UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Thunder was met with a rude welcome last night at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the site of some not-so-memorable finishes for the team.
In the past two seasons, the Thunder has experienced a 15-goal blowout loss to the New York Saints and a heartbreaking, 17-16 overtime defeat last year. So last night was the perfect opportunity to wipe the slate clean and erase some of those unpleasant memories.
And the Thunder made the most of it, scoring five unanswered goals, capped by Paul Cantabene's unassisted score with 3: 21 left, to earn a thrilling, 15-14 victory that spoiled the Saints' home opener before 7,437 vocal fans.
The win left the Thunder (4-0) in sole possession of first place in the National Lacrosse League. New York fell to 1-1.
"We could have easily gone away when they took that four-goal lead late in the fourth period," Thunder coach John Tucker said. "But we didn't quit. And good teams come back."
"We let down on defense and they're an explosive team," Saints first-year coach Scott Huff said. "It was a great game, but one we definitely let get away."
Trailing 14-10, the Thunder got goals from Tim Hormes, Gary Gait, Matt Shearer and Joe Hiltz before Cantabene's game-winner. The result left the raucous crowd silent and New York's players without explanation.
The Saints had come into last night's contest looking to keep Gait, the four-time league MVP, under wraps. Gait finished with two goals and two assists and was punished by Saints defenseman Tim Langton throughout.
"We know their offense starts with Gait and we stopped him," Huff said. "It was the other guys that came forward and made some nice shots."
Everything looked good for the Thunder when it took a 3-0 lead just 6: 14 into the first period. Gait opened the scoring on a nifty, left-handed shot. Hiltz and Cantabene followed with a goal apiece and the Baltimore team was on its way.
Steve Sombrotto scored for New York before Hiltz got his second goal in a man-up situation for a 4-1 lead.
Led by Matt Panetta, who scored the first of his three goals late in the first period, New York then found its stride, and had a 10-5 lead at halftime.
Pub Date: 1/24/99