If the Baltimore Thunder expects to survive the first round of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League playoffs, it will have to clean up its act.
That assessment comes from Thunder coach John Stewart, who is annoyed that his players draw so many penalties.
That is one reason, he said, that the Thunder lost its final four regular-season games to finish last in the American Division behind the New York Saints and Philadelphia Wings.
There is still a glimmer of hope: The Thunder (3-5) will play the Wings (3-5) tonight (8 o'clock) at The Spectrum in Philadelphia for the right to advance to the MILL semifinals Saturday against the Saints (5-3), who earned a first-round bye.
The Thunder's last victory was Feb. 8 over the Boston Blazers. In the four defeats since, Baltimore has lost twice to the Wings by a combined score of 36-20, including a 20-8 decision the day after a loss in Buffalo.
"We're fortunate to be still hanging by a thread," Stewart said. "We don't have to change tactics or strategy for this game, but we do have to change attitude.
"We're fouling too much, drawing too many penalties. Around midseason, that became part of the team's mentality. We've been giving up an average of six to eight goals on the power play, when we're a man down."
The Thunder ranks third in the MILL in penalty minutes (182) behind the Buffalo Bandits and Detroit Turbos. Unlike Baltimore, Detroit and Buffalo are prospering -- they're 6-2 and 5-3, respectively -- but Stewart contends the Thunder can't thrive with a roughhouse style of play.
"Brute force isn't the answer," Stewart said. "We can't afford to play short-handed. We tried to assemble a team of thinkers who would succeed with teamwork and quickness. We've gotten away from that the past month."
hTC Baltimore has two players in the MILL's top 10 in penalty minutes -- Tom Johnson (35) and Tim Welsh (21). Buffalo's Darris Kilgour is No. 1 with 49.