By Terry Bigham The Dallas Morning News
Reprinted with the permission of the author
RICHFIELD, Ohio -- The "phantom goal' was what Sidekicks goalie Billy Phillips called it. Sidekicks coach Gordon Jago was upset enough by it to get the first yellow card in his coaching history.
The goal came off the foot of Cleveland's Kai Haaskivi in the second quarter to tie the score and, according to Jago, change the momentum as the Force beat Dallas, 5-3, in the opening game of the best-of-seven Eastern Division finals before a Richfield Coliseum crowd of 12,034.
Game 2 is Sunday at 7:05 p.m. And in their second try here, the Sidekicks will at the very least have an ailing Tatu, who suffered bruised ribs and a pulled right shoulder muscle when he was knocked into the boards in the first quarter. He complained of soreness after the game and could be questionable.
After controlling the first quarter and taking a 1-0 lead on Eddie Radwanski's goal, the Sidekicks were called for a sixth team foul at 13:39 of the first quarter. The Sidekicks got out of the first quarter, but at 27 seconds of the second, Haaskivi scored on the power play with a shot from the left side that hit the crossbar and came straight down.
"I think it bounced outside the line, not even on the line,' defender Mike Uremovich said. "There's nothing underneath the crossbar where the ball could hit to come out.'
The goal judge turned on the light to signal the ball had crossed the line, but referee Esse Baharmast did not signal the goal immediately. After a brief meeting, the goal call stood.
"At this stage, a line judge can't make that error,' Jago said. "That turned the whole game. That and the power play right after that took momentum away from us. It was not in, never in. The film proves that. That's terrible. All you've got to do is look at the line, and the ball has got to go clear over the line. That's what I complained about. This is a championship. I don't expect those sort of errors to be made.'
The line judge was identified only as a local referee hired by the league.
Three minutes later, Peter Ward's shot from the top of the penalty area hit Sidekicks goalie Billy Phillips in the shoulder and bounced in to give the Force a 2-1 lead at 3:14. And when Dallas defender Victor Moreland was called for a two-minute penalty at 4:41, Jago left the bench to get Moreland and was given a yellow card.
"All is asked was a fair crack of the whip,' Jago said of getting the yellow card from referee Gino Dippolito. "I don't swear or curse. I asked if we could have a fair game.'
Paul Kitson increased the Force lead to two goals at 8:07 when, two feet in front of the right post with his back to the goal, he spun and shot high into the net. It was Kitson's first post-season goal this season.
In the third quarter, Dallas came back to tie it at 3 thanks to a couple of Cleveland errors.
First, Bernie James took down Tatu in the right corner, and Kevin Smith passed to Mike Uremovich for the goal on the ensuing free kick to bring Dallas within 3-2 at 9:27.
Ward made the second mistake 54 seconds later, when he waved Cleveland goalie Chris Vaccaro off a ball rolling towards the Cleveland net. Ward came back to cover and tried to play the ball back to Vaccaro. But he touched it too softly, and Radwanski intercepted and then scored for a 3-3 game.
Ali Kazemaini gave the Force a 4-3 lead at 1:51 of the final quarter. The Sidekicks again had a chance to tie when Haaskivi was called for charging at 7:56, giving Dallas a power play.
But Carl Valentine won the ball deep in Dallas territory and beat Phillips, who had come out to stop the play, for a short-handed goal at 8:51.
"We lost a couple of headers and I came off the line,' Phillips said. "I went to kick it and Valentine just touched it. I should have probably just came out and wiped him out instead of finessing it and trying to clear.'