The Baltimore Thunder will open preparations for its sixth season of play in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League when it faces the Detroit Turbos in an exhibition game tonight (8 o'clock) at the Rosemont (Ill.) Horizon.
The Thunder, which won the league championship in the MILL's first season, lost in the title game a year ago to Detroit, 14-12, after capturing the American Division crown. Detroit won the National Division last year.
Several players who helped coach John Stewart's Thunder to the division championship will not return. Goalie Jeff Gombar has decided to remain in British Columbia; forward Bart Aldrich has retired; Baltimore traded forward John Nostrant to the Philadelphia Wings for forwards Todd Curry (Syracuse) and John Holthaus (Loyola); and forward John Heil (Cornell) has signed with the New York Saints.
Steve Dietrich, a goalie from Canada who is expected to replace Gombar, has been signed and will arrive in town Monday. For tonight's game, veteran Tom Manos (Towson State) and rookie Charlie Toomey (Loyola) will share the goaltending.
Other new players on the Thunder, all rookies, include: faceoff man Fred Haas (Loyola), forward Tony Millon (Towson State), forward Tom Johnson (Loyola), forward Sean Smith (Loyola), forward Tony Morgan (Annapolis) and forward Lance Savage (Hobart).
Baltimore again will be in the American Division along with Philadelphia and New York. Detroit, led by the Gait brothers, Gary and Paul, will be in the National Division with the Pittsburgh Bulls, Boston Blazers and Buffalo Bandits, the new team in the league.
The Thunder, which will play an eight-game schedule, four home and four away, will begin its MILL regular season Dec. 27 at the Baltimore Arena against Boston, which was formerly New England.