The Charlotte Cobras slithered into Baltimore Arena last night in search of their first victory in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League.
What the Cobras found was a Baltimore team that was sympathetic to the expansion team's plight but more concerned about its own destiny.
The Thunder, a team in need of a win to stay in the playoff hunt, got it in a decisive fashion as it beat the Cobras, 14-10, before 5,602 supporters.
This one wasn't as close as the score would indicate. The Thunder led by eight heading into the fourth quarter and, with several of their reserves on the floor, were outscored 5-1 in the final period.
The win put Baltimore (3-2) over the .500 mark heading into next week's game against the New York Saints at Nassau Coliseum " while dropping Charlotte's midseason record to 0-5.
"I can sympathize with Charlotte being inexperienced because I was in their shoes two years ago when I was just coming out of college and didn't know the [indoor] game," said Thunder attackman Mark Millon, who was named MVP for the second time this season after finishing with three goals and one assist. "Plus, we finished 3-7 last season, so I know where they're coming from."
The Thunder, which has the dubious distinction of being the MILL's most penalized team, played man-down for four minutes in the first quarter but still managed to build a 6-1 lead.
Millon and Tim Hormes (two goals, two assists) found the net twice each for the Thunder during the first quarter.
Brian Kroneberger, one of Baltimore's most physical players, gave his team a 10-2 lead midway through the second quarter when he leveled Charlotte rookie Brett Smith at midfield, scooped up the loose ball and took it to the cage for his second goal of the period and his third of the game.
Baltimore, which entered the game with a league-leading 40 penalties for 73 minutes, was penalized 11 times for 22 minutes.
Collectively, Baltimore's team has 94 years of league experience while the Cobras have 21 rookies and only two players with any MILL experience.
For that reason alone, Charlotte coach Joe Sievold could smile after the loss.
"Our performance in the fourth quarter shows just how important game play is because we were better in the second half than we were in the first, because it took us a half to figure out what we were doing," Sievold said. "Every moment we're learning. Our defense was awful early, but we really clamped down in the second half."