by DON BODOW
They just don’t know where to turn. When a team comes up against the Syracuse Stingers they come up against the best-balanced scoring offence in the National Lacrosse League. When a team has one-third of the top 12 scorers in the league on its roster, you know you have a real scoring threat on the floor.
The season started slowly for the Stingers, but as the team took shape under coach Medo Martinello, one could see the potential that existed in the lineup. Scoring success was expected from superstars Gaylord Powless and Jim Higgs with a good strong scoring punch from Pat Differ. Add to these three the offensive surprise of Paul Cioci and you have four of the NLL’s top scorers on one team.
Ranked No. 3 in league scoring and first for the Stingers (as of August 6) is Gaylord Powless. The sound of POW-less coming over the Onondago County War Memorial PA system is familiar to Syracuse fans. His stick handling and mobility on offence always lends an air of expectation to the Stingers…and the opposing goalie!
A determined winner, Powless is considered a team “turn-on” by his teammates. There is never a down time for Powless. From the time of dressing for the game to the post-game shower, he’s always enthusiastic, spurring the team on. “It’s great to have a team player like Gaylord as our leading scorer,” said Differ.
Jim Higgs, considered by many to be one of the top five box lacrosse players in Canada, started the season behind the bench for the Stingers. Jim’s coaching duties kept him off the playing floor as well as too busy to stay in top condition for his approaching playing time. After a slow start, he steadily moved up toward the top of the Stingers’ scoring roster. Higgs’ development into a scoring star took time, but eventually it showed in both the goal and assist columns. He established a team record for most assists in one game when he scored eight assists in the August 2 victory over Rochester. By the end of the first NLL season, Higgs could total more than 100 assists.
“Jim is no surprise to me,” said coach Martinello. “His record in Canadian lacrosse speaks for itself. Jim has the determination and desire to make him one of the great stars of the NLL. The guy’s ability and potential is just tremendous.”
One of the consistently strong and productive shooters in the National Lacrosse League is No. 7—Pat Differ. Diff has played in all but one of the Stingers games this season and leads the team (as of August 6) in assists.
“Pat’s one of the best left shots in the league,” said Martinello. “He’s always on the move, with or without the ball, posing a real threat on the floor.”
A native of Mississauga, Differ, 22, is another Stinger who may go well over the 100-assist mark this season. He also disproves the theory that size is the most important feature in box lacrosse. At 5-0, and 170 pounds, Pat is one of Syracuse’s most constant checkers.
“I learned box lacrosse [i]s a game you play both ways. I’m really pleased with my scoring this season, but I’ve always felt that the defensive part of my game was as important as the offensive,” said Differ. “We’ve got some good strong defencemen on our team, guys like Ken Alexander, Russ George, and Jim Miller, but they can’t do it all. I feel it’s very important for everybody on the floor to play a strong defensive game.”
The third leading Stinger scorer is Paul Cioci, Syracuse’s top goalgetter through August 7. Cioci is considered by many to be the biggest find of the season for Syracuse.
Paul always puts himself in a perfect shooting position on the floor. His stick handling and shooting prowess have put the ball behind the best goaltenders in the league. Shooting for an 85-goal season, Cioci has moved in and out of the league’s top 10 scorers several times.
“There hasn’t been a game when Paul hasn’t come through for us,” said coach Martinello. “His consistent style of play means a lot to his teammates, and especially to our goalies.”
Syracuse’s balanced scoring attack is reinforced by Bruce Murdock, who is the fifth Stinger with the potential to break the 100-point mark this season. Perhaps, the fastest man on the Stinger roster, Murdock holds the team record for the most goals in one game, scoring six on six shots against Montreal on July 12.
“Add to our top five scorers, shooters like Travis Cook and Robbie Patten and you can see the good strong even balance our offence has,” added Martinello. “All in all, we’ve got the balance and excitement needed for a good team.”