The Syracuse Stinger playoff saga may have run aground of its fairytale ending last night.
The Stingers, badly needing a victory to boost their hopes of gaining ground toward that fourth and final National Lacrosse league playoff spot, fell to Les Quebecois of Montreal, 15-8, before 3,604 disappointed fans at the War Memorial.
The Stingers played a sluggish game on offense, gave goalie Larry Smeltzer and his substitute Rick Palla little help in front of the net. Montreal’s goalie Ernie Mitchell thwarted enough of the few good Stinger scoring attempts to earn star-of-tbe game designation, and Les Quebecois fleet-footed forwards consistently outlegged and out- dodged the Syracuse defense.
The Stingers playoff hopes are by no means dead, but Friday’s home game with Maryland is now a do-or-die affair. The Arrows, in the NLL’s fourth slot, lead Syracuse by seven points and have two games in hand. Fifth-place Toronto leads the Stingers by only three points, but has four games in hand over Syracuse.
And the Stingers have only 12 games left on their-regular season schedule.
It took Les Quebecois only 10 seconds to score the game’s first goal, as Sandy Lynch was left unchecked in front of Smeltzer, a scene too often repeated. By the end of the period, Syracuse had tied it at 44, thanks mainly to three power play goals. Montreal was hit with a slashing penalty and when John Ferguson, the fiery coach of NHL fame didn’t agree, his loud discussion with the refs turned into a two-minute bench penalty.
Montreal owned a 10-6 bulge after two as Syracuse, looking bruised and missing any consistency in its plays, could manage only 13 shots on Mitchell during the period.
In the third period, when Montreal had hiked its lead to 13-6. Stinger coach Medo Martinello yanked Smeltzer in favor of Palla. Smeltzer couldn’t be faulted. He was probably just getting more rest for Friday.
The Stingers were hit with four penalties in just over three minutes during the second period, yet gave up only one Montreal power-play score. Les Quebecois later made amends for that offensive lapse by scoring a man down in the third period, something the Stingers’ Pat Differ did in the opening 20 minutes.
The Stingers offense consisted of just six scorers—Differ (3-0), Gaylord Powless (2-3), Jim Higgs (1-5), Robbie Patten (2-0), Paul Cioci (0-2) and Smeltzer (0-1).
Thirteen of Montreal’s stickmen got on the scoresheet, led by Dale MacKenzle (34), John Davis (34), Dave Litzenberger (2-2) and Serge Loiselle (2-2).
Powless, whose parents were in the stands, hit the 50 goal plateau with his second of the night’ in the third period. Patten’s goal five seconds later completed the Syracuse scoring for the period, and kept the Stingers from being held to their season’s low of seven goals. The Philadelphia Wings tripped Syracuse, 16-8, back in May.
The loss snapped a five- game War Memorial win streak, and even Myra Doch- erty and her rendition of “God Bless America” couldn’t pull this one out. The wife of the Stinger director of player personnel did her thing again last night, but the game ended on a sour note for the first time in her seven appearances. The Stingers, who were 5-1 at one point this month, are now 54.
Half of Syracuse’s eight goals were on power play situations. Montreal converted three times. The Stingers were nailed for nine penalties, Montreal eight. The Stingers had just three 30-second clock violations, Montreal eight.
Montreal outshot Syracuse, 60-50.
RICKOCHETS-Higgs was the game’s second star, MacKenzie the third…The Stingers, on a three-game losing streak, fell to under .500 with Martinello at the helm for the first time in quite a while (9-10-1).
Ken Alexander played with a badly bruised right shoulder, and his effectiveness on the floor was cut down as the usually overpowering checker was limited in his movements. Smeltzer and Palla can bear witness.
Powless’ father, Ross, is a member of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Gaylord Is still the team’s scoring leader at 50-62-112…Cioci is only three points shy of 100.
Martinello and Ferguson will be part of an eight-man committee that will meet again to- day in Toronto to review NLL officiating. NHL ref Brian Lewis worked last night’s game, but Martinello and others have expressed their displeasure. Before the game,’ Ferguson was non-commital as to the consistency of the whistleblowers, but his constant berating during the game hints otherwise. His pre-game comments may have been influenced by the fact that one NLL coach has already been slapped with a $300 fine for too much criticism.