Spirit slide continues with a road setback Crunch ends own skid, survives rally, 13-12

December 29, 1997|By SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CLEVELAND -- This seemed like the chance to get things turned around. Unfortunately for the Spirit, things just got worse.

The Spirit went into the Cleveland State Convocation Center hoping that its meeting with the struggling Cleveland Crunch would result in the end of a three-game losing streak. But thanks to a sluggish second quarter, the Spirit left town with a 13-12 loss before a crowd of 7,109.

Cleveland (6-10), which had lost four in a row coming in, was led by Zoran Karic's three goals (eight points), which helped the Crunch build an 8-2 lead in the third quarter.

Despite the Crunch's early advantage, the Spirit (3-14) chipped away behind two three-point goals by player-coach Mike Stankovic to close the gap to 11-10 at 10: 59 of the final quarter.

However, when Cleveland's Tommy Tanner beat goalie Kalil Azmi with a two-point goal with 1: 51 left, the Spirit couldn't find enough to come all the way back.

The loss gives Azmi an NPSL-leading eight losses, surpassing his Cleveland counterpart, Otto Orf. Azmi made 22 saves, and Orf stopped 19 Spirit shots.

In what has usually been its best quarter, the first, the Spirit continued its trend of getting on the board first with Matt Tirschman's two-pointer, 5: 43 into the game. Although the Spirit doesn't have a scoring advantage in any of the four quarters this season, it has 39 goals to its opponents' 41 in the opening period.

The second quarter has been a different matter for the Spirit. Before the game, Baltimore had 13 fewer goals in the second period than its opponents. Now it has 15 fewer.

First Karic, who had scored the Crunch's only goal in the first quarter, netted a two-pointer at 8: 49, and then Hector Marinaro closed out the scoring in the half with a two-point goal.

The Crunch extended its lead to six points on another Karic goal, at 4: 19. But that's when Stankovic took over, putting in his team's eighth three-point goal of the season, at 13: 25 of the third quarter.

After Cleveland again raised its lead to six points, Sasa Zoric and Stankovic helped make it interesting with five unanswered points.

Pub Date: 12/29/97

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