The Tacoma Stars have clinched a berth in the Major Arena Soccer League Ron Newman Cup playoffs.
The Kent-based Stars (12-12) open the playoffs against the Pacific Division champion San Diego Sockers (23-1). Kickoff is 7:35 p.m. Friday at the accesso ShoWare Center.
Tacoma was the only team to beat San Diego during the regular season, a 5-4 decision on Dec. 22 at Pachanga Arena in San Diego. The Sockers eventually won the season series 4-1.
Tickets go on sale Monday.
Game 2 is at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 20 in San Diego (MASL TV). If the series is tied, a deciding mini-game will immediately follow Game 2.
The teams met in last season’s playoffs with the Sockers winning the series 2-1. The Stars beat San Diego 5-2 in the first game of that series.
Last Friday night, the Stars stayed alive in the playoff hunt with a convincing 14-4 victory at the Turlock (Calif.) Express. Nick Perera and Vince McCuskey each had a hat trick for the Stars.
The Stars jumped on the Express (3-21) from the beginning, racking up 11 unanswered goals, including four in the first quarter. Perera got things going for the Stars with an assist by Mike Ramos with 11:07 to play in the opening frame. The same pair teamed up again, with Ramos getting the goal just over two minutes later.
McCluskey took a Dan Antoniuk pass and turned it into his first goal of the evening and a 3-0 lead with 2:58 remaining in the first quarter. Joseph Cairel finished the scoring spree, with a Ramos assist.
McCluskey’s second goal of the night – assisted by Stars keeper Danny Waltman – pushed the lead to 5-0.
Just over a minute later, it was Cairel’s turn to score his second of the game on Ramos’s third assist of the half and, with 11:01 to go in the first half, Tacoma went up 6-0.
Pablo Da Silva found Perera for the Stars’ next marker with 9:39 showing on the clock. McCluskey shot a pass to Chase Hanson, who launched it in the net for an 8-0 lead. Perera notched the hat trick on the first of two Lamar Neagle assists to give the Stars a 9-0 lead after two quarters.
McCluskey and Perera goals less than a minute apart padded the lead to 11-0 with 11:01 to play in the third.
Turlock finally found its way onto the scoreboard 26 seconds later when Douglas Lima took advantage of a shootout opportunity following a Cory Keitz blue card. Lima scored again with 8:37 to go and later found Joaquin Raya for a goal.
Neagle, who had three assists in the game, scored his first goal of the season on a Waltman assist with 12:52 left to play. Nineteen seconds later, McCluskey completed his hat trick – off a Troy Peterson assist – for a 13-3 lead.
Express veteran Arturo Pulido launched Turlock’s final goal of the season with 9:57 showing on the clock.
With 1:39 left Antoniuk wrapped up the scoring on a Neagle assist.
Tacoma swept the season series 5-0.
First quarter – TAC, Perera (Ramos) 3:53; TAC, Ramos (Perera) 5:55; TAC, McCluskey (Antoniuk); TAC, Cairel (Ramos); Penalties – none.
Second quarter – TAC, McCluskey (Waltman) 2:56; TAC, Cairel (Ramos) 3:59; TAC, Perera (Da Silva) 5:21 TAC, Hanson (McCluskey) 9:39; TAC, Perera (Neagle) 11:46; Penalties – none.
Third quarter – TAC, Antoniuk (Gjertsen) 2:22; TAC, Perera (Neagle) 3:20; TUR, Lima 3:46 shoot-out; TUR, Lima 6:23; TUR, Raya (Lima) 12:24; Penalties – TAC, Keitz blue card (deny goal scoring chance) 3:46.
Fourth quarter – TAC, Neagle (Waltman) 2:08; TAC, McCluskey (Peterson) 2:27; TUR, Pulido 5:03; TAC, Antoniuk (Neagle) 13:21; Penalties – TAC, Peterson blue card (deny goal scoring chance) 6:09.
Shots – Tacoma 6-6-2-3 (17), Turlock 4-2-6-2 (14)
First quarter – 490
To order tickets and to follow the Stars, visit tacomastars.com.