Blast staves off Heat in opener, 12-10

Walker's overtime goal settles issue after team blows big early lead


October 21, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

New league. New season. Perhaps a new trend.

Hinting at a possible late-game collapse, the Blast instead took the offensive at a critical moment last night to turn back a surge from the Harrisburg Heat and walk off with a 12-10 overtime win in front of a season-opening crowd of 8,698 at Baltimore Arena.

Forward Tarik Walker scored his second goal of the game in the extra time, taking a pass from Danny Santoro, and then let out a big sigh of relief.

Enjoying an 8-0 lead well into the third quarter, the Blast saw the last of it disappear when Harrisburg forward Chris Morman scored with 1:45 left in regulation to tie the game at 10.

Last season, the Blast ended its National Professional Soccer League tenure with a 16-15 loss to the Philadelphia KiXX in the conference final, giving up a 10-2 halftime lead.

In last night's debut in the Major Indoor Soccer League, the Blast made sure it was the team celebrating at the end.

"We did what we had to do," said Blast coach Kevin Healey. "I sat down with the players after the game and told them, `Last year's behind us.' It's completely behind us and I was encouraged by the fact that when the game got tight, I believed it was our game at that point.

"We completely took it over, sucked it up and we got the win."

The Blast started the overtime on a power play and, although it couldn't close out the game, the tone was set. The home team had a 7-1 edge in shots in the extra time and that seventh shot - Walker's doorstep goal - came 4:24 in.

Midfielder Paul Wright, who finished with three assists, started the home team's happy ending with a through ball to the left to Santoro, who sent it across to the waiting Walker.

"Initially, I was on the left-hand side and Danny came off the bench behind me so I cleared out of my alley and let Danny come into his and nobody followed me to the back post so I was all alone," said Walker.

"We get the win, it's a `W' and realize we have a lot of work to do."

Denison Cabral matched Walker with two goals, Santoro had two assists and Blast keeper Scott Hileman finished with 14 saves.

"I think it's important in that, first of all, we want to dominate in this facility and we let that slip away some last year," said Healey. "So that was a big part.

"Also getting a win in front of a lot of fans, creating the excitement around town, that's important for us on the field and off the field. You get a win in overtime like this, the fans love that and will want to come back."

Aside from a couple of shots that found the Harrisburg posts, the Blast couldn't have asked for a better start.

Clearly energized in front of the big crowd, the home team outshot the Heat 12-6 in the first quarter to take a 6-0 lead and extended it to 8-0 at the half.

Immediate dividends came from newcomer Sean Bowers, who buried a shot from the top of the circle off a restart from Wright for a 2-0 lead just 1:05 into play.

After Lee Tschantret sent a shot off the post from the left side, Cabral went to work on the other side, scoring the Blast's first power-play goal of the season off a feed from Danny Kelly with 4:08 left for a 4-0 lead.

Wright then chased down a through ball from Cabral on the right side and found Walker unmarked on the other for the 6-0 lead with 47 seconds left.

Hileman took over in the early part of the second quarter, turning back shots from Gino DiFlorio, Matt Tanzini and Matt Knowles before Cabral connected at the other end with 4:18 left until the break - Wright getting his third assist of the half - for the 8-0 lead.

Heat goals from Morman and Matt Tanzini 18 seconds apart in the final minutes of the third quarter cut the Blast lead to 8-4 going into the fourth quarter. Trailing 10-6, DeFlorio, last year's NPSL Most Valuable Player, scored with 4:11 left to pull the Heat within 10-8 and allow Morman to equalize.

"We came back in the second half expecting that Harrisburg was going to come harder. We just relaxed a little bit and that shouldn't happen," said Cabral. "It's good early to learn that and experience that so now we know.

"Even playing the way we played in the second half, we still won, so I guess some luck has come back to Baltimore's side this year."

The Blast will play two games next weekend, returning to Baltimore Arena on Friday night to take on the Kansas City Comets before traveling to Cleveland to meet the Crunch. Both games are set for 7:35 p.m.

Harrisburg 0 0 4 6 0 - 10

Blast 6 2 0 2 2 - 12

First quarter: 1. Blast, Bowers, 2 pt. (Wright), 1:05; 2. Blast, Cabral, 2 pt., Kelly, 10:52; 3. Blast, Walker, 2 pt., (Wright), 14:13. Penalties: Knowles, Harrisburg (fourth foul), 9:08.

Second quarter: Blast, Cabral, 2 pt., (Wright), 10:42.

Third quarter: 4. Harrisburg, Morman, 2 pt., 13:10; 5. Harrisburg, Tanzini, 2 pt., 13:28 .

Fourth quarter: 6. Blast, Celenza, 2 pt. (Santoro), 2:46; 7. Harrisburg, Bascome, 2 pt. (Kvello), 4:34; 8. Harrisburg, DiFlorio, 2 pt., 10:49; 9. Harrisburg, Morman, 2 pt., 13:15. Penalties: Harrisburg, Tanzini, (holding), 14:45.

Overtime: Blast, Walker, 2 pt., (Santoro), 4:24

Shots on goal: Harrisburg 6-9-6-7-0 - 29; Blast 12-8-3-9-7 - 39.Power-play opportunities: Harrisburg 0-for-0; Blast 1-for-2.Goalkeepers: Harrisburg, Ceccarelli 25 shots, 19 saves; Blast, Hileman, 19 shots, 14 saves.A -- 8,698.

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