There were no iffy calls, no phantom blue cards (there weren't any today), there weren't numerous instances of the Comets being up with 5 on 3 power plays. In the end all the conspiracy theories of the MISL wanting the Comets into the playoffs over the Omaha Vipers and Chicago Riot didn't come true. In truth they weren't needed. While the Comets let an 8 point half time lead slip away, they were able to find enough goals to lead them to an 18-12 win over the Riot today at the Independence Event Center. The win puts KC in the drivers seat for the 3rd and final playoff spot and means that Omaha must win in Milwaukee this coming weekend to even have a shot at the playoffs.
The Comets grabbed a lead with just under six minutes gone in the first quarter. Leo Gibson stripped the Riot defender and fed the ball Byron Alvarez. Alvarez went towards goal, then cut back causing his defender to over run him. Alvarez then fired the ball over Jeff Richey for the early 2-0 lead. Late in the first quarter, Chicago got themselves level off of a restart. Novi fed the ball to Miki Djersilio who slotted the ball past Danny Waltman and into the net.
The second quarter belonged to the Comets. Just three minutes into the quarter the Comets regained the lead. Jamar Beasley collected the ball in the corner, played the ball back to Brian Harris who fired the ball across the box to Alvarez who volleyed it home to make it 4-2. Almost nine minutes into the quarter Alvarez finished off his hattrick. Bryan Perez had received the ball in the corner but had gotten caught up by the defense. Perez did a good job holding the ball up and squaring it into the middle for Geison Moura. Moura had two chances at the shot. His first shot was blocked, but Moura's second fell to Alvarez who slide the ball inside the near post giving the Comets a 6-2 lead. The Comets had a few chances right in a row to add to the lead through Tiguinho and Moura, but the shots were just wide or well saved. Shortly after this though the Comets did grab their 4th goal of the game, this one through Mirsad Dzilic, who raced onto an outlet pass from Harris to make it 8-2. As the half was winding down, Moura had another chance to get a goal, as did Beasley. On Beasley's first effort, his shot was blocked, but the Riot were unable to clear the rebound. It fell to Vahid Assadpour who was able to keep the ball in. He fed it to Beasley as he broke into the box and Beasley finished his chance to the far post to make it 10-2 heading into the half time break.
The third quarter turned into a very forgettable one for the Comets though. It seemed that the Comets didn't come out of the locker room to start the half and the Riot made them pay. Bato started it by getting the ball in the far corner, his shot was high but landed in the middle of the box where Alex Megson volleyed it home to make it 10-4 only 43 seconds into the third quarter. Less than three minutes in and the lead was already down to four points. Frederic Degand raced down the left side and played a cross into the box. Assadpour could not get out of the way and put the ball in his own net. Degand was given credit for the goal, but it was an own goal, pure and simple.
The Comets had a few chances to re-extend their lead, but Beasley and Dzilic both missed on chances to extend the lead. The Riot though continued their comeback and before we were 7 minutes into the quarter it was 10-8 as Bato turned his defender on the left side and blasted a shot into the upper 90 of the far post to get the Riot within a goal. With about 4 minutes left in the half, Bato tied the game. Eric Lukin was able to muscle off Alvarez and played a ball to the back post where Bato fired home to tie the game. Definitely a forgettable quarter.
In the fourth quarter though, the Comets did what the Riot did to start the third. Alvarez turned provider sending a ball through to Lucas Rodriguez on a break away. Rodriguez kept his cool and five-holed Richey to give the Comets the lead again. The Riot came back down and tried to tie the game back up but Waltman came up with some big saves to preserve the lead. Seven minutes into the fourth, Alvarez was again on the board making it 14-10. The play was similar to his first goal as Jamie Harding fed Alvarez. Alvarez then turned on his defender and fired the ball in to give Missouri some breathing room. With under 4 minutes to play, the Riot pulled their goalkeeper opting for the sixth attacker. The Comets capitalized on the extra space behind their defense, as Stefan Stokic played a long ball over the top. The Riot's sixth attacker was unable to get his head on it and the ball fell to Beasley who was camping further down the field. He dribbled in and fired home to make it 16-10. Shortly after, Stokic picked up his first goal of the season putting the game away. Moura had received the ball at the top of the box, the Riot's sixth attacker was out of position, but with other defenders in his way he fed the ball to Stokic, who took a touch and fired a goal in to make it 18-10. With less than a minute left, Chicago finally got their sixth attacker goal, as Bato finished off his hattrick in a scramble on the goal line, but it was too little too late.
The Comets now go into Baltimore controlling their own destiny. A win and they make the playoffs, a loss and the Comets need to hope that Omaha doesn't beat Milwaukee. Comets fans though have to feel pretty good right now about their playoff hopes. Should Missouri make the playoffs, the game would be on Wednesday March 16th at 7:35 at the Events Center.
The one thing that worries me heading into this late part of the season is the Comets reliance on Alvarez. Alvarez is having himself a great season and certainly has to be the favorite for MVP with the way he's playing, but it's also worrisome as a Comets fan. He's been in fantastic form the past few weeks, but if he goes out I'm not sure Beasley and new signing Anthony Maher can pick up the slack. Hopefully Maher can compliment Alvarez and take a little pressure off though.