By RICK WHEELER
The Syracuse Stingers pro box lacrosse team, with sparkling tri color jerseys, newly- appointed assistant captains, a fiery young coach and an abundance of team spirit, open their National Lacrosse league season tonight at the Rochester War Memorial against the Rochester Griffins.
The Stingers will open their home schedule Sunday at 8 p.m. at the Onondaga County War Memorial against the Maryland Arrows.
The bright red, white and gold uniforms seemed to match the team’s personality last night at Le Moyne Manor as team officials, interim coach Jim Higgs and the entire roster could barely wait for tonight’s faceoff.
Assistant captains Gaylord Powless, Pat Differ and Bruce Todman. named Thursday morning, seem to be just what Higgs has ordered ion of scoring, stamina and leadership—as prep for their 40-game NLL regular season schedule.
Higgs, who has stressed getting his group into shape in the pre-season, said. “We could be the fastest team in the league. We move. We’ll put the ball on goal. “In one of our pre-season games, we took 26 shots in the first period with what I like to call our fast break offense. The 30-second clock may bother some teams, but with our setup, we should get off three or four before the shot clock expires.”
Higgs explained that he’ll have his team set up in a 2-2-1 offense, with two men on the crease, two more further out past the faceoff circle, and his “prime shooter” between the points at the blue line, similar to a hockey power play.
Powless, with his great scoring ability, will be one of the “shooters” .that Higgs will depend on. and his attitude is the one that seems to permeate the entire club.
“Rochester Is a fast-breaking team, like us. but I think we can outmisde them in the coners aid move the ball around, because I’d like to think we’re bungler than they are. We really want to get flying”, he said. “We have an abundance of talent, probably the three best goalies in the league (Bob McCready. Brian Cuddy and Alfie Jacques) and a real leader in Jimmy.”
Differ’s thoughts were similar. “On paper we’re probably one of the three best teams in the league, but we’ve got to want it. “And Jimmy? I’ve never seen a smarter lacrosse player. a more complete player, a more clever player. Playing against him is frustrating, with him he’s a great source of inspiration.’’
Todman boiled it down by saying “We like to think that we have a good team and can do everything needed to win. The teams that are successful, though, will be the ones with heart, so we’ve got to do well.”
To a man the Stingers sounded optimistic. Syracuse lost two exhibition games to the Griffins, one by a goal and the other by three when Syracuse’s top six draft picks did not play. By the gleam in Higgs eye, It was evident that he was anxious to finally put his first line club on the floor for 60 minutes.
Higgs will be a great on-the-floor asset to Syracuse, but he can’t start winding up until Richie Moran officially lakes over as coach. Moran’s Cornell team, fourth-rated in the nation, will play a first-round NCAA game Saturday against Ithaca against Virginia. As soon as Cornell is eliminated, team officials expect Higgs to don the new Stinger suit. If Moran’s team goes all the way to the NCAA finals, the wait could be until June.
Aside from the three assistant captains and goaltending trio, the players still with the Stingers include Sid George. Russ George. Ron Hill. Jim Shaw, Ken Fougnier, Travis Cook, Gaylord Thomas, Robbie Patten. Terry Sanderson. Jerry Lustaski, Al Herrington, Jim Quigg, Ken Alexander, Bruce Murdock, Brian Travers, Joe Timpson, Paul Cioci and Dave Roach.
Higgs expects the squad to change with the availability of college talent after the June 10 North-South game; and after some touring players touring with the U.S. team in Australia and Southeast Asia return. League rules permit each team to dress 19 players per game, with four more on the official taxi squad.
Tonight’s game will be the opener for both teams. Montreal defeated Toronto, 14-8, at the Forum Wednesday in the league inaugural: and Maryland outlasted Philadelphia, 17-14, at the Capital Centre in Largo, Maryland last night.
The Stingers and Griffins will also open their Thruway Trophy series tomorrow night, as Lincoln Bank will present a trophy to the team that accumulates the most points in the eight-game series-at the end of the season.
The Syracuse Chamber of Commerce has also donated a trophy to be given to the Stinger MVP at the end of the season.