Bandits out-muscle Thunder, 17-12


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Baltimore Thunder was in the wrong place at the wrong time last night to try for its first victory of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League season.

A sellout crowd of 16,284 at Memorial Auditorium awaited the defending MILL champion Buffalo Bandits for their home opener. And after the Bandits collected their rings for last season's title in a pre-game ceremony, they defeated the Thunder, 17-12, for their 20th straight victory, including regular-season and postseason games.

The victory improved the record of the National Division-leading Bandits to 2-0. Baltimore fell to 0-2.

Buffalo forward John Tavares, the MILL's top scorer last season, had three goals and five assists. Baltimore was led by Jeff Jackson, who had three goals, and John Tucker and Tim Welsh, who had two each.

"We made some good strides from our first game," said Thunder coach Skip Lichtfuss, who said he was disappointed with his team's play against Detroit in its season opener on Jan. 8. "We played well all night.

We played them even when we were even-up, but they got a lot of easy breakaways. That's their style, and that was the difference."

Some of those breakaways came when Baltimore was on the power play, and they led to goals that appeared to demoralize the Thunder.

"Short-handed goals always kill you," Lichtfuss said. "They had a couple of quick-whistle plays and got some one-on-ones, and they just shoot too well in that situation."

The first short-handed goal came at the end of the first half, when it looked as though Baltimore would weather an early burst by Buffalo and break at the half tied.

The Bandits had a 5-2 lead with less than a minute to go in the first quarter. But Jackson scored with two seconds left in the period to cut the lead to 5-3. Baltimore then got closer when it narrowed Buffalo's lead to 8-7 when the Bandits' Bill Meagher was given a two-minute penalty for roughing at 13:33.

But newcomer Tyson Leies of Buffalo put on a spin move and drove to the net, beating goalie David Lee to leave the Thunder down 9-7 at halftime.

Buffalo scored five of the six goals in the third quarter to take a 14-8 lead. Two came on the same Baltimore power-play, with Tavares and Brian Hall scoring. Tavares had another goal and two assists during the third period.

Glen Lay made it 15-9 for Buffalo 32 seconds into the fourth quarter, and the game's outcome was all but decided. The Thunder did score four of the final six goals, but did not solve Buffalo goalie Ross Cowie enough when it counted.

Baltimore's other scorers were Paul Cantabene, Jeff Wills, Tim Hornes, Brian Kroneberger and Butch Marino.

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