The Blizzard express keeps on rolling.
Red-hot Buffalo knocked the sauce out of the Wichita Wings with a 19-4 victory at HSBC Arena on Thursday night.
It was the Blizzard's third straight win and sixth in eight games as the club continues to be the second-hottest team in the National Professional Soccer League. It was the third straight game in which the Blizzard defense, led by goalkeeper Bryan "Goose" Finnerty, has held the opposition to a single digit.
"We're starting to play. We're getting used to one another . . . We're clicking right now. Hopefully, we'll stay on that page," said Buffalo defender Matt Little, whose short-handed goal early in the second half squelched a Wichita comeback and put the Blizzard up, 8-2. Little was one of seven Buffalo players to put the ball in the net at least once.
The performance was seen by only 2,480 witnesses, the smallest home crowd in the Blizzard's nine seasons. Previously, the minimum gathering had been the 3,128 at the Oct. 28, 2000 home opener. The team has averaged 3,686 for 14 games this season.
Finnerty, who had a shutout going until 51 seconds into the third quarter, stopped 12 of 14 shots. In the past three games, he has led a defense that held Baltimore (5 points), Philadelphia (8) and Wichita to a total of 17 points as Buffalo has tried to reverse its horrid 7-13 start and claw its way into a playoff spot. Only the defending champion Milwaukee Wave (8-0) has posted a better record in its last eight games.
"I'd love to say I had a lot to do with it, but the fact of the matter is that we're leading the league in fewest shots allowed," Finnerty said. Buffalo entered the game allowing 30 shots per game and held Wichita (11-15) to 26 shots.
"It's coming together. Guys are getting healthy and we had a good team effort again tonight," said Andrew Crawford, player of the game with two goals and three assists. Doug Miller had three goals and an assist. Other Buffalo goals came from Chris Handsor, Carlos Zavala, Randy Pikuzinski and Danny Barber.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Blizzard led 6-0 at halftime and 12-4 after three quarters before scoring four unanswered goals in the fourth period.
"We put a full effort on the field every night and different guys are going to step up and score the points," said Crawford, who admitted Buffalo was seeking some revenge for the 24-7 thumping it suffered in Wichita on Dec. 28.
"We usually don't run the score up, but we weren't going to stop scoring because they didn't stop against us."
Buffalo (13-15) still is stuck in the American Conference basement, but now is only 1 1/2 games behind the Cleveland Crunch (14-13) in the battle for the final playoff berth. The teams meet Sunday in Cleveland at 6 p.m.
New arrival Stuart Dobson replaced Hemant Sharma on the roster as backup goalkeeper and played the final 3:32. Dobson, who has appeared in 109 games with five teams over four NPSL seasons, played 26 games with the Blizzard in 1998-99.
Buffalo plays the National Conference co-leading Toronto ThunderHawks (15-11) at Hamilton, Ont. tonight at 7:30.