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1998 Archive

Below is a collection of standings, results, statistics, award winners, and season summaries from the 1998 National Lacrosse League season, archived for our visitors' convenience.


Final Regular Season Standings
Team                     W  L   Pct  GB   GF  GA  Streak
x Philadelphia Wings     9  3  .750  --  166 148  Lost 1
x Baltimore Thunder      8  4  .667   1  184 160  Won  2
x Rochester Knighthawks  6  6  .500   3  168 159  Lost 4
x Buffalo Bandits        6  6  .500   3  166 171  Won  3
  Ontario Raiders        6  6  .500   3  165 157  Won  2
  New York Saints        5  7  .416   4  167 165  Lost 1
  Syracuse Smash         2 10  .167   7  163 219  Lost 4

x: clinched playoff berth


Week-By-Week Results
Winning teams in bold
Week One:
Sat 3 Jan Philadelphia 14 @ Buffalo 12 Sat 3 Jan Syracuse 13 @ Baltimore 23 Sat 3 Jan Rochester 15 @ Ontario 14 OT

Week Two:
Fri 8 Jan Philadelphia 15 @ New York 8 Sat 9 Jan Syracuse 12 @ Rochester 17

Week Three:
Fri 15 Jan Baltimore 12 @ Philadelphia 9 Fri 15 Jan Rochester 11 @ New York 9 Sat 16 Jan Rochester 12 @ Syracuse 14 Sat 16 Jan New York 12 @ Buffalo 16 Sat 16 Jan Ontario 10 @ Baltimore 11 OT

Week Four:
Sat 24 Jan Philadelphia 17 @ Syracuse 15 Sat 24 Jan New York 11 @ Ontario 13

Week Five:
Fri 30 Jan Baltimore 20 @ Syracuse 11 Sat 31 Jan Syracuse 10 @ New York 23 Sat 31 Jan Buffalo 6 @ Rochester 15 Sat 31 Jan Philadelphia 15 @ Baltimore 9

Week Six:
Sat 7 Feb Buffalo 9 @ Philadelphia 15 Sat 7 Feb Ontario 9 @ Rochester 14

Week Seven:
Fri 13 Feb Syracuse 11 @ Philadelphia 14 Fri 13 Feb Ontario 10 @ New York 11 Sat 14 Feb Buffalo 15 @ Baltimore 20

Week Eight:
Fri 20 Feb Rochester 15 @ Buffalo 16 OT Sat 21 Feb New York 17 @ Syracuse 19 Sat 21 Feb Buffalo 15 @ Ontario 17

Week Nine:
Sat 28 Feb Rochester 15 @ Baltimore 14 Sat 28 Feb Buffalo 14 @ New York 13 Sat 28 Feb Philadelphia 12 @ Ontario 11 OT

Week Ten:
Sat 7 Mar Syracuse 11 @ Ontario 15 Sat 7 Mar Baltimore 12 @ Buffalo 10

Week Eleven:
Fri 13 Mar Baltimore 14 @ Ontario 17 Sat 14 Mar Ontario 12 @ Buffalo 14 Sat 14 Mar New York 16 @ Rochester 10

Week Twelve:
Sat 21 Mar New York 15 @ Philadelphia 14

Week Thirteen:
Fri 27 Mar Ontario 22 @ Syracuse 21 OT Sat 28 Mar Rochester 12 @ Philadelphia 13 OT Sat 28 Mar Baltimore 16 @ New York 17 OT

Week Fourteen:
Sat 4 Apr Buffalo 20 @ Syracuse 16 Sat 4 Apr New York 15 @ Baltimore 17 Sat 4 Apr Philadelphia 20 @ Rochester 19 OT

Week Fifteen:
Sat 11 Apr Ontario 15 @ Philadelphia 8 Sat 11 Apr Syracuse 10 @ Buffalo 19 Sat 11 Apr Baltimore 16 @ Rochester 13

NLL Semifinals:
Sat 18 Apr Buffalo 12 @ Philadelphia 17 Sun 19 Apr Rochester 14 @ Baltimore 15

NLL Finals:
(Best-of-three series)
Sun 26 Apr Baltimore 12 @ Philadelphia 16 Tue 28 Apr Philadelphia 17 @ Baltimore 12


Statistical Leaders

Scoring Leaders                     GP    G    A   Pts
 1. Gary Gait, Baltimore            12   57   28    85
 2. Darris Kilgour, Buffalo         12   37   29    66
 3. Kevin Finneran, Philadelphia    12   28   37    65
 4. Colin Doyle, Ontario            12   34   27    61
 5. Tom Marechek, Philadelphia      12   31   30    61
 6. Mark Millon, New York           12   40   18    58
 7. John Tavares, Buffalo            9   31   25    56
 8. Chris Prat, Syracuse            12   18   38    56
 9. Russ Heard, Ontario              9   21   34    55
10. Paul Gait, Syracuse             11   28   23    51


