five goals. You never know what's going to happen."
NOTES: The Spirit will take on the Milwaukee Wave in a "School Day" promotion at the Arena Tuesday morning at 10: 35. The Silverbacks' Franklin McIntosh, who racked up 287 points in just 63 games while performing in Baltimore, had three assists but was held without a goal. He remains four goals shy of becoming the fourth player in NPSL history to register 400 goals. The other three are Hector Marinaro (Cleveland), Dennis Brose (Detroit) and Rudy Pikuzinski (Buffalo). The Spirit-Blizzard game in Buffalo on Friday will be shown live on Home Team Sports at 7: 30 p.m.
Pub Date: 11/16/97