Once again, Blast owns Force

12-6 win aids playoff picture

Cleveland's casual play helps McAvan's team move two up on Heat


March 01, 2003|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Don't be surprised to find a fresh Blast team tonight when the Harrisburg Heat comes to town, thanks in large part to an energy-saving, 12-6 win over the ho-hum Cleveland Force last night.

Craig Scheer scored two goals and Tarik Walker contributed a goal and two assists to lead the Blast attack, and a collective defensive effort made the Force lose interest fast before 7,326 at 1st Mariner Arena.

The Blast improved to 14-17 for the season, moving two games in front of the idle Heat (12-19) for third place and the final playoff spot in the Major Indoor Soccer League's Eastern Conference.

The home team also moved just 1 1/2 games behind the second-place Force (15-15) in its late bid for the home-field advantage in the one-game, semifinal playoff round.

One would have thought the Force would have tried hard to make an impression last night, having already lost three of four to the Blast this season, but that was far from the case. Instead, the Blast again found a team it's grown used to dominating.

"We felt if we jumped on them early, it could make the game a lot easier," said Walker. "By the end of the third quarter and into the fourth, it looked like they only had three or four players who wanted to play."

Force coach Andy Schmetzer found it hard to disagree.

"There's a pretty short list of players who tried hard," he said. "Our problem all year is that we don't have guys who have the desire to score goals."

The visitors' lack of interest was evidenced early by the home team's 11-1 edge in shots in the first quarter.

The Blast took partial advantage.

Scheer made no mistake in finding a loose ball in front and finishing to give the Blast a 2-0 lead, and then Walker used his knee to volley a centering pass from Dewan Bader for a 4-0 advantage after one.

After Danny Kelly put home a rebound off a shot by Sean Bowers to give the Blast a 6-0 lead with 6:15 left in the half, it appeared the visitors could be put away early with another goal. But it was the Force that claimed it, getting a goal from Chris Stathopoulos in transition less than two minutes later to go into the halftime break down 6-2.

Third-period goals from Denison Cabral and Scheer made it 10-2 and essentially put the game away.

Blast coach Bobby McAvan said tonight's game is just as important - a chance to increase the distance from the Heat, which had a lot of players looking on last night from the stands.

"They had to be watching that and thinking this is getting out of touch," said McAvan. "Harrisburg looks at us and sees a team putting it all together late. We have to come out with intensity.

"It's the last regular-season home game and there will be a lot of emotion with Lance Johnson and Jason Dieter retiring. It's important in that it's fan appreciation night and we have to show the fans we appreciate them with a big performance."

Cleveland 0 2 2 2 - 6

Blast 4 2 4 2 - 12

First quarter 1. Blast, Scheer 2 pts. (Walker), 4:06; 2. Blast, Walker 2pts. (Bader), 10:45. Second quarter 3. Blast, Kelly 2 pts. (Bowers), 10:27; 4. Cleveland, Stathopoulos 2 pts. (Larkin), 11:05. Third quarter 5. Blast, Cabral 2 pts. (Dieter), 6:39; 6. Blast, Scheer 2 pts. (Walker), 7:28; 7. Cleveland, Butcher 2pts. (Stoddard), 9:27. Fourth quarter 8. Blast, Bader 2 pts. (Kelly), 1:38; 9. Cleveland, Edgerton pts. (Butcher), 13:43. Power-play opportunities: Cleveland 0-0. Blast 0-0. Shots on goal: Cleveland 1-8-10-8-27. Blast 11-9-6-5-31. Goalies: Cleveland, Larkin 5-5-1-2-13 saves. Blast, Hileman 0-5-5-2-12 saves.

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