Goals Scored                                     Goals
 1. Gary Gait, Baltimore                            57
 2. Mark Millon, New York                           40
 3. Darris Kilgour, Buffalo                         37
 4. Colin Doyle, Ontario                            34
 5. John Tavares, Buffalo                           31
    Chris Gill, Ontario                             31
    Tom Marechek, Philadelphia                      31


Assists                                        Assists
 1. Jim Veltman, Ontario                            40
 2. Chris Prat, Syracuse                            38
 3. Kevin Finneran, Philadelphia                    37
 4. Russ Heard, Ontario                             34
    Tom Carmean, New York                           34
    Bob Martino, Baltimore                          34


Points Per Game                        GP   Pts    PPG
 1. Gary Gait, Baltimore               12    85   7.08
 2. John Tavares, Buffalo               9    56   6.22
 3. Russ Heard, Ontario                 9    55   6.11
 4. Darris Kilgour, Buffalo            12    66   5.50
 5. Kevin Finneran, Philadelphia       12    65   5.42
 (minimum 9 games played)


Loose Balls Recovered                      Loose Balls
 1. Jim Veltman, Ontario                           194
 2. Matt Oglesby, Philadelphia                     102
 3. Gary Gait, Baltimore                            84
 4. John Tavares, Buffalo                           80
 5. Rich Kilgour, Buffalo                           78


Goals Against Average            Minutes    GA     GAA
 1. Steve Dietrich, Rochester        464    91   11.77
 2. Bob Watson, Ontario              574   115   12.02
 3. Dallas Eliuk, Philadelphia       636   133   12.55
 4. Pat O'Toole, Buffalo             369    78   12.68
 5. Derek Collins, Baltimore         645   141   13.12
 (minimum 360 minutes)


Save Percentage                    Shots  Saves   Pct.
 1. Steve Dietrich, Rochester        411    320   .779
 2. Dallas Eliuk, Philadelphia       568    435   .766
 3. Bob Watson, Ontario              485    370   .763
 4. Derek Collins, Baltimore         528    387   .733
 5. Pat O'Toole, Buffalo             289    211   .730
 (minimum 360 minutes)


Winning Percentage                 Wins  Losses   Pct.
 1. Dallas Eliuk, Philadelphia        8       3   .727
 2. Derek Collins, Baltimore          7       3   .700
 3. Steve Dietrich, Rochester         5       3   .625
 4. Pat O'Toole, Buffalo              4       3   .571
 5. Bob Watson, Ontario               5       5   .500
    Dwight Maetche, New York          4       4   .500
 (minimum 6 decisions)


Other Statistical Categories:
Penalty Min:    Pat Coyle, Ontario                  48
Shots on Goal:  Gary Gait, Baltimore               156
PP Goals:       Darris Kilgour, Buffalo             16
SH Goals:       Gary Gait, Baltimore                 6
GW Goals:       Eric Seremet, New York               3 (tie)
                Gary Gait, Baltimore                 3 (tie)
                Tom Marechek, Philadelphia           3 (tie)
Faceoffs Won:   Rodney Tapp, Syracuse              209
Faceoff Pct:    Rodney Tapp, Syracuse             63.0 *

* Minimum 150 faceoffs taken


Award Winners

Most Valuable Player:      Gary Gait, Baltimore
Rookie of the Year:        Colin Doyle, Ontario
Championship Series MVP:   Dallas Eliuk, Philadelphia
  • Game One MVP:          Dallas Eliuk, Philadelphia
  • Game Two MVP:          Bill Miller, Philadelphia

1998 NLL All-Pro Teams:
   First Team:
      Kevin Finneran, Philadelphia
      Gary Gait, Baltimore
      Darris Kilgour, Buffalo
      Mark Millon, New York
      John Tavares, Buffalo
      Dallas Eliuk, Philadelphia (goalie)
   Second Team:
      Colin Doyle, Ontario
      Paul Gait, Syracuse
      Duane Jacobs, Rochester
      Tom Marechek, Philadelphia
      Jim Veltman, Ontario
      Bob Watson, Ontario (goalie)

Player of the Month:
   January:                Gary Gait, Philadelphia
   February:               Darris Kilgour, Buffalo
   March:                  Mark Millon, New York

Rookie of the Month:
   January:                Curt Malawsky, Rochester
   February:               Jake Bergey, Philadelphia
   March:                  Colin Doyle, Ontario

