The Blast went into last night's game looking for victory and came away with disappointment, losing to the Chicago Storm, 5-3.
Both teams are in a final, desperate run for a playoff berth, and neither could afford to lose. Coming into the game, it looked as if the Blast, playing at home with a week of rest, would have the advantage over Chicago, a team that had played the night before and was also struggling because of a loss of players due to injuries and suspensions.
But as the game wore on, the Storm inexplicably got stronger and the Blast weaker.
"The biggest frustration for me is I know our guys aren't that fit," Blast coach Tim Wittman said. "They've been injured and are injured and they can't take a full practice and you can't stay in shape only playing games."
The Blast started strong, getting goals from Lee Tschantret (one goal, two assists) and P.J. Wakefield against Chicago's No. 2 goalie, Jeff Richey.
But when Richey went out with a hamstring strain with 9:18 to go in the second period, things began to change. The Storm's No. 1 goalie, Danny Waltman, entered the game and allowed just one more Blast goal, that on a picture-perfect header by Giuliano Celenza.
"Things may have started to turn when their other keeper came in," Tschantret said. "He made a great kick save. But we just couldn't get a bounce. We had plenty of opportunities and our guys are working hard. We're just fighting through some funk. There are eight more games to go, and we've just got to go after them one at a time."
Last night, Celenza, Tschantret and Wakefield weren't enough offensive power against even a depleted Chicago roster.
The performance was noticeably different from what Blast fans are used to seeing. Without Denison Cabral, who is out for the season with a knee injury, and Chile Farias, who has been traded, the team has no spectacular player to make the rest of the offense soar.
That means the Blast's more earthbound players have to step up in bunches, and that didn't happen.
"We know the situation Baltimore is going through," Chicago coach Frank Klopas said. "We're in the same thing. We knew we'd let one slip away from us in St. Louis [Friday night] and we were determined to keep it close and make something happen here."
With Waltman, its agile goalie who has a penchant for turning back flips just for fun, in the net, the Storm came from behind with goals by Fred DeGand (two), Andy Guastaferro, Mark Ughy and Matthew Stewart, and didn't even bother trying to score in the final minute.
The win improved the Storm's record to 16-17 and allowed it to put another game between itself and the Blast (13-18), as the teams fight for fourth place, the last qualifying spot for postseason play.
The St. Louis Steamers didn't help either team last night, beating the Kansas City Comets, 9-6, to improve to 18-15 and climb into third place ahead of the Cleveland Force.
Chicago 0 1 2 2 - 5
Blast 2 0 0 1 - 3
First quarter: 1, Blast, Tschantret (Sagu) 9:18. 2, Blast, Wakefield (Tschantret) 13:15. Penalties: Tschantret, Blast (Tripping), 4:11. Second quarter: 3, Chi., DeGand (Naumoski) 13:27. Penalties: None. Third quarter: 4, Ch., Guastaferro (Stewart) (RSG) 2:34. 5, Chi., DeGand (Ughy) 11:31. Penalties: None. Fourth quarter: 6, Chi., Ughy (DaSilva) 2:28. 7, Blast, Celenza (Tschantret) 4:45. 8, Chi., Stewart (Ughy) 5:32. Penalties: Kelly, Blast (Intentional Handball (GK), 13:55. Shots on goal: Chicago 6-8-8-3 -25; Blast 5-9-4-2 -20. Power-play conversions: Chicago 0-2; Blast 0-0. Goalkeepers: Chicago : Richey (8, 5, 3, 20:42), Waltman (4, 4, 0, 39:18); Blast: Sagu (21, 16, 5, 56:51) Kelly (0, 0, 0, 2:04) Tschantret (0, 0, 0, 1:05). A:4,637.