Blast hangs 9-8 loss on Sockers for 4th straight

Tense ending fits pattern of playoff-like MISL game

Walker scores four goals


March 07, 2004|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

Blast goalie Scott Hileman caught the ball and then, in an official's opinion, carried it out of the goal box. The veteran heard the whistle and turned, stunned. He looked down, saw where he and the ball were and fell to his knees, his head clasped in his hands.

There were just 59 seconds to play in this Major Indoor Soccer League game against San Diego, and the Blast had a two-goal lead. But suddenly, the 1st Mariner Arena was bedlam.

Hileman would have to leave the field for two minutes for committing a hand-ball violation and, 15 seconds after that, Blast midfielder P.J. Wakefield would be ejected for abusive language, giving the Sockers a two-man advantage against backup goalie Brian Rowland.

"I still don't think it was a hand ball," Hileman said. "My body can be anywhere as long as the ball is on the line. With a minute left, he can't make that call."

The Blast would hold on to win, 9-8, but not before Mauricio Alegre scored to bring San Diego within one and not before Paul Dougherty missed an open net on a shot that could have sent the game into overtime.

It was a fitting ending to a game that had the 6,234 fans on their feet from the moment Sockers forward Paul Wright (a former member of the Blast) danced into the Blast's goal after tying the game at 1.

The Blast rallied quickly with the help of Tarik Walker's four goals, Denison Cabral's two and an overall outstanding performance by Hileman, who made 14 saves.

"The difference in this game was just that they've got so many good players who can all score," said Sockers defenseman Sean Bowers. "But we're both trying to gear up for the playoffs, and in the playoffs it's defense that wins. Both of our teams have to step it up."

It was the Blast's fourth straight victory and improved its record to 22-8. For San Diego, 11-16 and in a battle with St. Louis (10-16) for the final playoff spot, it was a tough loss.

But the Blast is playing for something, too. In the MISL, the regular season counts. If the Blast can finish as one of the top two seeds, it will earn a first-round bye. Byes are nice in any tournament, but in this league even nicer.

The first two playoff rounds are single elimination. That means the Blast would need only one victory on its home ground in the second round to reach the best-of-five championship finals.

Last night, both teams pulled off highlight-film plays. But it was the officiating that most concerned Blast coach Tim Wittman, who was hoarse from yelling at the officials.

Wittman listed at least six calls he felt were out of line. But the call on Hileman made him particularly see red.

"That's such a close call and so hard to make that it's seldom ever called," Wittman said. "And it certainly isn't called in the last minute with a game that close. ... In my opinion, they should be accountable. If I don't do my job or the players don't do theirs, we're all out of here. It should be the same with the officials."

San Diego 3 1 0 4 - 8

Blast 2 3 1 3 - 9

First quarter - 1. Blast, Walker (Celenza) 6:10; 2. San Diego, Wright (DaSilva) 10:57; 3. San Diego, Bollella (Alegre) 11:44; 4. San Diego, DaSilva (Bowers), power play, 14:32; 5. Blast, Walker (Hileman), 14:41. Penalties - Blast, Tschantret (tripping) 12:53. Second quarter - 6. Blast, Celenza (unassisted) 1:42; 7. Blast, Cabral (unassisted) 3:29; 8. San Diego, Alegre (Bowers), power play, 7:36; 9. Blast, Cabral (Walker), power play, 9:23. Penalties - Blast, Regis (holding) 6:56; San Diego, Inlow (tripping) 9:00. Third quarter - 10. Blast, Walker (Celenza) 2:30. Penalties - Blast, Farias (holding) 7:01. Fourth quarter - 11. Blast, Tschantret (Handsor) 0:34; 12. San Diego, Leone (Elbaum) 3:14; 13. Blast, Walker (Hileman) 5:50; 14. San Diego, Dougherty (Flanagan) 6:28; 15. San Diego, Velazquez (Alegre) 8:35; 16. Blast, Garcia (Handsor) 8:45; 17. San Diego Alegre (Dougherty), power play, 14:32; Penalties - Blast, Hileman (hand ball) 14:01; San Diego, DaSilva (misconduct) 14:17; Blast, Wakefield (misconduct and red card for foul and abusive language) 14:17; Blast, Tschantret (misconduct), 14:17; San Diego, DaSilva (misconduct) 14:32. Shots on goal - San Diego - 7-8-6-10-31; Blast -8-7-6-5-26. Power-play opportunities - San Diego 3-for-4; Blast 1-for-1. Shootout opportunities - San Diego 0-for-1; Blast 0-for-0. Goalkeepers - San Diego, Nogueira, 7 saves, Aristodemo, 0 saves; Blast, Hileman, 14 saves, Rowland, 0 saves. A -6,234.

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