By Bill Fleischman, Daily News Sports Writer
With the Philadelphia Wings in town to play the New England Blazers for the Major Indoor Lacrosse League title last night, the near-sellout crowd of 11,479 in the Centrum was eager, to put it mildly. There hadn’t been this much excitement in this central Massachusetts city since Gordie Lockbaum played football at Holy Cross.
Rock music blared over the public address system and the New England fans taunted the small but noisy delegation of Wings fans.
It isn’t every night that a championship game is played in Worcester. The Blazers had won six consecutive games in the Centrum. They were primed and their fans were, too.
By midway in the first half, however, the crowd was as quiet as a philosophy class at Holy Cross. And by midway in the fourth quarter, half the fans were on their way home.
Led by Brad Kotz (four goals, four assists) and Todd Curry (three goals, one assist) the Wings became the first MILL team to win back-to-back championships as they stuck it to the Blazers, 17-9.
“I told our players,” Wings coach Dave Evans said later, “that when I played, there was no better sound in the world than to go into a visiting arena and have a silent building. Realistically, we had the fans out of it by the middle of the second quarter.”
The Wings overcame three early New England one-goal leads to go on top, 5-3, on consecutive goals by Ricky Fried, Andy Wilson and Mark Hahn. After two goals by Curry helped increase the Wings lead to 7-4 late in the second period, a power play goal by John Fay, the Blazers’ all-league forward, with 21 seconds remaining before halftime made the Wings squirm.
But just eight seconds later, Chris Flynn, the former University of Pennsylvania football and lacrosse player, scored off a faceoff to give Philadelphia an 8-5 advantage.
“Flynner’s goal was probably the biggest goal of the game,” said Evans. ”There’s a big difference in confidence between 7-5 and 8-5 at halftime.”
The Blazers scored first in the third period, but then Kotz tallied twice around an unassisted goal by John Conley to put the Wings in command, 11-6.
Kotz and Curry are the Wings’ Syracuse connection. They were teammates for the Orangemen’s national lacrosse power after also playing together in high school.
Although Kotz was inconsistent during the MILL’s eight-game regular season, he was a key factor in Philadelphia’s semifinal victory over New York a week ago. The Wings expect the all-league performer to contribute in big games.
“We did some things offensively,” Evans said, “that we thought would get the ball in Brad’s stick more often. We double-shifted him for the better part of the second half. We also tried to run our offense a bit deeper, so we could get Brad cutting off the ball and get the good high-percentage shot.”
With strained knee ligaments again preventing John Tucker, the Wings other all-MILL selection, from playing last night, other players had to step up. Curry was one who ran to the rescue, which didn’t surprise Kotz.
“He’s the best cutter we’ve got,” Kotz said. “And he’s got great legs.”
Both Kotz and Evans said a major motivation last night was the realization that the championship game was the last time many of the players will wear the Wings’ silver, black and red. The team that has been intact for the last three seasons is aging and younger players will be sought.
“We had an up-and-down season,” Kotz said. “For us to pull together and beat New York, then come up here and maybe play the best game we’ve played in a couple of years is pretty exciting. You always remember the first one (championship), but this is pretty nice, too.”
While both New England goalies, starter John Yeager and second-half shot- stopper Dan O’Neill, struggled, Dwight Maetche played his second solid game in a row for the Wings. Maetche was at his best during a second-quarter Blazers power play when, with the Wings leading by 5-3, he made four saves.
“That wasn’t Dwight’s best game,” said Evans, “but he made the big saves when we needed them.”
For his effort, Maetche and the rest of the Wings collected a $200 bonus. That’s it: $200 extra for winning a championship. That’s road-trip tip money for many $1 million-a-year major league baseball players.
They would never understand these guys who play lacrosse because they love it.
(Philadelphia Daily News, April 14, 1990)