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BLIZZARD'S LINEUP SHAKE-UP FAILS TO MAKE AN IMPACT

Buffalo Blizzard coach George Fernandez shook up his slumping lineup, but the outcome was the same old thing Saturday as the Blizzard went down in flames, 15-6, to the Montreal Impact.

"I'm at a loss for words right now. It's frustrating for me. It's frustrating for the players. It's just not happening," Fernandez said after Buffalo lost its third straight and sixth in the last seven before a Marine Midland Arena crowd of 4,082.

With a 4-8 record, Buffalo is off to its worst start since it joined the National Professional Soccer League in 1992. Saturday's debacle was the seventh time in 12 games the Blizzard -- the NPSL's second-weakest offense -- managed eight points or less. In the last three games the team has been outscored, 59-16.

For about 2 1/2 quarters, it looked like Fernandez's revamped lineup might turn the trick.

At the beginning of the game, Fernandez benched both the Pikuzinski brothers -- the only remaining members of the original Blizzard team. He kept midfielder Randy Pikuzinski out until the second quarter and sat forward Rudy Pikuzinski until the a few minutes into fourth quarter. Defender Carlos Savala also failed to start.

"You'd call that a wake-up call. . . . We're struggling to find goals. We're struggling to find the net. . . . After three exhibitions when you give up 19, 25 and 15, there's got to be some changes. That's obvious. Even I can see that," Fernandez said.

"When you're not scoring as many points, you have to play a perfect game and now we're not doing that. We must have given up the ball a ton of times," he said.

Andrew Crawford scored two of Buffalo's three goals while Danny Barber got the other.

Montreal (8-4) got two goals each from Giuliano Oliviero and former Blizzard forward Grant Needham and singles from three others. The Impact outshot Buffalo, 28-19.

"It's not like we're not creating chances. We're certainly getting good quality chances," Crawford said. "We're just hitting the post, or one of their guys is getting a toe on it. We just have to fight through. We have to work harder. We've got to play better defense and once we start putting the ball in the net, we'll start winning games easy instead of struggling to just stay in games."

The game was tied at 2-2 at halftime as each team took 12 shots.

Buffalo took a 2-0 lead on Barber's goal at 4:34 of the second period and the Impact evened things with 1:23 left in the half when Chris Stathopoulos put it in the net from the left wing. The goal came while Blizzard defender Tim Hardy was knocked to the floor after an apparent trip that received no notice from the officials.

Montreal took a 4-2 lead almost midway through the third quarter when Needham scored a power-play goal on a restart. A few minutes later, Needham scored into an open net after Buffalo goalkeeper Carlos Pena was forced to the opposite side to try to stop Kyt Selaidopoulos, who hit Needham with a crossing pass.

Montreal opened a 9-4 advantage about two minutes later when Nicola Corneli intercepted a pass and nailed a three-pointer from about 50 feet.

"That really was the turning point of the game," said Montreal coach Tasso Koutsoukos.

Oliviero then sandwiched two goals around Crawford's second score to make it 13-6 and Jocelyn Roy delivered the coup de grace with 3:11 left in regulation.

It was the third time in as many games that Montreal, the Central Division leader, has beaten Buffalo, the cellar-dweller.

The next Blizzard game is Dec. 26, at home against the Wichita Wings at 7 p.m.

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