In dropping KiXX, Blast rolls away with division

Mission accomplished with 14-8 victory

March 22, 2000|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The Blast's reaction after its 14-8 victory over the Philadelphia KiXX yesterday at Baltimore Arena was remarkably similar to that for any other regular-season game.

The Blast shook hands, acknowledged the crowd of 3,572, then walked off the field, giving no sign of a franchise that just won its first division title in seven years, clinching the East.

"I don't think it's a big deal, to be honest," said Erik Rasmussen, who scored the game's first goal. "The important thing is that we are getting in as good position as we can before the playoffs. It's not important to win the division, but it is important to win the conference."

That is next on the agenda for coach Kevin Healey's team, which is battling Cleveland for the top spot in the American Conference. Yesterday's victory tied the Crunch in the win column, and the Blast (24-15) has one fewer loss than Cleveland with five games left.

The Blast won in relatively easy fashion, jumping off to a 9-0 first-half lead. It continued a trend in which the KiXX had trouble scoring goals against the Blast. Philadelphia scored three shootout goals in their previous game and went 103 minutes overall without getting a goal in the run of play against the Blast. Domenic Mobilio ended the drought three minutes into the third quarter, cutting the Blast lead to 9-2.

It was more of a relief goal for the KiXX (19-20), which had missed on chances in the first half to get on the board. The best opportunity came four minutes into the second quarter when Blast forward Paul Wright was hit with a tripping penalty. That led to a Mobilio penalty kick, which goalkeeper Scott Hileman kick saved.

"It was a big lift when Scott saved that penalty kick," Blast defender Doug Neely said. "That fired everybody up. Things just went on from there."

Hileman and the Blast defense then thwarted an ensuing two-minute power play for Philadelphia, relieving any questions of how the team would respond after giving up a season-high 26 points in the previous game Sunday in Tampa, Fla., against the Detroit Rockers.

"I think that trip down to Florida rejuvenated us," Hileman said. "I think that was a wise manage- ment decision. It cost us a game down there, but it rejuvenated us for this one.

"On those things [penalty kicks], you don't have too much of a chance. You just kind of guess and hope it hits you. And that is what happened there. Even before that, we were getting good bounces and the guys were making good blocks. The guys were killing themselves today playing good defense."

The Blast led 14-2 going into the final period, thanks in part to two third-quarter goals by Denison Cabral, who finished with a hat trick. Philadelphia, which won the East division last year, fell to 2-5 against the Blast this season.

"They went a game and a half without scoring a goal from the field from us other than shootouts," Healey said. "It is natural. Maybe it started playing on their minds a little bit, and they didn't finish some chances because of it. We have a lot of respect for Philadelphia, but it was just our day today."

The Blast will travel to Kansas City for a 7: 05 game tomorrow night against the Midwest Division-leading Attack. It is the third in a stretch of five games in eight days for the Blast.

"That is the first step, winning the division championship," Healey said. "We're proud that we did it, but our major goal is to win the [National Professional Soccer League] championship. But this was certainly the first step, and we're proud."

Philadelphia 0 0 2 6 -- 8

Blast 7 2 5 0 -- 14

First period -- 1, Blast, Rasmussen 2, 7: 36; 2, Blast, Dieter (Stitz) 2, 9: 33; 3, Blast, Walker (Rasmussen) 2, 13: 02; 4, Blast, Cabral 1, 14: 35.

Second period -- 5, Blast, Kelly (Simmons) 2, 12: 42.

Third period -- 6, Philadelphia, Mobilio (Pappas) 2, 2: 53; 7, Blast, Cabral (Kelly) 2, 8: 25; 8, Blast, Thomas 1, 14: 09; 9, Blast, Cabral 2, 14: 38.

Fourth period -- 10, Philadelphia, Beyer 2, 1: 21; 11, Philadelphia, Vuckovic 2, 3: 44; 12, Philadelphia, Vuckovic 2, 6: 58.

Shots on goal--Philadelphia 7-17-8-9 -41, Blast 12-8-7-6 -33. Power-play opportunities--Philadelphia 0-for-1, Blast 1-for-2. Goalies--Philadelphia, Pappas 6-2-3-2 -13; Blast, Hileman 5-11-5-2 -23. A--3,572.

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