Blast Get Off To Good Start In Eastern Division Playoffs
By Andrew Primrose
The Baltimore Blast overcame a three-game playoff losing streak to earn an 8-2 win against the Rochester Lancers in Game 1 of the MISL Eastern Division Finals on Saturday night before a crowd of 5,322 at 1st Mariner Arena.
Unlike their last few games of the regular season, the Blast did not get off to a quick start on Saturday. The Lancers struck first, when Andrew Hoxie scored at 7:55 of the first quarter to give the Lancers an early 2-0 lead. The Lancer lead held until the second quarter, when Blast leading scorer Max Ferdinand scored the first of his two goals to tie the game heading into half.
As a 2-2 halftime score indicates, the game settled into a defensive showcase, as both teams played outstanding defense. The Blast defense, keyed by strong efforts from Mike Lookingland and Pat Healey, let the Lancers have few clean looks on goal, and Baltimore goalkeeper Sagu, who had a phenomenal game, turned away those chances Rochester had. Lancers goalkeeper Pat Hannigan was otherworldly, making save after save to keep the Lancers in the game. Hannigan was credited with 22 saves on the night, with at least three that left the broadcast booth speechless.
It wasn't until late during the third quarter that Blast defender Mike Lookingland broke the tie off a brilliant set piece. Rookie J.T. Noone keep the Baltimore momentum going when he used his chest to knock in a ball bouncing in the box midway through the fourth, which put the Blast on top, 6-2.
With the Blast up two scores, the tone of the game changed. Former Blast player Carlos Farias and Lancers leading scorer Mauricio Salles got into several spats with various Blast players, and the chippiness continued to intensify when Hannigan was given a blue card for an intentional handball at 6:43. That gave Ferdinand a shootout chance, which he tallied and extend the Blast lead to 8-2.
The chippiness spilled over with less than three minutes remaining during the game, when Salles and Pat Healey where involved in an off-the-ball altercation. Salles made a borderline aggressive tackle on Healey as he passed the ball forward, then after the tackle, proceeded to aggressively swipe his leg in Healey's direction. Healey took exception and struck back with his instep, at which time Salles stood up and delivered a vicious elbow to Healey's upper body, which sent the Blast midfielder to the turf.
Officials initially showed only a blue card for Salles' infraction, but before play began, they rejected the Rochester forward. It's not clear whether the referees readdressed the booking after viewing replays or whether Salles was issued the red for subsequent misconduct, but either way, the leading scorer for the Lancers was shown the gate.
The booking was a double bonus for the Blast, as Salles' disqualification also left him ineligible for Game 2 of the Eastern Division finals, which will held March 12 in Rochester.
Following the almost 10-minute aftermath of Salles' ejection, play resumed, and the Blast were able to continue their defensive dominance and complete their 8-2 victory. The win leaves the Blast just one game away from an MISL Championship rematch with their archrivals, the Milwaukee Wave.
Posted March 12, 2012