Even now, almost two months later, Baltimore Thunder goalie Steve Dietrich shudders at the memory of his first exposure to Paul and Gary Gait.
On Jan. 4 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Dietrich, a 21-year-old rookie, started the second half of a game against the Turbos with the Thunder trailing by one goal. Dietrich was shelled -- surrendering seven goals in the first eight minutes -- and the Thunder lost, 20-13.
That gave the Turbos a 4-0 grip on Baltimore in their two seasons in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League. Now another Thunder-Turbos meeting is at hand, tonight at 8 at the Baltimore Arena, and the Gait twins are in their customary position atop the MILL scoring race.
Gary has 19 goals, Paul 18. Detroit teammate Pete Parke is third, behind the former Syracuse stars with 17, followed by the Thunder's Jeff Jackson with 15.
Dietrich is scheduled to start in goal tonight, although Tom Manos is likely to get playing time. Coach John Stewart said he finds it inspiring that in the game after he was hammered by the Turbos -- a win over the New York Saints -- Dietrich made 41 saves and was named Most Valuable Player.
"You've got to remember that Dietrich had never seen a MILL game when he faced the Gaits, much less played in one," Stewart said. "And he hadn't played at all in four or five months. Call it his rite of passage. All things considered, I'm pleased with his progress."
Recalling his first experience against the Gaits, Dietrich says the hype got to him. The crowd was loud and an air-raid siren screamed after every goal, making it difficult for any opposing goalie, particularly a rookie, to concentrate.
"That was the worst I've played in my life," said Dietrich, a Canadian who grew up playing indoor lacrosse. "It was a rematch of last year's championship game [in which the Turbos beat the Thunder], and I was trying to ride the emotional high.
"I was too excited and overplayed the Gaits, jumping out at them. They have an aura about them, and I was scared."
Manos, a former Towson State goalie, has played against the Gaits five times, including the Turbos' overtime win over the Thunder in an exhibition in December.
"You follow the head of their sticks," Manos said, "try not to take their first three fakes and stay in the middle of the net. The Gaits can get you out of position with their behind-the-back passes and draw you out of the goal."
Dietrich credits Stewart for getting him over the traumatic experience against the Gaits.
"He didn't yell," Dietrich said. "That would have shattered my confidence. I was like putty in his hands as he built me back up."
Dietrich vows to keep his emotions in check tonight. The Gaits "are just two of the five players coming at me," even if they are the best two in the league.
Gary Gait maintains the Turbos "are beatable," but not very often. They have lost only three of 16 games in two years.
NOTE: Towson State senior Steve Kisslinger, declared ineligible by the NCAA to play lacrosse this season, is practicing with the Thunder, but may not play tonight.