0-6 Thunder not packing away the season just yet


Only in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League can a team be winless with two games remaining in the regular season and still have a shot at a playoff berth.

That's exactly the situation facing the Baltimore Thunder as it heads into tonight's game with the visiting New York Saints.

Baltimore is 0-6.

New York is 1-5.

Both compete in the three-team American Division, which will send its two top teams to the postseason. If the Thunder can beat the Saints at the Arena tonight and again next week at New York in the regular-season finale, Baltimore is in the playoffs.

And then?

"Who knows what can happen?" said Thunder coach Skip Lichtfuss. "With such a short season, you have to keep playing and keep trying to improve because you're always in it, regardless of where you stand.

"Right now, I'd be concerned being 0-6 if we weren't playing as well as we have the last two weeks. I know it's an old cliche but we control our own destiny."

Baltimore will try to repeat what it did in 1987 when it made it to the playoffs -- despite a dismal record -- and went on to defeat the Washington Wave for the first league championship.

Wishful thinking?

Lichtfuss doesn't think so.

"There's not much of a difference between all these teams," said the first-year coach. "A couple of breaks here and there is all that separates most of them."

BTC A pair of Detroit goals in the final 14 seconds of last week's game was all that separated the Thunder and the Turbos as Detroit rallied to claim a 14-13 victory at Joe Louis Arena. Lichtfuss called the loss "the toughest one to take all year," but said he was inspired by the way his team refused to surrender.

"It was disappointing losing but I know they believe now that they can play with anyone," said Lichtfuss. "There's no quit in these guys and that's a tribute to them because they could have put it in the tank weeks ago and they didn't.

"They could have gone to the can in a couple of our games and they didn't. We've come a long way in two months and now we're down to it."

With a good number of the Thunder players coming to Baltimore via the now-defunct Pittsburgh Bulls franchise, Lichtfuss knew that it would take time for the teammates to mesh and he believes they finally have.

"One of the key issues I talked about at the beginning of the season was how well and long it would take to melt these two groups together," said Lichtfuss. "This isn't a situation where you walk out there and watch it happen. The team is improving. We still need a couple of breaks to go our way for us to win and we have to make that happen [tonight]."

Thunder forward Paul Cantabene, a 5-foot-10, 192-pound rookie out of Loyola College, was just a sophomore at West Irondequoit High School in Rochester, N.Y., when Baltimore captured the league title in 1987, but he's been around the game long enough to know that anything can happen.

"It's hard to believe we're still in it, but we are and we have to take advantage of that opportunity," said Cantabene, who has contributed seven goals and two assists this season.

"Two wins is all we need."

9- Only in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League.

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