SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- You might say that the circumstances conspired against the Thunder as it headed into last night's matchup with the Syracuse Smash.
First, the team was missing leading scorer Gary Gait, who is nursing what the club says is a pelvic inflammation. That was compounded by the task of facing a revved-up Smash team that features a cadre of former Baltimore players such as forward Tony Millon and goalie Derek Collins.
Both helped Syracuse hand the Thunder its first loss of the season, 15-14, before an Onondaga War Memorial Auditorium crowd of 4,984.
Millon earned his measure of revenge by notching a pair of goals and three assists, including one on Todd Oudemool's game-winner with 2: 47 to play.
Collins, who was deemed expendable when Baltimore (5-1) drafted Chris Sanderson out of Virginia, stopped 44 of 58 Baltimore shots, including Tim Hormes' would-be game-tying shot with six seconds left.
"We had a championship team," Millon said of last year's Baltimore NLL runner-up squad. "Things didn't work out for us, but we had some reason to come out here and step up."
"They wanted it worse than us tonight," said John Fay of the Thunder. "We just didn't answer the call."
Smash management had hyped last night's contest as "Family Feud Night," hoping to capitalize on the presumed battle between Gait and and his identical twin, Paul, of the Smash. Or maybe it was Fay and his brother Ed, who plays for Syracuse.
But with Gary sidelined, matters were settled by the supporting characters.
Syracuse (2-2) surprised the Thunder by sprinting to a 3-0 lead, a string that began just 30 seconds into the game, when Millon whipped in a shot.
The Thunder made up that ground by the end of the period, tying the game with 45 seconds to go in the quarter when Paul Cantabene took Sanderson's long lead pass and buried his chance behind Collins.
"It's frustrating," said Baltimore coach John Tucker. "We've sort of been hanging on [lately], and these one-goal games have a way of evening out. Syracuse deserved to win."
Thunder 3 5 4 2 -- 14
Syracuse 3 4 6 2 -- 15
Pub Date: 2/06/99