Seldom-used Thomas closes Blast year on an up note, 15-14

Goal in last 17 seconds rolls Rockers in finale

April 04, 1999|By Dan Hickling | Dan Hickling,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

DETROIT -- Despite the disappointment of barely missing the NPSL playoffs, the Blast ended the 1998-99 campaign on a high note, thanks to Mark Thomas.

Playing in just his 13th game of the year, Thomas scored with 17.4 seconds left to give the Blast a 15-14 win over the Detroit Rockers in the season finale for both teams, before a crowd of 6,963 at Joe Louis Arena.

With the Blast trailing 14-13 in the final minute, Thomas was stationed just off the left post as teammate Danny Santoro looked for an opening. He dished off to Thomas, who stuck the ball under the diving goalie, Bryan Finnerty.

"I was just lucky enough to get a toe on it and snuck it under him," Thomas said.

Having been eliminated from the playoffs the day before, the Blast early on seemed eager to get a head start on the off-season. In fact, Blast defender Denison Cabral got the earliest jump of all, getting ejected in the waning seconds of the first period after he took out Detroit's Tati Errecalde with a hard tackle.

By that time, Baltimore was down 6-2, and showing little if any signs of life.

"I told them that this was an important game for our organization," said Blast coach Kevin Healey, "to show that we have some heart, and a future for the fans to get excited about."

The second period was a shot in the arm, when the Blast got a one-pointer from Thomas and two points from Tarik Walker late in the period. Meanwhile, the Baltimore defense had tightened up, blanking the Rockers, and keeping the Blast within a point, 6-5.

The Blast led briefly, 9-8, in the third period, then trailed 14-9, as Detroit, threatening to run off, popped in a pair of three-pointers.

But, Walker got his second goal of the night with a superlative effort, after racing in on Finnerty with Rockers defender Neil Gilbert draped all over him.

Blast goalie Scott Hileman kept things close midway through the fourth period, when he made three saves in one flurry, and another one with a cat-like reaction to a blind heel shot by Tim Ernst.

Brad Smith cut the lead to a point with 3: 58 left, which set the stage for Thomas' winning goal.

Pub Date: 4/04/99

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