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ORF'S IMPROBABLE SAVE OF LAST-SECOND SHOT KEEPS BLIZZARD ON SLIDE

Otto Orf, the Elma native who went on to become an all-star goalkeeper with the Cleveland Crunch, got lucky Wednesday night and spoiled the Buffalo Blizzard's comeback heroics.

With the clock ticking off the waning seconds of a 16-15 Cleveland victory, Orf made a point-blank stop on a shot by Buffalo forward Andrew Crawford to save the Crunch's bacon before a Marine Midland Arena crowd of 7,110.

"I don't know how he saw it, to tell you the truth" said Crawford, who notched two assists in the first half.

"Neither do I," said Orf, who made 15 saves on 22 shots.

Crawford said the restart pass from Randy Pikuzinski "went between two players and I was at the edge of the little box. Somehow he (Orf) got his fingers on it and slowed it down enough so he could jump back and grab it off the (goal) line.

"When it's going good those go in, and when it's going bad, they get stopped on the line," Crawford said.

"The ball went across and I just got down low and threw my body across there and positioned my arm and hand just right for it to stay there," said Orf. "I just jumped on it and threw it out to Scotty (Schweitzer). That was a big, big save for me and for our team."

The exciting match, which saw four lead changes in the final 18 minutes, pitted two of the National Professional Soccer League's bitterest foes in a game each needed desperately in their efforts to turn things around.

Buffalo (5-9) has now lost four of its last five and seven of its last nine. Defending champion Cleveland (6-10) broke a four-game losing skid and won just its second road game in 11 tries.

Cleveland, which scored on its first three shots, opened a 7-0 lead that Buffalo whittled away to 7-4 by halftime on goals by Danny Barber and Pikuzinski.

Buffalo moved ahead, 11-10, in the third quarter on rookie Steve Butcher's first career goal and a pair of goals by defender Carlos Zavala.

Scores by Cleveland's Tommy Tanner and Hector Marinaro (his third of the night) put the Crunch back on top, 14-11, midway through the final stanza.

Buffalo then countered with goals by Ricky Rodriguez and Doug Miller, to take a 15-14 lead with about 6 minutes left.

Schweitzer got what turned out to be the winning goal at 8:56 when he deflected a long free kick by Marinaro. It was Cleveland's fourth goal resulting from a restart.

"I think we dominated the game and we just gave up too many easy goals," Crawford said.

"We played hard, but we gave up soft goals, a lot of free kick goals. You're not going to win if you do that," said Miller.

Cleveland limited Miller, Buffalo's leading scorer, to just that one goal on seven shots. Miller, who scored eight goals in Sunday's 24-9 win over Wichita, played with a brace on his right leg. He said he suffered a tear in his ACL about four weeks ago.

"It's doing OK but I don't know how much longer I'm going to play," said Miller. "It was the first time wearing the brace, so it was a bit awkward."

"I think we did dominate the game," said Buffalo goalkeeper Carlos Pena, who stopped 13 of 21 shots. "Towards the end, we made a few mistakes and it cost us."

Pena described Schweitzer's game-winner as "an unbelievable goal. . . . Hector hit a low line drive. I go to the right. . . . He ended up getting a good piece of the ball and just laid it in the corner."

Buffalo plays at Detroit Sunday afternoon and returns home to face Cleveland again on Jan. 7.

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