Thunder finds MILL title is an elusive goal Team opens season tonight with 16 returnees

Like the rest of the veterans on the Baltimore Thunder, Tim Welsh feels a sense of urgency as the Major Indoor Lacrosse League opens its 10th season.

Welsh, who has rewritten the Thunder record books since joining the club eight years ago, relishes his individual accomplishments but longs for a league championship.


The Thunder hopes to take a step toward that goal in tonight's season opener against the Boston Blazers at 7:30 at the $H Baltimore Arena.

"We've been losing for so long, we don't know what winning is all about," said Welsh, who surpassed Jeff Jackson last season as the Thunder's all-time leading goal scorer with 84. "There are teams in the league like Philadelphia and Buffalo that are arrogant and cocky, and I'm jealous of that. Every time they step on the floor, they know they can win and they expect it. We have to get that contagious winning feeling."


The Thunder's 23-man roster has 16 returning players, including 1995 second-team, all-pro selections Tim Hormes, Bob Martino and Mark Millon.

Local players Lindsay Dixon (Broadneck/Towson State), Brian Kroneberger (Loyola), Rob Shek (Towson State) and Jeff Wills (Hopkins) are back, too.

The Thunder also added a new Canadian flavor by picking up attackman Chris Gill, forward Rob Williams -- both of Coquitlam, British Columbia -- and goalie Bob Watson of Guelph, Ontario.

Thunder coach Skip Lichtfuss says he doesn't see a weakness but is concerned by the fact that no one on his team has emerged as an impact player, or as he puts it, "someone who will take over come crunch time."

"We don't have a go-to guy like Gary Gait [Philadelphia Wings] or John Tavares [Buffalo Bandits], but we do have five or six guys now with the potential to make a real impact on this league," said Lichtfuss, who is trying to lead the Thunder back to the playoffs for the first time since 1990.

The Thunder lost an experienced leader when team captain Vince Angotti announced that he could not play because of a work commitment, but the return of attackman Butch Marino, the team's second-leading scorer in 1994, should help Baltimore's chances of earning an elusive postseason berth.

Thunder tonight

Opponent: Boston Blazers


Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 7:30

Radio: WJFK (1300 AM)

Tonight's outlook: The Blazers trail the series 7-3, but Boston has a chance to spoil the Thunder's home opener for the third straight year. Boston is led by three-time all-pro Tom Carmean, ,, the MILL's eighth all-time leading scorer with 142 points. The Thunder's talented attack will be tested early by Boston G Marty O'Neill, who was voted team MVP last year after holding opponents to a league-best 11.4 goals a game.

MILL season outlook: Until some team dethrones them, the Philadelphia Wings will continue to be the team to beat. The Wings return All-Pro Gary Gait as well as local players Brian Voelker (Johns Hopkins), Matt Dwan (Loyola) and Matt Wilson (Washington College). Buffalo will be strong again with John Tavares and Ted Dowling in the lineup. Boston finished second during last year's regular season and expects to return to the playoffs with Carmean, Randy Fraser and Charlie Blanchard. With Paul Gait in the lineup, it's tough to count out Rochester. The New York Saints, one of the league's three original teams, along with Baltimore and Philadelphia, boast some talent with local ties, including Tony Millon (Towson State), Matt Panetta (Hopkins) and Brian Piccola (Hopkins). The MILL's newest entry, the rookie-laden Charlotte Cobras, could be in for a long season, despite the presence of Severn School and North Carolina star Ryan Wade.

Note: Tickets for the Thunder's five home games are available at the Baltimore Arena box office and all Ticketmaster locations or by calling (410) 481-SEAT.