The big, bad Maryland Arrows, the most improved team in the National Lacrosse League at the close of last year, figure to be even better this season. In their first pre-season game, they played an outstanding game and defeated the Long Island Tomahawks, 15-9, at the Washington (D. C.) Coliseum. The Arrows once again will be led by Paul Suggate, the NLL’s most valuable player last year. Other key veterans returning include Bill Coghill, Ken Henderson, Greg Marchen, John McKenna, Wayne Granger and the one and only “villain,” Gord Keates. Several Arrows have retired. Among them are goalie Roger Williams, veteran defenseman Jerry McKenna, forward Pat Ryan and another defenseman Mike Finegan.
Despite these losses, Arrows’ coach Cy Coombes has filled in his ranks with some very shrewd draft choices. The top one is first round pick Greg Thomas, a goalie who played at Vancouver, B. C. last year. Thomas should more than make up for the departure of Williams, who also improved to be one of the NLL’s top goaltenders at the end of the season. If your memory fails you, Williams is the same goalie who dropped four one-goal games to the Wings in the Nations Trophy semi-final playoffs. Other draft choices Coombes is counting on are: Bill Bradley, the veteran defenseman who played at Montreal last year, and Brian Tasker, a highly-rated junior from Vancouver.
Suggate, a 26-year-old native of Toronto, led the NLL in scoring with 239 points on 115 goals and 124 assists in 40 games. Coghill finished eighth with 149 points and Henderson ranked 16th with 117 points. The Arrows really didn’t start to turn things around last year until Coombes took over as head coach from Paul Clancy in mid-season. Coombes, a standout left-handed crease man for the Mann Cup champion Peterborough Lakers in 1973, got the team moving almost immediately. In fact, the Arrows finished so strongly they just missed second place with their 22-18 mark as compared to Rochester’s (Long Island) 22-17-1 log.
The Wings are very much aware that the Arrows will be a tough foe this year, which is a healthy sign for the future of the NLL because the rivalry between these teams should be an intense one for this year and years to come.