As season openers go, the Baltimore Thunder's was a dandy.
In a game that was tied 10 times, the Thunder edged the Boston Blazers, 18-17, last night before 8,134 at the Baltimore Arena. The game was the Major Indoor Lacrosse League opener for both teams.
The score was tied for the first time at 2 and the last time at 15. At that point, Tim Welsh scored what proved to be the winning goal with 4:13 remaining.
In a frantic finish, John Tucker raised Baltimore's advantage to 17-15, only to have Randy Fraser cut the lead to one. But Butch Marino scored his game-high fifth goal with 2:06 left, making Toby Boucher's goal at 1:03 the Blazers' dying gasp.
The Thunder jumped to a 2-0 lead 4:17 into the game on goals by Marino. Neil Doddridge came right back with two for Boston in an 11-secondperiod and Dave Robinson sent the Blazers ahead, 3-2.
That quickly dispelled any notion that the game might be a cakewalk for Baltimore. The score was tied six times in the first half, the first at 2 and the last at 7.
After 30 minutes, Doddridge had four goals, Marino three and Baltimore's Jeff Jackson two.
David Lee, Baltimore's rookie goalie, left the game with a slight injury for 2:29 in the second quarter. Dave Slombkowski took over until Lee returned.
Thunder coach John Stewart entered the game hoping for improvement in the defense that finished last in the seven-team league last year.
"We'll never get over the top playing defense like that," Stewart said. "The defensive emphasis has to be on speed, with the defense getting the fast break going. A good defense leads to a fast break offense. This is a game of fast breaks, the idea being to create unbalanced situations."
"Defense is good footwork and conditioning. There is no need to try to take the ball away from the offense. They have to shoot within 30 seconds, anyway. I just want them to maintain good leverage and take away anything inside the shooting cylinder."
The defensive load, Stewart says, should not be on the goalie alone. Even if Lee were not a rookie, the same would apply.
"The key is how well we protect and support the goalie," Stewart said. "He's going to see 90 to 100 shots. We have to help him. He can't do it alone."
NOTES: Tom Manos, the Thunder's No. 2 goalie, broke his left thumb in practice Thursday and had two pins inserted in it. "It was a shooting drill we've had hundreds of times," Manos said. "I stuck out my [gloved] hand to block a shot and the ball hit on the tip of the thumb and broke the bone in four or five pieces." Manos talks of being ready to play in the next game Friday at Philadelphia. The loss of Manos left the Thunder with two rookie goalies, starter Lee of British Columbia and Slombkowski of Washington College. . . . For the second straight night, the Arena's scoreboard had problems. Two sides were on the blink, making it impossible for fans facing it to keep track of the game. Said Thunder general manager Darrell Russell, "This place is a disgrace." After the game against the Wings Friday in Philadelphia, the Thunder will have two more road games, in Buffalo and New York, before the next home game Jan. 30 against the Wings.