Player of the Week:
   Week  1: (    3 Jan)    Gary Gait, Baltimore
   Week  2: ( 9-10 Jan)    Andy Piazza, Philadelphia
   Week  3: (16-17 Jan)    Derek Collins, Baltimore
   Week  4: (   24 Jan)    Chris Gill, Ontario
   Week  5: (30-31 Jan)    Eric Seremet, New York
   Week  6: (    7 Feb)    Tom Marechek, Philadelphia
   Week  7: (13-14 Feb)    Gary Gait, Baltimore
   Week  8: (20-21 Feb)    Darris Kilgour, Buffalo
   Week  9: (   28 Feb)    Derek General, Rochester
   Week 10: (    7 Mar)    Russ Heard, Ontario
   Week 11: (13-14 Mar)    Colin Doyle, Ontario
   Week 12: (   21 Mar)    Steve Sombrotto, New York
   Week 13: (27-28 Mar)    Mark Millon, New York
   Week 14: (    4 Apr)    John Tavares, Buffalo
   Week 15: (   11 Apr)    Bob Watson, Ontario


1998 Season Summaries
(from Outsider's Guide team pages)

Baltimore Thunder

Some might say the Baltimore Thunder's best season was 1987, the year the team won the Eagle League (predecessor to MILL) championship. Others, though, point to this past season, when the team reached the NLL championship series after a remarkable franchise-best campaign.

The Thunder were coming off a miserable last place finish (2-8) from 1997, and were written off by most as dead. No big additions meant the same old cast and crew. Lightning struck for Baltimore after the Boston Blazers suspended operations for the season, as several Blazers defected, soon joined by the league's franchise player, Gary Gait, who orchestrated a trade out of Philadelphia.

Baltimore opened the season by hosting the expansion Syracuse Smash, led by Gait's brother, Paul. Expected to be a clash of playoff contenders, the Thunder dismissed Syracuse with a 23-13 drubbing. Baltimore ran off four victories to begin 1998, then fell at home to Philadelphia.

The loss sent the Thunder staggering through the middle of their twelve game schedule, including a devastating loss to Rochester in the infamous "Border Gestapo" game, in which over a dozen Knighthawks were stranded in Canada due to incomplete work visas. Baltimore was able to take the final two games, including a rematch with Rochester, to finish 8-4, in second place headed into the playoffs.

Ironically, it was Rochester who the Thunder drew in the first round. In a Sunday afternoon game at Baltimore Arena, a fading Knighthawk squad fell 16-13, launching the Thunder into their first championship game/series in seven years. Once there, Baltimore faced a much more difficult challenge in Philadelphia, as the Wings were dominant when they had to be, sweeping the Thunder (16-12 and 17-12) for the inaugural NLL Champion's Cup.



Boston Blazers

There's not much that can be said about the Blazers' 1998 season -- there wasn't one.

Citing extreme difficulties in remaining financially stable enough to operate, keeping dates it had reserved at FleetCenter due to a drawn-out labor dispute that threatened this past season's existence, and advertising itself following the strike, the Blazers requested and received a one-year suspension of operations.

Ironically, it was the proposed exclusion of Boston for these financial concerns that contributed to the strike extending further towards the NLL's Opening Night. The players, angry at losing two game checks if Boston were excluded from the league, refused to report to their respective preseason camps. Only when FleetCenter told the Blazers it could no longer hold the game dates as "tentative" did the players acquiesce.

The Blazers were expected to return to the league in 1999, but this was not the case. No ideas have yet been floated as to how the team's roster would be restocked (by expansion draft, ability to reclaim players who left to play elsewhere, etc.), and the ownership of the team remains in question.



Buffalo Bandits

"Good things come to those who wait," an old clichè says. For patient fans of the Buffalo Bandits, they got to see their team snatch a playoff berth right out of thin air after a horrible start.

The Bandits and the Philadelphia Wings, two teams whose players (and fans) come out for war at every meeting, hooked up on opening night at Marine Midland Arena. In what can be reasonably be called a mild upset, the "rebuilding" Wings prevailed, 14-12. The next time out for the Bandits, 14 days later, ended in a different fate, as Buffalo evened their record on the backs of the New York Saints, 16-12.

But the Bandits did not escape the game with New York without a serious injury. John Tavares, a cornerstone of the Bandit franchise since its inception in 1992, was lost for five weeks with a torn ligament. In his absence, the Bandits limped and staggered to three straight losses, including a 15-6 loss at Rochester that was the lowest scoring output by any team in 1998.

