Crunch wasn't mailing it in against Impact

NPSL notebook

April 02, 1999|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

The Blast's hopes for the playoffs disintegrated Wednesday night when Montreal finished its home season with a 12-8 win over the Cleveland Crunch.

A natural reaction of fans might be that the Crunch (25-14) had little to play for and took things easy, resting its wounded, etc. No way.

After belting the Blast, 22-12, in Baltimore last Sunday, Cleveland coach Bruce Miller said: "I wish we weren't playing Montreal, to tell you the truth. While a lot is riding on the game for the Impact [in its battle for the last playoff spot with the Blast], it's a bigger must-win for us."

Blowing smoke? Not really. The subsequent loss dropped the Crunch into a first-place tie with Milwaukee; the teams wrap up their seasons tomorrow.

If both win and conclude with 26-14 marks, Milwaukee wins a tie-breaker and grabs the top seed in the conference and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

"How important is that?" asked Miller, rhetorically. "Look up Milwaukee's record at home."

The Wave finished 17-3 at the Bradley Center this season. Turns out that's the worst home record the defending league champion has had in four seasons. Last year, the Wave was 19-1 in its building after going 18-2 the two preceding seasons.

"See what I mean?" said Miller.

Cleveland would appear to have the advantage, playing host to fumbling Florida, loser of 13 straight, tomorrow night while Milwaukee visits Philadelphia. The Wave holds a 2-1 season advantage over the Kixx.

Zero tolerance

By being blanked on consecutive days last weekend, the woebegone Florida Thundercats became the first NPSL team ever (15 years) to suffer such an indignity. Philadelphia (16-0) and Kansas City (21-0) were the culprits and the 'Cats put just 15 shots on goal in the two contests. There have been three shutouts in the league this season and Florida absorbed all of them.

Return to honors

Let's hear it for Rudy Pikuzinski. The veteran of the Buffalo Blizzard picked up his first NPSL Player of the Week award in seven seasons by scoring 19 points as Buffalo was sweeping three games.

A two-pointer last Sunday was Pikuzinski's 502d goal and saw him become the sixth player in league history to score 1,200 points. Back in his Canton Invaders days, he was a regular Player of the Week winner and captured three straight league MVP awards.

Stinging stat

After blocking a shot with his face last weekend, Cleveland's scoring machine, Hector Marinaro, quipped: "I better get two blocks on the score sheet for that one."

That'll teach him to get overly involved in defensive aspects of the game.

Before the drought

Ex-Spirit player Chris Scotti hammered home a three-point goal for Florida recently and it turned out to be the highlight of the week. It was the team's only three points in a 21-3 loss to Harrisburg, before the 'Cats were shut out twice.

Luckless Vuckovic

Bo Vuckovic must feel like he's in a rut. The ex-Baltimore player keeps racking up the points -- he has 116 to date -- but his teams keep losing. If Detroit doesn't beat the Blast on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena, the Rockers will end with a 12-28 record, same as Vuckovic's Spirit team last season.


Statistics often tell sad tales: The Blast outscored the opposition by five points through the first half of games, but was outscored by 69 over the last two periods. Detroit player-coach and goalie Bryan Finnerty finished eighth in goals-against average, but has had 26 defeats tacked on his record. The winningest NPSL goalkeeper is Otto Orf of Cleveland (25-10), but his goals-against average is worse than Finnerty's. While the Blast had the best mark in intra-division play in the East Division (10-6), it proved pretty feeble (2-9) in games against teams from the Central Division, which is in the same conference. The Blast finished with an average home attendance of 4,800, about twice what the Spirit did last year. Cleveland's Zoran Karic just joined teammate Marinaro as the only NPSL players to score 1,500 points. Montreal's two biggest wins of the year, over the Blast and Cleveland since last Saturday, came with rookie Raul Salas in goal. He was subbing for regular goalie Paolo Ceccarelli, out with a broken finger.

Blast tonight

Opponent: Montreal Impact Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 7: 35

Radio: WJFK (1300 AM)

Outlook: The Impact wrapped up the fifth and final playoff spot in the American Conference with a win over Cleveland on Wednesday, eliminating the Blast. The Blast appeared to have the inside track over both Montreal and Harrisburg three weeks ago with its 17-16 record, but lost five straight. The Impact (19-19) still can gain home-field advantage in its first-round playoff series with Harrisburg (20-19).

Pub Date: 4/02/99

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