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BLIZZARD AMBUSHED BY ST. LOUIS

The Buffalo Blizzard's home winning streak got shot to shreds by the St. Louis Ambush Tuesday night.

In a game that was close for only the first 31 minutes, St. Louis ran away with a 20-7 victory that snapped Buffalo's team-record seven-game win skein at Marine Midland Arena.

"I think you're going to have this kind of game," said Buffalo coach Carlos Salguero. "I hope we don't have any more."

A quiet crowd of 6,929, plus the 16-man Blizzard roster, learned why St. Louis -- which improved to a league-best 13-3 -- is the highest-scoring, and stingiest team in the National Professional Soccer League.

Sparked by a playing style that tries to turn every change of possession into a fast-break, St. Louis got nine goals -- including two three-pointers from long range -- from eight different players. Forwards Matt McAvin (two goals) and Mark Moser (one) were named co-players of the game.

In net, Jamie Swanner -- the Blizzard goalkeeper from 1992 to 1994 -- stopped 19 of 23 shots on goal.

"We're playing really consistent offensively," Swanner said. "We're kind of sporadic in the back (on defense) but we can pick it up when we want to."

"We gave up the two early off-the-boards, boom-boom goals and then the guys kind of stepped it up and said 'we're not going to give any more,' " Swanner said.

Those early goals by Doug Miller and Rudy Pikuzinski (who played with a cast on his left arm after suffering a broken bone in his hand Saturday) gave Buffalo a 4-0 lead just 5:40 into the game. St. Louis coach Daryl Doran quickly called time out and St. Louis tied the game in the next 45 seconds on goals by Scott McDoniel and Joel Shanker.

"We scored two quick goals and I thought the game was going to be easy," Salguero said. "I think the guys thought the same way. They scored two quick goals and I think everybody started shaking. They started ball-watching. They lost their man and caused a few goals and after that it was anything they (St. Louis) shot, it went inside the net."

Buffalo regained a 5-4 lead on Doug Miller's power-play goal at 3:52 of the second quarter. But St. Louis went on top for good on Moser's restart goal at 10:05.

The Blizzard drew within 8-7 on Andrew Crawford's give-and-go score from Pikuzinski just 25 seconds into the second half. But St. Louis responded with five consecutive scores as the Ambush dominated the second half. Crawford injured his right leg with an apparent ligament sprain early in the fourth quarter and did not return.

With 5:19 left in the game, Salguero relieved Buffalo keeper Bill Andracki with backup Steve Quinones. Andracki, who started the game with the NPSL's best points-against average, faced 20 shots.

"They've got a strong team," Andracki said. "When they had their chances, they put them away. I didn't have one of my stellar games today. I've been struggling with a cold a little bit and just didn't feel well all game."

Andracki said the turning point came early in the second half. "Once we gave up that three-pointer (by Mike LaPosha) and that goal off the boards on the restart (by Doran) it kind of put us behind the 8-ball a little bit. It was an uphill battle from there."

The 13-point whipping was the biggest defeat Buffalo (9-7) has suffered this year and the worst the Blizzard has ever been beaten in 1 1/2 seasons in the Arena, where it is 20-9 overall, including one playoff loss.

The only consolation was that Buffalo's North Division lead remained at 2 1/2 games over the Detroit Rockers (6-9), who lost to the visiting Cleveland Crunch, 27-17.

The Blizzard doesn't play again until Jan. 10 at Wichita. The next home game is Jan. 16 against the Cincinnati Silverbacks.

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