Gait, Thunder roar in opener His 7 goals, 5 assists power 23-13 romp

January 04, 1998|By Steven Kivinski | Steven Kivinski,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The Thunder rolled into last night's season opener against the Syracuse Smash sporting a new logo, a new owner and a new weapon.

The new weapon is what most of the 2,953 who came to the Baltimore Arena wanted to see. And Gary Gait gave them a show.

Playing in the National Lacrosse League debut, Gait, a seven-time All-Pro, scored seven goals and had five assists as the Thunder leveled Syracuse, 23-13.

"Gary makes me a much better coach," Thunder coach John Tucker said with a laugh. "He's a tremendous player but he's also a team guy. There's not a selfish bone in his body."

The Smash, an expansion team with Gary's twin brother, Paul, as its marquee player, proved no match for the Thunder, one of the original four teams in the defunct Major Indoor Lacrosse League.

The Thunder, which was awarded a five-minute power play to start the second half because of a halftime altercation, put the game away in the third quarter with 10 goals, including eight in a row to start the period.

"Syracuse has a lot of Canadians on their team with a lot more box and indoor lacrosse experience than we have. But our heart and hustle really paid off for us," said Gary Gait. "In the second quarter, we were getting caught up the floor a lot and they were getting a lot of easy opportunities, but we refocused on defense and turned things around."

Gary Gait didn't make Thunder fans wait long to see what he could do. Gait found the net 10 seconds into the game before his brother one-upped him with back-to-back goals that gave the Smash a 2-1 lead with 9: 01 left in the first quarter.

Timmy Hormes answered Paul Gait's second goal 55 seconds later to tie the game, and Tom Ryan put the Thunder back out front when he converted a feed from Jude Collins.

Ryan closed out the first quarter by finishing a breakaway and giving the Thunder a 5-3 lead.

The Gait brothers, who were featured in a poster that was given to fans, had a hand in six of the eight first-quarter goals.

The Thunder scored three straight goals to start the second quarter. Gary Gait again opened the scoring, 49 seconds into the period, and Kip Fulks added an unassisted goal 44 seconds later.

Goalie Derek Collins (29 saves) set up the Thunder's next goal by hitting Gary Gait in stride for his fourth goal.

The Smash scored four straight goals to cut the lead to one

before Fulks, whose shot has been clocked at 105 mph, whizzed one past Syracuse keeper Marty O'Neill (19 saves) to give the Thunder a 9-7 lead at the half.

Pub Date: 1/04/98

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