MILWAUKEE – The Missouri Comets are going to the MISL Championship Series for the second year in a row after winning 6-2 over the host Milwaukee Wave in a dramatic mini-game.
Brian Harris, who had a 3-point short-handed goal in the opening game 12-9 loss that led to the series-deciding mini-game, opened with a 2-point goal just 26 seconds into it. He later scored at 6:07 to give Missouri a 4-0 lead as he came off the bench and took a perfect pass from Milan Ivanovic to slip the ball past Marcel Feenstra.
“Brian kept saying on the bench between games, 'We've got this! We've got this!’ ” Comets coach Vlatko Andonovski said by phone following Monday’s games at U.S. Cellular Arena. “And he was right. The last month of the season the boys have playing so well. People have been talking about our offense and our defense, but no one really talked about our heart.
“And we won that mini-game because of our heart. I love the guys in that locker room. Because of them, I have a job that I love.”
The Wave, who fought back from an embarrassing 20-6 loss at the Independence Events Center Sunday afternoon (see story on that game on B2), made it 4-2 on a Giuliano Oliviero goal at 9:50.
Then team captain Vahid Assadpour took the ball coast to coast, split two Wave defenders and gave the Comets some breathing room with the third Missouri goal of the mini-game.
“Oh my goodness, that goal felt so good,” said Assadpour, who missed some games at the end of the season with a knee injury. “They say it takes four years to make a championship team, and I am not looking ahead, but this might be our year.
“We have so much heart and so much desire on this team. To come back and win the mini-game, after losing the first game of the night, shows what type of heart this team has. I am so proud to be a part of this team. We're all proud of what we accomplished tonight.”
Danny Waltman, who made 21 saves in Sunday's win, was outstanding in the mini-game, making two spectacular saves, stopping two point-blank shots that appeared to be heading for the back of the net.
In the first game of the night, Luan Oliveira scored the lone goal of the first quarter to give Milwaukee a 2-0 lead. It was the Wave's first lead in the playoff series.
But Harris blasted the ball past Feenstra just 28 seconds into the second period to help the Comets take a 3-2 lead. It didn't last long as the Wave's Tenzin Rampa scored a goal to give Milwaukee a 4-3 lead going into the half.
The Comets came out on fire in the third period to take a 7-4 lead on goals by Leo Gibson and Bryan Perez.
The Wave cut the deficit to one on a goal by Tony Walls 28 seconds into the fourth quarter, but Assadpour followed with a goal for Missouri to give the Mavericks a 9-6 lead with about 13 minutes left.
The rest of the first game belonged to the Wave as they scored three unanswered goals, setting up the decisive mini-game. It was the third time the two teams have encountered each other in a mini-game with the Comets winning the past two years.
The Comets will play the winner of the Syracuse-Baltimore series, which the Blast lead 1-0. If the Blast win, the Comets play at the Events Center on Friday. If Syracuse comes back to win the series, the Comets are home on Sunday.
“No matter who we play, we're in the championship series, and now, we can just focus on either Baltimore or Syracuse,” said Harris, a former UMKC standout who is a finalist for MISL Defensive Player of the Year. “After we lost the first game, everyone was saying, 'Don't give up!' and we didn't. We knew we were going to win that mini-game. After that first goal, you could see in everyone's eyes, there was no way we were letting them back in the game!”