By Tim Panaccio, Inquirer Staff Writer
The Philadelphia Wings, who will meet the New York Saints in tonight’s Major Indoor Lacrosse League championship game at the Spectrum, might be a little rusty.
After all, it has been nearly a month since their last game, which was March 10.
“I’m a little concerned about the long layoff,” said Wings coach Dave Evans. “That and New York having such a tough game last week to prepare for this game.”
The Wings, Saints and Detroit Turbos finished the season with 6-2 records, but based on goal differentials and head-to-head play, the Wings were awarded first place. New York’s 9-8 double-overtime win at Detroit in the second-place tie-breaker game Saturday earned the Saints the right to defend their league title tonight at 8.
What was originally going to be a three-game series, however, has been shortened to the one-game title match by the league.
“I would have preferred three or, better yet, a best-of-seven,” said Evans. “It’s not hard getting them motivated for one game. In multiple-game series, the tendency is that if you screw up, there is always the next game. Here, they know . . . if we screw up, it’s over.”
Goalie Kevin Bilger should need no motivation. His 33.4 saves per game this season were second only to Turbos goalie Ted Sawiki (43.0). Bilger suffered a separated shoulder in the Wings’ final game, a 13-9 win over Washington in which he made 50 saves. He says the shoulder bothers him only occasionally.
“I’m feeling some added pressure in this game, but I realize that is part of my job,” said Bilger, who totaled 267 saves in eight games. “I try to look at it as a challenge rather than something to get over with.”
He figures to be kept busy, since the Saints peppered Sawiki with 61 shots in the tie-breaker game.
“New York outshot them something like 2-1 (61-34), and I have to question what kind of defense Detroit had that game,” said Bilger. “Everyone said I played great when I had 50 saves against Washington. I said my defense didn’t play well in front of me. I shouldn’t be making 50 saves. I’m hoping that won’t happen here.”
The Saints defeated the Wings, 20-16, on Jan. 28 in a game Evans described as a “sprint race.”
The Saints scored 104 goals this season, second only to the Wings (122). Four New York attackmen finished with 11 or more goals, led by Roddy Marino (13).
The Wings appear to have an edge offensively with three of the league’s top four point-scorers – Brad Kotz (44), John Tucker (35) and Andy Wilson (28). Kotz’s 28 goals helped the Wings post a 15.3 goals-per-game average this season. New York tied Detroit for best defense, allowing just 10.9 goals a game.
(Philadelphia Inquirer, April 7, 1989)