The Missouri Comets magic number for clinching a playoff birth this year is now down to 1, after an 18-9 win over the Baltimore Blast at the Independence Event Center. The win, coupled with a 6-3 loss to the Milwaukee Wave in Milwaukee leaves the Comets 1 win or 1 Wichita loss away from clinching a spot in the playoffs this year.
The game tonight against the Blast started slow for both teams. The first quarter was an extremely sloppy affair as neither team was really able to create much with their possession and both teams seemed to lose it easily. Both Danny Waltman and Sagu were tested once or twice, but other than that, the first quarter was a complete and total stalemate.
The second quarter started very similar to the first, with neither team being able to really retain possession. The Blast had employed a very high pressure defense, pressuring Waltman and his two defenders very early on. This lead to a lot of early turnovers by the Comets. The combined with some chippy play pointed to the two teams both getting on the board soon. Just under 6 minutes into the quarter, the Blast broke the deadlock. Machel Millwood knocked a ball towards the middle of Missouri's box. It took a bit of a deflection, and Ricardinho was the first one to react and knocked the ball past Waltman for a 2-0 lead. Twenty-five seconds after the Ricardinho goal, the Blast were up 5-0. The Comets turned the ball over almost immediately off the kick off, Mike Lookingland fed the ball to Mike Deasel who raced a good quarter of the field unpressured and let loose a shot that got past Waltman and into the net for a 3 point goal.
The Comets called a timeout immediately to regroup, and it seemed to make a difference. From the timeout the Comets were getting more pressure and were finding quicker ways around the Blast's high pressure. Just after the half way point of the quarter, the Comets got on the board, as Byron Alvarez laid a ball into the middle for Vahid Assadpour who beat Sagu and made it 5-2. Unlike the Blast though, the Comets didn't need 25 seconds to score their second goal. Instead, it only took them 9 seconds, as Bato Radoncic won the ball immediately off the kick off, raced to the yellow line and let loose with a shot that Sagu was slow to get down for and the ball hit of the post and in, and just like that the Comets were level at 5-5.
The Comets weren't done though, and once again off the kick off, the Comets immediately won the ball through Christiano. Christiano fed Neto with a through ball that he fired past Sagu to make it 7-5. The Comets had gone from 5-0 down to 7-5 up in the span of 24 seconds. After taking the lead, the Comets sat back for a little bit. It took them 1 minute 1 second to grab another goal. Bryan Harris had a run in deep to the Blast end, he laid the ball back to Assadpour who beat Sagu for his second of the night and gave the Comets a 4 point lead at 9-5. In a minute twenty-five, the Comets had gone from 5-0 down to 9-5 up. The score held up through the end of the half and the Comets went into the half up 9-5.
The third quarter once again started with the Blast continuing their high pressure looking to get back into the game. But in their eagerness to get back into the game they got caught with too many men on the field. On the ensuing power play, the Comets were able to extend their lead. Lucas Rodriguez collected a pass from Assadpour and seemed to have all day just outside the 3 point arc to shoot. Rodriguez had time to line up his shot and fired a blast into the upper corner past Sagu to make it 12-5. From this point, the Blast really started to push the game and the game became the Danny Waltman show as more than once Waltman seemed left out to dry by his defense, but the goalkeeper stepped up and made a number of great saves, including getting across his goal once or twice to save goals. The Comets tried to break on the counter and Assadpour led a 2v1 with Neto but chose the shot instead of laying the ball off to his teammate and Sagu collected. The Blast did start to pull back into the game late in the quarter, as Shaun David played a ball into the middle for Ricardinho, who finally beat Waltman, but the Comets keeper almost made it across to keep it out but only got a small touch on it. With just under 4 minutes left, the Blast pulled back within a goal as they scored again to make it 12-9. Waltman on the series came up with two nice saves but could do nothing about the third as Pat Healey was fed by Adriano Dos Santos and Healey buried his chance. Late in the quarter, the Blast got their first power play of the game as Leo Gibson was called for kicking. The Comets though were able to kill the power play for the rest of the quarter, leaving them with only 1 second to kill in the fourth.
The Comets started off the fourth and were able to kill off the last second and get back to full strength. Just over a minute into the quarter, the Comets were back on the power play as Deasel was called for boarding. Unlike the Blast's last opportunity, the Comets again took advantage. They worked the ball around the perimeter before Rodriguez played the ball in down low to Alvarez who fired a shot into the roof of the net as Sagu went down for the save, making it 14-9. The Blast pushed for a way back into the game, and earned another power play as Stefan Stokic got a blue card for holding. The Blast once again though couldn't find a goal, in fact it was the Comets who controlled the ball for the majority of the two minute power play. Shortly after Stokic's power play was killed, the Comets found themselves on the power play again, as Max Ferdinand found himself in the penalty box for barreling into Waltman as he was playing the ball. To make matters worse for the Blast, the Comets once again scored on the power play to make them 3 for 3 with a man advantage compared to the Blast's 0 for 2. This time it was Rodriguez again, as he collected a pass from Gibson around the corner of the box and fired a shot past Sagu and into the net for his second of the night.
Waltman continued to come up big for the Comets making some more big saves and guaranteeing himself man of the match honors. With just under 4 minutes left, the Blast pulled Sagu for the 6th attacker. While the Blast had the majority of the possession after that, they couldn't find a goal. The Comets had a few quick counters with the open net but couldn't quite convert. Then with just under a minute left, Christiano fired a shot that was going to go just wide, but Geison raced onto it and buried it into the net to kill the game off and make it 18-9.
As mentioned above the Comets and need just one more win, or one more loss by the Wings to clinch themselves a spot in the playoffs. The Comets will have the first chance to wrap up a playoff spot on Sunday when they travel to Milwaukee to take on the Wave. Should they lose that the next opportunities would come next weekend when the Wings and Comets play the Rochester Lancers on back to back nights. A win by Rochester in the first game or by the Comets in the second will clinch a playoff spot.