Spirit continues plummet, falls to Crunch Team vows to improve after 15-13 loss puts record at 4-16, worst in history

January 11, 1998|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

A 15-13 loss to the free-wheeling Cleveland Crunch before 5,115 at the Baltimore Arena last night sees the Spirit hit the midway point of the season break with a 4-16 record, easily its worst in its six-year history.

"I know one thing, we'll win a lot more games in the second half," said player-coach Mike Stankovic. "Strange as it may sound, the first half has been a good experience for all of us. We had to come up with new players, teach them the indoor game, then get them to play together. Yes, we're getting beat, but not by much."

As is usually the case when the Crunch is providing the opposition, if Hector Marinaro doesn't get you, then certainly his teammate Zoran Karic will. And if those two fail, the Crunch has Otto Orf in goal to stop the opposition.

Cleveland's top scorers were up to the task once again as the Crunch won its fourth straight game here. Slow to start, Karic ended up with a hat trick and two assists and Marinaro added two goals, including a three-pointer.

They were joined in the scoring by Alejandro Moreno, who had two goals.

Trailing by as many as seven points (15-8) halfway through the final quarter, the Spirit threw a scare into Cleveland when Stankovic hit a one-point shootout, Mirko Castillo scored his first goal inside the last two minutes and Bo Vuckovic hit on a two-point penalty shot in the last 24 seconds.

But the rally ended in a two-point loss.

"We had our chances," said Stankovic. "but you always get chances against a team like that. You have to finish or you can forget it, because the ball will be up the other end quickly and guys like Marinaro and Karic aren't going to miss finishing."

In the first period, Cleveland took 13 shots at the Spirit goal, forcing Khalil Azmi to make 10 saves. The Spirit, during the first 15 minutes, sent two shots at the Crunch goal and Orf stopped half of them.

"The league is getting stronger and all you have to do is look at clubs like St. Louis, Milwaukee and Cleveland as proof," said Stankovic. "They're good and they get better by adding players.

"The last two years we've lost guys who quit and others that went elsewhere to play. It's tough replacing them. But what we're doing here is facing the truth and doing the best we can. In effect, we're a brand new team. Still, that's no excuse for only four wins so far."

The Spirit broke on top, with newcomer Denison Cabral heading in his first goal after six minutes of tentative action.

The lead held up until Sasa Zoric drew a penalty for a dangerous play and Cleveland capitalized with a shootout one-pointer by Karic and then on a power play one-pointer by Alejandro Moreno.

Late in the first period, Marinaro slid in front of the Spirit goal and tapped in a rebound off a Karic shot that was saved by the acrobatic Azmi.

Mike Henning got the Spirit a tie at 4-4 nearing the middle of the second period with his 10th goal, but five minutes later, Marinaro converted a three-pointer from the top of the arc on a restart.

Alek Milenovic got the Spirit back to within a point with his eighth goal late, but the Crunch hit intermission ahead 8-6 when Karic hit his second shootout effort.

The third quarter belonged to Cleveland as Karic belted in a three-pointer after taking the ball from a Spirit attacker and Moreno added a two-pointer against a tiring Azmi. It was 13-6 after three periods and the Crunch held a 31-22 shooting edge.

Pub Date: 1/11/98

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