BOSTON - Even at the age of 38, silver-haired Gary Gait will tell you that winning championships never gets old. He should know. He is the reigning authority on the subject.
Playing with the vigor of a rookie, Gait, the elder statesman of lacrosse, had six goals yesterday to lift the Bayhawks to their second Major League Lacrosse championship, with a convincing 15-9 win over the Long Island Lizards, before 6,829 at Boston University's Nickerson Field.
Gait becomes the first player to play on three MLL title winners, taking the first one as a midfielder with the Lizards in 2001, and again the next season as a player-coach with the Bayhawks.
Added to the pile of college (Syracuse) and indoor pro (National Lacrosse League) championship teams he has played on, you might think another one would be old hat to him.
"Oh, gosh, no," he said. "It's been three years. A long time. It feels good to be on top."
The Bayhawks took a 3-1 first-period lead and expanded it to 10-3 at halftime.
Gait fell one goal short of the championship game mark set by his twin brother, Paul, in 2001.
"The record I see," Gait said, "is three MLL championships. I'm very proud of that."
He's not alone.
Veteran attackman Tom Marechek, who also has college and NLL crowns in his trophy case, shared in the glow.
"It never, never gets old," said Marechek, who was rejuvenated this year with the addition of rookie Mikey Powell on one side, and the move by Gait from midfield to attack on the other. "This is a great relief. But we deserved it. We played the best all year. We were definitely the No. 1 team. No one was going to take it away today."
In the opening quarter, Gait and Powell sandwiched goals around a goal by Long Island's Tim Goettelmann.
Goaltending was important early, as the Bayhawks' Trevor Tierney made several eye-popping stops - including one on Blake Miller while the game was scoreless.
"I always feel [excited] going into a big game," Tierney said. "That first quarter is key. If you can make a couple saves and help your team get a lead, you're going to be much better off."
Lizards goalie Greg Cattrano replied on the other end but allowed a goal by Jeff Sonke with four seconds left in the quarter. As it turned out, the effect was huge.
The Bayhawks followed with four goals in the first 6:49 of the second quarter, with Gait having the first two.
Both goals were vintage Gait. His head fake on Cattrano made it 4-1 with 2:03 gone. He followed that 1:08 later with a well-placed spinning backhand. "He's phenomenal," said Cattrano, who backstopped the Bayhawks to the title in 2002. "You never know what's coming at you. It's been a pleasure playing against him."
Gait, who confirmed that he'll play in the MLL again next year, said moving from midfield to attack has given him new life.
"That was a lot of fun this year," he said, "especially as a rookie attack. Especially to have a chance to play with Mikey and Tom, I think we developed some great chemistry. You see it out there."
The Bayhawks defense did its part, not allowing Long Island to score back-to-back goals in the first half. That allowed Baltimore to put this championship away.
"We put together the best team in the MLL," Gait said, "and we proved it in the playoffs."
Long Island 1 2 3 3 9
Bayhawks 3 7 3 2 15
Goals: LI-Goettelmann 2, Haugen 2, Miller 2, Berger, Jalbert, Massey; B-Gait 6, Powell 3, Sims, Curry, Marechek, Sonke, Pfarr, Cocchi. Assists: LI-Berger, Denihan, Goettelmann; B-Sims 2, Cook, Curry, Marechek, Powell, Prout. Saves: LI-Cattrano 17; B-Tierney 16.