Leo Gibson turned to supplier for the second straight game, as his one goal and four assists guided his team to overcome what was at one point a five goal deficit in the third period.
The Comets entered Friday’s match with a rarely healthy squad, dealing with just one injury to Gui Gomes. The biggest news ahead of the game was in goal as Nicolau Neto made his MASL debut after finally having his visa cleared.
The Wave scored the opening quarter’s only goal just 27 seconds in from an awkward restart, as Max Ferdinand took credit for the goal, but it was John Sosa knocking it into his own net. Alex Bradley and Ian Bennett later scored for the visitors to make it 3-0 in the second quarter. Robert Palmer managed to pull one back for the Comets after knocking in Leo Gibson’s pass off the board. Bennett scored his second of the night, this time from a restart at the top of the ark. Matt Lewis showed composure for Kansas City with a tidy finish to make it 4-2, but Bennett finished his third of the evening to restore Milwaukee’s three goal advantage before halftime.
Angel Curiel and Ian Bennett scored to put the score at 7-2 Wave early in the third period. Leo Gibson and Lucas Rodriguez both scored in quick succession to pull Kansas City within three. Kiel Williams scored with under two minutes left in the third period to make it 7-5 headed into the fourth quarter. Kevin Ellis grabbed two goals to even the score at 7-7, completing a comeback after facing a five goal deficit late in the third period. Ray Lee and Robert Palmer scored just seconds apart to give Kansas City the 9-7 lead. Alex Bradley got one back for Milwaukee with under two minutes to play, but the Comets were able to defend off the Wave in the final seconds to come away with an incredible win.
This Comets win puts them at .500 this season with a 5-5, which puts them in fifth place in the Eastern Conference while the Wave have now dropped their second straight to slide to 6-3 this season, which places them third in the East.
The Wave came out strong, got the benefit of some calls, and made the Comets pay in the opening half, leaving the Comets frustrated as the Comets had chances, but Rafa and his defense had some excellent stops. The Comets showed great resilience in the second half to overcome a fantastic goalkeeping performance from Rafa as well as some very questionable calls from the officiating crew. Games like this might make Wave head coach Giuliano Oliviero second guess himself for trading defender Jonathan Santos to St. Louis. The veteran defender would have been crucial as one of the league’s greatest shotblockers and defensive energizers. This is definitely the biggest win this season for the Comets with a win over team who had beaten them 11 of the previous 12 meetings.
As for Nicolau Neto on his debut, he was a bit too aggressive in coming off his line, which led to Milwaukee’s first goal. The Columbia College graduate’s big frame does make for great potential once he can catchup with the speed of play of the MASL as well as gaining more experience of how the indoor game works.
Head coach Leo Gibson commented, “It wasn’t easy to throw him out there, but you know he played really good, he had a fantastic game. I think in the first half we could have made it a little better for him, playing a little bit more aggressively. At least it got better in the second half.”
Stefan Stokic was delighted with the team’s mentality, “Every single one of us came out there and our mentality and hard work was tremendous.” United States Women’s National Team head coach and former Comets head coach Vlatko Andonovski interrupted, saying, “When I coached the team, I’d say that we can win games without any player on the team except two, Stefan Stokic and John Sosa. If those two don’t play, our chances diminish rapidly. And we had some good players, Leo, Vahid, Lucas, Jason, but without those two, I would not start a game.”
Both sides have a quick turnaround, as they will meet each other again on Monday in Milwaukee. Kansas City’s next home game is on Sunday, January 26th, when they welcome the Rochester Lancers.