Late defense lifts Spirit, 20-17 Kixx erases 10-1 deficit, but 7-game win streak ends

January 25, 1998|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

After blowing a 10-1 lead while Philadelphia was running a dozen straight points, the Spirit remembered it had a defense and played it while registering a 20-17 victory over the Kixx last night at Baltimore Arena.

Paced by the offensive fireworks of Denison Cabral, Sasa Zoric and Bo Vuckovic, who combined for seven goals and 20 points, the Spirit ended Philadelphia's seven-game winning streak with its first victory against its division rival in five tries.

After the visitors scored early in the third quarter, the home team held them scoreless for the next 20 minutes while climbing from a 15-12 deficit to a 17-15 lead.

Philadelphia's last gasp squared the game with about five minutes remaining, but Cabral's third goal and Mark Tirschman's shootout one-pointer gave the Spirit its sixth win of the campaign.

Most of the defense needed was to put a cap on Philadelphia's Matt Knowles, who scored a league-tying six goals in the first half. He was held scoreless in the second half.

"He has everything going for him," Spirit coach Mike Stankovic said of Knowles. "He has skill and a great shot. He's also big, and a little forward is no match for him. What we did in the second half is move up on him quickly, make him get rid of the ball. We also had bigger defensemen go at him."

This change and the insertion of Jim McCombs in goal in mid-game was the correct formula. It had been about a month since McCombs last had significant game time, but, as he put it, he's not the kind who becomes overly concerned with pressure.

"My take on almost everything I do is simply to do my best. I can't do any more. Actually, it's more relaxed, the situation I faced tonight. You've got nothing to lose. You make the saves, you win; you don't, you don't."

Usually, Philadelphia's scoring duo of Kevin Sloan and Don D'Ambra plays havoc with the Spirit. Not this trip. Combined, they had no goals and three assists.

"You've got to get in their face," Stankovic said. "If you make it uncomfortable for them and don't give them a chance to go one-on-one, you won't get hurt too badly."

The way the Spirit started, it looked as if it could name the final score.

Zoric and Cabral, coming off two-goal games in Harrisburg on Friday, had two more apiece as the Spirit was charging to a 10-1 advantage.

Philadelphia woke up with a goal by Bobby Joe Esposito to make it 10-3, Knowles scored his second shootout point and John Molomo finished the first 15 minutes with a two-pointer.

The lead was down to 10-5, but the Spirit still had to be feeling good about its effort considering the problems it has had scoring.

Enter Philadelphia hometown star Knowles. The perennial All-Star defender had a hat trick with a two-pointer starting the second quarter, then added three two-point goals before the Spirit broke the spell with a tally by Vuckovic in the two minutes before the break.

Pub Date: 1/25/98

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