PHILADELPHIA -- Baltimore Thunder coach John Stewart said it all began to go wrong for his team midway through the season.
"That's when our mentality changed from mostly a finesse teato a team that took too many costly penalties and didn't play smart," said Stewart last night, after the Thunder was eliminated from the Major Indoor Lacrosse League playoffs by the Philadelphia Wings before 10,185 at the Spectrum.
John Tucker and the Wings made the Thunder pay for 23 penaltminutes last night, scoring three power-play goals on the way to a 14-12 victory in an opening-round game.
The Wings will meet the New York Saints on Saturday night athe Nassau Coliseum, and the Thunder will go home to think about a disappointing season.
Tucker scored five goals and had four assists in another one ohis big shows against the Thunder. It was the last game that Tucker will play against Baltimore. He is retiring after six seasons indoor play.
In the past five MILL seasons, Tucker and the Wings havbeaten the Thunder 14 times in 17 games.
No one knows better than Stewart what kind of damage Tuckecan do, but his players were unable to stop him.
"We know what Tucker is going to do," said Stewart. "And hcomes out and does it. You have to be aware all the time where he is. He had a hand in everything they did on offense."
However, Thunder goalie Tom Manos said his team should havbeen able to outscore Tucker and the Wings.
"When we let up 14 goals, we should win," said Manos, whannounced that he had played his last MILL game. After five seasons, Manos said, "It's time for me to get on with my life" as a medical supply representative.
Manos kept the game close most of the way with somoutstanding saves, but it seemed as if the Wings caught fire after a third-quarter brawl between Baltimore's Jim Huelskamp and Philadelphia's Paul Deniken.
The players exchanged a flurry of punches for about 30 secondbefore being separated by the officials. Deniken went running triumphantly to the penalty box after knocking off Huelskamp's helmet and the crowd roared its approval.
Baltimore..... 4... 2... 1... 5... --... 12
Philadelphia.. 3... 4... 3... 4... --... 14