Spirit wastes 12-6 lead, loses in OT, 14-12 Johnson, McCombs leave with injuries in 2nd half

November 19, 1997|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

To the untrained eye, it appeared as if the Spirit slipped into a prevent defense when it started the fourth period of its midday game with a 12-6 lead over the Milwaukee Wave yesterday.

Over the next 15 minutes, the Wave tied it, the goal sending the game into overtime coming with 21 seconds remaining. Then, five minutes into sudden death, Michael King scored his second goal to provide the Wave (5-1) with a 14-12 victory.

After leading at halftime 8-2 and controlling the game impressively for so long, suddenly it was as if the Spirit thought it would be fined heavily if it proceeded into the visitors' end of the field.

That wasn't it at all. A discouraging series of circumstances hit the Spirit in short order, and that old bugaboo, inexperience, was aboard, too.

Defender Lance Johnson went out with a concussion at the start of the final period, and, as coach Mike Stankovic pointed out, "Lance was the guy we could least afford to lose at that point, because of his experience."

A short time before, Jim McCombs, who was having a good day in goal, had to be helped off the field after suffering a hip pointer.

Still, not even one cursory threat was made on the Milwaukee net in the final quarter.

"One of things a player learns with experience is he'll need a reserve of energy so he can respond to pressure near the end. With it, you can close out a game," Stankovic said.

Try as they might, though, it just wasn't there for the home team players. Milwaukee was bigger, stronger and it just kept on coming.

"When we made a mistake, we were made to pay for it immediately," Stankovic said. "If you do a good job of clearing the ball and end up losing possession, you have time to recover; other guys can make an adjustment and you're all right. We didn't get that.

"It's a game we should have won, and there have been a couple of those. But together with the physical work a player puts in, knowledge is so important."

The squad's lack of experience has been a constant source of trepidation, with half the players in either their first or second full year of indoor play. But two overtime losses and another setback late in a game only serve to stress how important it is "to have your brain working in the right way," as Stankovic puts it.

"It has been an accomplishment to be in just about every game and, sooner or later, we're going to be winning some. The players know that's their challenge, and you can see that they're learning. That's all we can do right now."

The Spirit nearly had the Wave shut out through the first 15 minutes while scoring seven points. Rookie Dejan Belic's third goal of the season was the Spirit's first three-pointer, and it was followed by goals by Chris Scotti and Belic.

In the second quarter, the Wave put just one shot on goal. The teams played evenly in the third quarter, 4-4.

Pub Date: 11/19/97

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