Thunder's Gait returns, leaves painful memory, 12-9 Forward scores 5 goals in Philly homecoming

January 17, 1998|By Brian Schiff | Brian Schiff,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

PHILADELPHIA -- It was the type of homecoming great athletes love.

In front of 12,289 of his former fans at the CoreStates Center, Thunder Hall of Fame forward Gary Gait saw the Wings and clipped them with five goals and one assist.

The Thunder (2-0) remained undefeated, beating the % 5/8 Philadelphia Wings, 12-9. It was the Wings' first loss after two road wins.

Gait made his mark on the sport in Philadelphia as a member of the Wings from 1993-97, earning first-team honors seven times and winning the league's Most Valuable Player Award the past three years.

"It certainly was a special feeling coming back here, and that we won the game made it truly a memorable night," said Gait, the league's leading scorer last season with 40 goals and 32 assists for 72 points. "I had a great career in Philadelphia and I hope it continues in Baltimore.

"But this was a total team effort, and I think we really won the game in the defensive end."

Despite the Thunder having played just one game, Gait was the league's leading scorer, picking up 12 points in the team's 23-13 season-opening win against the Syracuse Smash. Gait, from Syracuse University, demanded to be traded to Baltimore from Philadelphia in the off-season or threatened to sit out the season.

"Gary [Gait] and the rest of the team were really looking forward to this game and we're glad we played well," said Thunder coach John Tucker. "This certainly gives us something to build on for the rest of the season."

In a back-and-forth game, with the score tied at 7 midway through the third period, the Thunder got goals from Paul Cantabene and two by Gait to forge a 10-7 lead it would never lose.

It took Gait just 51 seconds to remind Philadelphia fans just what they would be missing when he scored against Wings goalie Dallas Eliuk. After Wings goals by Greg Traynor and Kevin Finneran, Gait tied the game at 2 on a short-handed goal.

Philadelphia got another goal from Paul O'Grady, but Andrew Ross scored for the Thunder to end the first period with a 3-3 tie.

In the second period, Tom Marechek gave the Wings a 4-3 lead, scoring on a breakaway, but Gait notched his third to tie the game again, 4-4. Bob Martino scored two straight goals to give the Thunder a 6-4 advantage.

(NLL standings, 8C)

Thunder tonight

Opponent: Ontario Raiders

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 8 Outlook: The Raiders (0-1), one of the National Lacrosse League's two expansion teams, took defending champion Rochester into overtime last weekend before bowing, 15-14. Colin Doyle led Ontario in its opener with four goals and one assist. Jim Veltman, a five-time All-Pro for Buffalo, grabbed a team-high eight ground balls. Thunder goalie Derek Collins played for the Brooklin Redmen of the Ontario Lacrosse Association last summer with several members of the Raiders, including forwards Rob Blasdell, Shawn Williams and Glenn Clark.

Pub Date: 1/17/98

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