Thunder solves personnel equation

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It was only a preseason scrimmage played before a small, select crowd at the Baltimore Arena, but the Baltimore Thunder's 15-11 victory over the defending Major Indoor Lacrosse League champion Philadelphia Wings earlier this month has done wonders to instill confidence in a team that went 1-7 last season.

Just ask Skip Lichtfuss, who is in his second year as Thunder coach.

"Right now, we're where we need to be, and that's a long departure from last year at this time," said Lichtfuss. "The personnel changes we were able to make in the off-season have been very beneficial."

The personnel changes Lichtfuss is referring to include the acquisition of forwards Rob Shek and John Blatchley from Philadelphia, Mark Millon (New York) and Adam Mueller (Detroit) and goalie Ted Sawicki (Detroit).

Shek was obtained from the Wings for Baltimore's first-round pick in the 1996 MILL draft. He will join former Towson State teammate Lindsay Dixon, Mueller and Millon, the MVP of last summer's World Games, on a line that should cause problems for opposing goalies.

"Our line is working real well together and we have a lot of firepower on offense, but we have to be more accurate in our shooting and stop taking so many outside shots," said Shek, a Bel Air native who had six goals and 11 assists last season for the Wings. "In the past, Baltimore has been known for taking outside shots, and that makes it easy for goalies to defend. We have to be more selective in the shots we take."

With Millon and Mueller in the lineup, Baltimore has a luxury it didn't have last season. Both are left-handers, which should help open up Baltimore's offense. Millon, a 5-foot-8, 170-pound forward, had six goals and eight assists last year as a rookie for the Saints, and Mueller contributed four goals and 13 assists for the now-defunct Detroit club.

In an effort to improve its defense, Baltimore signed Sawicki, a former All-Pro goalie from Detroit whom Lichtfuss hopes will reduce Baltimore's 16.6 goals-against average of a year ago, when the Thunder allowed 133 goals in eight games.

"Hopefully, Ted's going to stop the bleeding back there," said Lichtfuss. "I brought Sawicki in to play, pure and simple. [Kevin] Bilger and [J. J.] Pearl are competing for the backup goalie spot, which has created some strong competition, and they're all looking good."

Other key additions for Baltimore include Towson State standout Stewart Crotty, the first player selected by the Thunder in the most recent draft, and later picks Ryan Murphy (Salisbury State), and Dan Stroup of Canada.

"The scrimmage is evidence that we'll be more competitive than in the past," said Lichtfuss, who will see just how far his team has come when it opens its ninth season at home Jan. 7 against the Boston Blazers.

"I knew last year would be a tough year trying to merge the Baltimore players with those from Pittsburgh, but now they've all gotten to know each other a bit and we're trying to change our luck. Now, all we can do is throw out the chips and see where they land."

THUNDER ROSTER

No. ... Forwards ... ... ... Ht. ... Wt. ... College ... ... ... Exp.

2 .. .. Jim Blanding ... ... 5-7 ... 158 ... Loyola .. .. .. ... 3

3 .. .. Bob Martino .. .. .. 5-6 ... 164 ... Washington .. .. .. 5

4 .. .. Ryan Murphy .. .. .. 5-6 ... 154 ... Salisbury State ... R

6 .. .. Paul Cantabene .. .. 5-10 .. 192 ... Loyola ... .. .. .. 2

7 .. .. Jeff Klodzen ... ... 5-11 .. 188 ... Syracuse ... ... .. 5

9 .. .. Mark Millon .. .. .. 5-8 ... 170 ... Massachusetts .. .. 2

11 ... Vince Angotti ... ... 6-2 ... 195 ... Cornell ... ... ... 4

12 ... Lindsay Dixon ... ... 6-2 ... 200 ... Towson State .. ... 3

15 ... John Blatchley .. ... 5-9 ... 170 ... Towson State .. ... 3

16 ... Jeff Wills ... .. ... 5-11 .. 167 ... Johns Hopkins .. .. 3

18 ... Dan Stroup ... .. ... 5-11 .. 190 ... Port Coquilam, B.C. ... R

19 ... Rob Shek ... .. .. .. 6-2 ... 215 ... Towson State ... ... 4

21 ... Adam Mueller .. .. .. 6-2 ... 210 ... Michigan State .. .. 6

22 ... Tim Hormes ... ... .. 6-0 ... 158 ... Washington ... .. .. 5

23 ... Tim Welsh ... ... ... 6-0 ... 160 ... North Carolina .. .. 7

25 ... Stewart Crotty .. ... 6-0 ... 175 ... Towson State ... ... R

28 ... Todd Curry .. ... ... 6-1 ... 185 ... Syracuse ... ... ... 7

29 ... Matt Wilson ... .. .. 6-2 ... 198 ... Washington ... .. .. 4

31 ... Brian Kroneberger ... 5-10 .. 200 ... Loyola ... ... .. .. 5

44 ... Ron Klausner .. .. .. 6-3 ... 229 ... Towson State ... ... 5

No. ... ... Goalies ... ... ... Ht. ... Wt. ... College ... ... Exp.

20 .. .. .. Kevin Bilger .. ... 6-2 ... 165 ... Maryland .. ... 9

30 .. .. .. Ted Sawicki ... ... 6-0 ... 234 ... Brock ... .. .. 7

99 .. .. .. J. J. Pearl ... ... 6-0 ... 232 ... Penn State .. .. 3

Coach: Skip Lichtfuss

THUNDER SCHEDULE

Date ... ... ... Opponent ... ... ... Time

Jan. 7 ... .. .. Boston ... .. .. ... 8

Jan. 14 .. .. .. at Rochester ... ... 8

Jan. 27 .. .. .. at New York .. .. .. 8

Jan. 28 .. .. .. New York ... ... ... 8

Feb. 11 .. .. .. Rochester .. ... ... 2

Feb. 25 .. .. .. Philadelphia ... ... 8

March 4 .. .. .. at Buffalo ... .. .. 8

March 11 ... ... at Philadelphia .. .. 8

Tickets: Call (410) 347-2006 or (410) 481-SEAT.

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