Tavares returned for the rematch with Rochester, and dominated, scoring the game-winner in a 16-15 overtime victory. However, the following night in Ontario, a key matchup in the race for the fourth and final playoff berth, Buffalo stumbled, 17-15. After splitting their next two games (a win at New York and a loss to Baltimore), Buffalo sat at 3-6, dangling close to their worst season in franchise history.

With many Bandits fans reluctantly set to throw in the towel, what did Buffalo do? It beat Ontario, 14-12, in a game that was requisite for any fleeting Buffalo chances. This set up an interesting end to the season, as the Bandits would close with two games against the last-place Syracuse Smash. Two wins, plus a little help, would send the Bandits playoff-bound, probably to Philadelphia to play the Wings. Sure enough, the Bandits did win both ends of the home-and-home and booked a trip to Philadelphia for the semifinals.

In their effort to reach their sixth championship game in seven years, the Bandits fought hard -- for three quarters, that is. After playing tight for 45 minutes, the Wings pulled away in the fourth and sent Buffalo packing.



New York Saints

The New York Saints had a good season in 1997, having qualified for a playoff date with Buffalo. By all accounts, the Saints were well-positioned to distance themselves from a disastrous 2-8 season in 1996. While the Saints' final three months of 1998 kept them in playoff contention, January was the Saints' personal devil.

The last team to start its season, the Saints began a half-step behind the leaders they expected to be running with for the most of the year. And indeed, the club caught a break in its opener when Philadelphia goaltender Dallas Eliuk left early with a concussion. The Saints couldn't convert their good luck into a victory, though, losing 15-8.

After four weeks, the Saints were staring at four losses and nary a win. Finally, on 31 January at the Nassau Coliseum, New York exploded. Playing a Syracuse team that had been routed the night before by Baltimore, the Saints demolished the Smash, 23-10. Two weeks later, New York won again, a narrow 11-10 victory over Ontario.

After the first victory, the Saints became the only team this season to change coaches mid-season, as Vinnie Pfiefer moved up to the position of General Manager, officially handing the coaching reins to Norman Engleke and John Philips. However, Pfeifer remained much in control of the team, as the Saints were rallying back into contention.

Consecutive losses in a re-match with Syracuse and a home game against the Bandits sent the Saints backwards into a last-place tie. After an extra week of preparation, New York went on a March tear, defeating in consecutive weeks Rochester, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, the three top teams in the league (the first two coming on the road).

Once again in striking distance of a playoff berth, the Saints did as they did earlier in the season -- let the opportunity slide right past them. By dropping the back end of the home-and-home series with Baltimore, New York killed any chances it still had, finishing 5-7 and in sixth place.



Ontario Raiders

Before the season, the Ontario Raiders weren't considered all that much of a contender. Sure, they had young wunderkind Colin Doyle and loose ball vacuum Jim Veltman, but they weren't given much credit. It was their expansion brethren in Syracuse that were expected to be the contenders, if one developed out of the pair. Those expectations failed to hold true.

The Raiders lived up to the expansion stereotype of a team that struggles to unify, dropping their first two games (both overtime losses) enroute to a 2-5 start. Luckily for Ontario, their poor start was nullified by the poorer starts of other teams, including expected title contender Buffalo. The Raiders found themselves right in the thick of the playoff chase at the end of February, a half-game back of the fourth-place Bandits.

The race was on, as Buffalo and Ontario went neck-and-neck for the final playoff spot over much of the last eight weeks, with New York making cameo appearances here and there. On 14 March, the 4-5 Raiders visited the 3-6 Bandits in a game that meant a big lead for Ontario if it won, and a dead heat if Buffalo prevailed. The Bandits squeaked out a 14-12 victory, but the Raiders jumped back out two weeks later by defeating Syracuse 22-21 in overtime.

The final week of the season turned into a three-horse race as Rochester slid back to the pack. Ontario's chances for a playoff berth didn't hinge as much on a Buffalo loss as they did on a Rochester win. If Buffalo and Ontario tied alone for fourth place, the Raiders would have won the tiebreaker on goal differential throughout the season.

However, while Buffalo trounced on Syracuse and Ontario lucked into a lackluster Wings performance, the Knighthawks lost to Baltimore. The three-way tie for third (at 6-6) sent Ontario home on head-to-head among the three (3-1 for Rochester, 2-2 for Buffalo, 1-3 for Ontario). Raiders fans point to the team's poor overtime record (1-3) as the ultimate destroyer of the team's playoff chances. However, the team showed a cohesiveness growing over the course of the season that is encouraging for the upcoming 1999 season.

After the 1998 season, the Raiders were purchased by a group of investors led by Toronto Maple Leafs executive Bill Watters and were relocated to Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.



