Share this article

print logo

DINUNZIO HAS OT RECIPE TO SERVE UP WIN FOR BLIZZARD

The Buffalo Blizzard thrives on home cooking.

And Saturday night the club's three home-grown players -- Kenmore's Bobby DiNunzio and East Side brothers Randy and Rudy Pikuzinski -- teamed up to serve a spectacular dessert for a Marine Midland Arena crowd of 9,118.

After Rudy scored twice to force the game into overtime, Randy fed a perfect pass to DiNunzio, who blasted home the winning goal to defeat the Detroit Rockers, 11-9, at 1:12 of sudden death.

"It was probably the only thing I did right all day," said Randy as he described the play that climaxed a rough game that saw 10 different players draw a total of 35 minutes in penalties.

DiNunzio's left-footed shot into the right corner came from the left point, just outside the corner of the box. It was set up by a crossing pass from Randy, who had just had his own shot blocked by Detroit defender Randy Prescott.

"Through the whole game, I've been shooting first time, and they were not going in," DiNunzio said. "When he (Randy) pushed it, nobody rushed out on me. So I took an extra touch to set it up. I was actually going to Rudy at the far post, because if he didn't get it, it would go in. But it went right by him and he let it go in."

The winning score climaxed a flurry of Buffalo shots. Doug Miller hit the crossbar early in the OT and just before, DiNunzio had missed wide with a left-footer.

DiNunzio said it was his first OT goal in his 396-game NPSL career. The second OT win of the season (after a 12-10 victory in Montreal Nov. 30), enabled the Blizzard (9-6) to extend its lead in the National Professional Soccer League's North Division to 2 1/2 games over Detroit (6-8).

It was Buffalo's seventh straight victory at home, matching two team-record streaks set in 1992-93 and 1996-97. Detroit's nine points were the most scored in the Arena by a visitor this season.

"It was one of those games where you're going to look back in March and say, 'Hey, that was an important game,' " DiNunzio said. "I'm not going to say we deserved to win. We really didn't play that well. But we stuck together and it just shows the character of the team that we won."

Buffalo trailed, 9-6, midway through the fourth quarter before Rudy Pikuzinski scored his second and third goals to tie the game at 9-9. The Blizzard had entered the fourth quarter trailing, 7-5 and drew within 7-6 on Andrew Crawford's power-play score, his second goal of the game.

Rudy scored on the Blizzard's sixth and last power play with a shot off the back of his right foot from deep in the right corner. His game-tying goal came off a pinpoint diagonal pass from Armando Valdivia to the far post. Rudy was falling as he kicked the ball in and Detroit goalie Bryan Finnerty argued that he had touched it illegally with his hand.

It was one of many arguments in a game between what are becoming bitter foes.

"It's becoming a good rivalry, like the old Cleveland-Buffalo rivalry," DiNunzio said. "They've got a couple guys that are dirty, whatever you want to call it, chippy. But I think the refs did a pretty good job of calling everything."

"We played their game most of the game," Randy said. "We were a little bit too much involved in what was happening behind the play."

Although Buffalo converted for one-point goals on three of its six power plays, Blizzard sharpshooters were 0 for 6 on the shoot-out opportunities that precede each power play. Finnerty leads the NPSL in shoot-out saves. He finished with 18 saves for the night. Buffalo keeper Bill Andracki stopped 13 of 18 shots.

Buffalo hosts the Midwest Division-leading St. Louis Attack Tuesday at 7 p.m. St. Louis, led by former Blizzard goalkeeper Jamie Swanner, is 11-3 going into tonight's home game against Montreal.

The Blizzard will hold an open practice Monday from 9 a.m. to noon at Elma Sports Park, 7070 Seneca St., near Jamison Road.