Pechanga Arena- San Diego, California
For 32 minutes, the Tacoma Stars had silenced Pechanga Arena and took the wind out of the San Diego Sockers’ sails. Danny Waltman was making Superman-esque plays, and San Diego’s offense had stalled out against a stalwart Tacoma defense.
With Brandon Escoto getting double and even triple covered at times, it seemed like there was nobody who could pull the Sockers out of their dry spell.
Enter Slavisa Ubiparipovic.
The Bosnia native was the spark that refueled the Sockers offense, and it all started with a third-quarter goal that kicked off a five-goal scoring spree that shot San Diego right back in the game.
“Today was a team effort and a team win,” Ubiparipovic said after the match. “At the end of the day, you can score a hundred goals, and if the team loses, it doesn’t matter.”
It wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine for the hometown Sockers. After Vince McCluskey and Cesar Cerda traded goals in the first quarter, Tacoma came into the second quarter with guns blazing as Micheal Ramos split the Sockers defense and fired a shot past Pardo to give the Stars a 2-1 lead.
Two power-play goals by player-coach Nick Perera, a third-quarter goal by Raphael Cox, and some suffocating defense that took away the Sockers’ trademark dribbling spotted the Stars a 5-1 lead in the third quarter.
Then, something awoke with the San Diego offense after Ubiparipovic’s goal. A fire had been kindled.
Cerda and Christian Gutierrez scored goals in rapid succession while Ubiparipovic scored the tying goal with a beautiful corkscrew shot that not even the athletic Waltman could stop. Just like that, the game was tied.
— San Diego Sockers (@SanDiegoSockers) December 23, 2019
“Once we stayed together as a unit… we all never had a doubt we’d come back and get the win,” said Travis Pittmann, who scored the go-ahead goal that gave San Diego the lead. “You need game-changers on a team, and we have that.”
Even after Tacoma tied the game late in the fourth quarter, nothing was putting out the Sockers scorching hot offense. Ubiparipovic tipped in an Ortega pass with a sliding shot that bounced between the legs of Waltman while Brian Farber put the nail in the coffin against the Stars’ six-man attack.
Once again, the main enemy of the Sockers was Tacoma goalie Danny Waltman. The 38-year-old made 19 saves and continued to act as a thorn in every Sockers’ side.
Kraig Chiles had nothing but praise for the Tacoma goalkeeper. “Danny’s a great goalie, and he makes big saves… Danny is one of the legends of the game, but you gotta persevere through it and keep pounding the target.”
Despite all of the close encounters, the Sockers now sit at 5-1 on the season and have a firm hold on second place in the Western Conference. They will face Sonora on December 29th.