Philadelphia Wings

For the Philadelphia Wings, it was their winningest season ever. Nine wins, in fact, was more than any other league team had ever won in a season. So what better way could there have been to cap the season than with a championship? That's exactly what they did, sweeping the Baltimore Thunder to claim the inaugural NLL Champions Cup.

Philadelphia's season began on a bad note with the defection of the team's marquee player, Gary Gait, to the rival Thunder. Nevertheless, the Wings were able to defeat a supposedly-stronger Buffalo Bandit team to start the season, up at the unfriendly confines of Marine Midland Arena.

The following week, the Wings received more tough news when all-pro goalie Dallas Eliuk was lost to a concussion, against the New York Saints. Reserve Andy Piazza fortunately was able to keep Philadelphia running strong, and Eliuk returned to goal the following week.

Following a loss to Baltimore in the home opener, the Wings returned to the road (four of the first five were away from CoreStates Center) to begin a five-game winning streak. By the time the streak ended, on 21 March at the hands of the Saints, the Wings had already clinched a playoff berth.

Hosting the Bandits in the league semifinals, the Wings and Buffalo fought hard for three periods before the Wings put it away, 17-12. In the finals, which for the first time was expanded from one game to a best-of-three, the Wings took game one at home, then finished the sweep two nights later at Baltimore Arena in a rare Tuesday night game. For Philadelphia, it marked their fifth title in only twelve years of existence.



Rochester Knighthawks

For the Rochester Knighthawks, it was a great season gone awry. After winning its first three games and shooting out to a league-leading 5-1 record by early February, trouble struck Rochester in some incredible ways.

Having traded away Paul Gait to Syracuse (like brother Gary, Paul wanted to play closer to home), the Knighthawks opened as seemingly a weaker team. Tell that to the Ontario Raiders, who lost an overtime stunner to Rochester in its first-ever game. Tell that to Syracuse, who were downed the following week, or New York, which suffered a similar fate. For even without Paul Gait, Rochester still had the one player who could carry the team on his shoulders -- goaltender Steve Dietrich.

But not even Dietrich, the model of dependability for the Rochester franchise, could survive the season. He was felled in mid-March on a freak play against the New York Saints, in which an official raised his hand seemingly to call a penalty, but rather simply to reset the shot clock. In his race to reposition himself in the goal, Dietrich twisted his knee on the artificial turf of the War Memorial and tore his ACL. Backup goaltender Derek General, who capably handled an emergency start earlier in the season, couldn't rally the troops, as the Saints won the game 16-10.

One of the more infamous moments in Knighthawk history came in Baltimore two weeks earler, on 28 February, when over a dozen players and head coach Paul Day were trapped in Canada. Due to a paperwork error, none of them had the proper visas to work in the United States. Playing with only the American and dual-citizenship Indigenous portions of their roster, along with a few emergency pickups, the Knighthawks employed a short bench and upset the suddenly heavily-favored Thunder, 15-14. The following game was the aforementioned Dietrich injury, which started a long slide in which the Knighthawks failed to win again all season.

After the four-game skid, Rochester found itself in third place to end the regular season but miraculously holding a playoff berth. The Knighthawks trekked down to Baltimore, site of their last victory. Even with the surprisingly-early return of Dietrich, Rochester fell, 15-14, to the Thunder, ending what was undoubtedly the strangest season the team, if not MILL/NLL, had ever experienced.



Syracuse Smash

The experts had great predictions for the first-year Syracuse Smash in 1998. With Paul Gait leading the offense and ex-Blazer Marty O'Neill manning the goal, the Smash were expected to contend for the league title in the franchise's first season. That was not to be, however.

Syracuse's run for the 1998 NLL title began in Baltimore, where the Smash played the Thunder. Marketed as "Gait vs. Gait," because Baltimore's new top gun was Paul's brother Gary, the game was expected to be close. It wasn't: Baltimore won, 23-13.

By the time the Smash won their first game, on 17 January against Rochester, they were deep in a hole in the second division. They never once were in the top half of the standings all year. Surprise led to disappointment led to total shock as a team even the naysayers thought would at least contend for the final playoff spot tumbled to last place for good by the end of the first month.

O'Neill struggling, the Smash turned to backup Jimmy Rankin to tend goal. Rankin began his term as the starter on a good note, but quickly turned as sour as O'Neill had.

By the time the Smash had won a second game, it was close to March; 21 February, to be exact. By this point, it was too late for a run at a playoff bid. The promise shown by the Smash is encouraging -- while championships may still be far away, vast improvement could be right around the corner.


Page altered 5 June 1999 to include season summaries of each team.

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