A painful season ended on a high note for the Baltimore Thunder last night.
The Thunder held off the New York Saints in the final minute for a 13-12 Major Indoor Lacrosse League victory, ending a four-game losing streak that had taken Baltimore out of playoff contention.
Even though it was virtually a meaningless game for both teams, who were playing mostly for pride and fifth place in the MILL, the Thunder and Saints mixed it up pretty well for 60 minutes before a mostly silent crowd of 3,672 at the Baltimore Arena.
The Thunder, which finished with a 4-6 record, tried to give the game away in the final seconds after building a 13-11 lead on Stewart Crotty's unassisted goal with 4: 38 left in the final quarter.
The two-goal lead held up until Vinnie Sombrotto scored off a pass from Tim McIntee with 48 seconds remaining to cut the Thunder lead to 13-12.
Just when it looked as if Baltimore would be able to run out the clock after New York's Eric Seremet lost the ball on the right side of the net with 27 seconds left, the Thunder gave the visitors another chance to tie the game.
Baltimore's Todd Curry threw a long pass down the field and the ball was intercepted by New York goalkeeper Sal LoCascio with 17 seconds left.
New York, which finished 3-7, called time out to set up what it hoped would be the tying goal and went to Sombrotto once again for the big shot.
Sombrotto's shot sailed wide of the goal and bounced far down the field as the final seconds ticked off.
Jeff Wills led the Thunder with three goals and veteran goalkeeper Kevin Bilger had 27 saves in the first half to keep his team in the game until the offense could get untracked.
Bilger was replaced by Bob Watson in the second half, but his 27 saves were still enough to earn Player of the Game honors.
"I wasn't surprised by Bilger at all," said Thunder coach Skip Lichtfuss.
"He's been around 10 years and always plays good against New York. That's why I wanted to go with him tonight."
Regular Thunder goalkeeper J. J. Pearl did not suit up last night because Lichtfuss opted to go with Bilger and Watson.
Pearl was treated rudely by the Boston Blazers last week in a 28-13 setback that eliminated Baltimore from the playoffs.
"That Boston game was a clunker," said Lichtfuss. "If we had won that game we would have made the playoffs, as long as we also won tonight. Really, one clunker cost us a good season."
Lichtfuss said he went with a lot of young players last night -- Crotty, Kip Fulks and Tom Roszko -- because "they are our future."
Brian Kroneberger, Paul Cantabene and Chris Gill each scored twice for Baltimore, and Bob Martino and Mark Millon combined for five assists.
Millon, the Thunder's leading scorer, did not get a goal last night until late in the third quarter. That was his only score of the evening and he finished the season with 24 goals.
Pub Date: 3/31/96