Blast tops Thundercats, 21-9, loses captain Defender Johnson out 2 months with broken leg

November 29, 1998|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

The Blast pulled the old tortoise and the hare number on Florida last night.

Away like a frightened rabbit at the outset and still ahead by a point at halftime, the Thundercats fell easy prey thereafter as the Blast tightened its defense and cruised, 21-9, at Baltimore Arena.

The second victory in seven games by the Blast did not come without a price, however. With less than a minute remaining, team captain and defender Lance Johnson, while attempting to block a shot, broke his right fibula and will be lost to the club for at least two months.

"What a rotten break for Lance and for us," said coach Kevin Healey. "He's such a steady player, intelligent, very fit and a good pro. All those things are why he's our captain."

While holding the 2-7 visitors to just two points over the last 30 minutes, the Blast (2-5) scored seven unanswered points in the third period and hammered away for eight more in the last period.

Just about everyone but team equipment manager Mike Zolotrow had a hand in the scoring. Eight players scored goals, led by two apiece by Ronnie Simmons and Danny Santoro. Eight players also recorded assists.

A standout throughout while racking up five points was Denison Cabral, who led the assist parade with three. Usually, Cabral is counted upon for scoring goals. Now he's a setup man?

"We work on [odd-man] rushes and being active in the box so much in practice, it comes sort of natural, looking to make a play in close," he said.

"My first assist, I took a shot, it hit the boards and Shane [Dougherty] was there for the rebound. Another one was when I was near the left post, the goalie looked at me and all I had to do is slip it across to the other post to Danny [Santoro].

"That's the way I got my goal. I was open at a post and Barry Stitz got me the ball."

A pair of lightning-quick goals, produced in just seven seconds and shortly after the resumption of play in the third period, gave the Blast its first lead of the contest.

Simmons crushed his second three-pointer of the season past Juan De La O at the 1: 49 mark. While the Florida keeper was pondering that sudden reversal of fortune, Santoro sneaked the ball past him from in close at 1: 56 for an 11-7 lead.

A goal by Todd Snyder finished off the third period, and target practice was now in full swing: Both Simmons and Santoro again, then Johnson and, finally, Doug Neely. At this point the Blast was hoping the game would never end.

"I never boo at a sporting event. But the way we played in the first half, I thought I might take it up," said Healey of his team's effort in the first half.

"I considered lighting into them at halftime, but then decided the calm approach was the way to go. We gave up way too much, all the goals, and our mistakes were easily correctable.

"At the same time, it was easy to get through to the team by saying, 'Hey, come on, we're better than this. We're very lucky to be only a point behind.' "

The reasoned approach was the way to go, obviously.

The immediate task before a pair of home games next weekend is a replacement for Johnson.

"We're expecting to sign a player in the coming week, but it won't be a defender," said the coach. "We're fortunate in that we've got some players who can move back. Right now, I would guess [midfielder] Doug Neely will be going back."

NOTES: After playing eight of their first nine games on the road, the Thundercats go home for five games. They lost a tough one in Buffalo on Friday night, 12-9. Blast defender Todd Hicks is off the disabled list and played for the first time since opening night.

Pub Date: 11/29/98

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