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Live from HSBC Arena: Bandits vs. Blazers

7:03 p.m. -- Hello from downtown. We're ready for some playoff lacrosse, as the Bandits host the Boston Blazers.

I talked to Bandits' coach Darris Kilgour this morning, and asked him if he had any idea what to expect tonight. He said none. If Buffalo plays like it did in the last two home games, it will be time to roll up the carpet. Boston has been a gigantic puzzle this season, but it's tough to know if it can turn it on for the playoffs. I guess this is why they play the games.

No surprises in the lineup. Frank Resetarits and Kyle Clancy are the scratches. Resetarits looked rusty last week after several months off with an injury. Travis Irving and Darryl Gibson are in the lineup today.

Brandon Francis is still under suspension. He has two more games to serve ... at some point.

This probably will be the smallest crowd of the season. It's tough to sell tickets in a short time, as the Bandits weren't even sure when the game would be two weeks ago. Still, most teams in the league would envy 13,000 to 14,000.

7:28 p.m. -- Sabretooth, in a Bandits' shirt, has roped down the field. Feels like we're about ready to go. By the way, there were fewer Mohawks on display in the locker room today. I remember in Toronto last season, many of the players had them.

7:41 p.m. -- Brett Bucktooth is back in the lineup tonight. He missed last week's game because of the death of an uncle.

7:45 p.m. -- Buffalo is off to a good start. Mark Steenhuis has the only goal of the game with 5:08 gone, and Mike Thompson has made a couple of good stops on goal.

7:54 p.m. -- The Bandits added a goal by Roger Vyse, but gave up a power-play goal to Boston. Now Tom Montour is in the penalty box, so the Blazers have a chance to get back to level.

8:00 p.m. -- This was a relatively uneventful first period. Buffalo exits with a 2-1 lead, and it was a fairly deliberate quarter.

8:11 p.m. -- These teams seem to be in a hurry. Not many stoppages so far, and no goals in the second quarter. Thompson has had the tougher saves in the first 21 minutes.

8:19 p.m. -- Buffalo and Boston have doubled the score in the last few minutes, which is good news from a Bandits' standpoint. Vyse had a nice goal from fairly long range, slinging the ball in while getting checked from behind. John Tavares had the other goal. We have 4:44 left in the half.

8:24 p.m. -- Vyse is having one of his best halves of the season. He has three goals, all lasers from outside. Tracey Kelusky just made it 6-3 with a score, although the play is being reviewed. Kelusky jumped from behind the net to stuff the ball in an open corner.

8:29 p.m. - The Kelusky goal did count, and Chad Culp added another score as the Bandits are up, 7-3.

8:32 p.m. -- Buffalo heads to the locker room with a 7-4 lead after giving up a power-play goal in the last minute. Four goals in a half? Mighty good work against these guys.

8:53 p.m. -- We're back in action, and Casey Powell has cut the Buffalo lead to 7-5. ... At least until I started typing this. Vyse got his fourth to restore the three-goal lead.

8:58 p.m. -- Steenhuis added his second of the night to make it 9-5, Buffalo. Vyse, by the way, had three goals on three shots in the first half.

9:08 p.m. -- We have four minutes left in the half, with the score 9-5. The winner of this one plays the winner of Rochester-Toronto, which will be played tomorrow afternoon in Toronto. I didn't like the way the Rock finished down the stretch, while the Knighthawks do have some talent. I'm picking Rochester to win that one, although I wouldn't exactly take it to the bank.

9:14 p.m. -- The Bandits hava a 9-5 lead after three quarters. Boston looks a little flat at the moment, and needs a spark and soon in order to have any hope of getting back in this one.

9:31 p.m. -- No scoring to report, but that's good from a Buffalo standpoint. There are five minutes left, and Boston is still down by four goals.

9:37 p.m. -- Boston has struck for three goals. Buffalo's lead is down to 10-9. Hmmm.

9:44 p.m. -- The Blazers tied it (Kevin Buchanan), but Tavares scored with 39 seconds left to put Buffalo ahead, 11-10. We have 6.6 seconds left, and Boston has the ball. This turned into quite a ride.

9:45 p.m -- One last save by Thompson wins it, 11-10. Wow.

11:25 p.m. -- That certainly was a thriller for anyone who watched the game. You just have to figure out a way to get to the next round, and the Bandits did that. They also played quite well for 55 minutes, when Boston pulled its goalie and the Bandits had trouble getting the ball. But Tavares came through, as he so often has done over the years. Be sure to check out my game story to read his version of what happened.

Elsewhere, Washington went on the road and beat Minnesota, while Calgary moved on with a win over Colorado. So Calgary will host the defending champions on Saturday. The Bandits get the Rochester-Toronto winnner next Saturday night in HSBC Arena. The winners play the following week.

Let's do it all over again in a week.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: False start

   April 30, 1999 -- The Buffalo Destroyers had been the focus of a large marketing campaign in the weeks leading up to their debut in Arena Football League. The ads, if nothing else, has gotten the community curious about what the team was like.

   Then the team played its first game in HSBC Arena, a contest against the New England Sea Wolves, and that curiosity was, um, satisfied.

   Indeed, it's tough to imagine a less promising start to a franchise than the one the Destroyers had on this night. They gave up 31 points in the first half to fall hopelessly behind.

   From there, the New England Sea Wolves coasted to a 59-26 win over the Destroyers before 13,214 in Marine Midland Arena.

    The Destroyers looked like an expansion team, making several mental and physical mistakes. They even missed a couple of extra-point attempts.

    "I think we saw the difference between a preseason game and the real thing," coach Dave Whinham said to The News' Allen Wilson. "Emotionally, this is a crusher for us. There is no excuse for taking a whipping like this. It stinks."

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Back from Singapore

I thought I should turn this over to Liz Randell, who is back from Singapore as part of the team that took part in the overall Corporate Challenge championship. Sounds like a nice time...

The entire event, from Wednesday morning's welcome breakfast to Thursday night's post race party was incredibly well-organized and awe-inspiring! We were treated like elite runners, with special buses, a premier hotel, and great food. It was really exciting to meet runners from other countries.

After the race, several of us exchanged singlets - I got one from a runner rom Johannesburg! It felt kind of like being at a mini-Olympics. Singapore is a beautiful city, full of things to do and amazing foods to eat.

The weather for the race was super hot and humid. It definitely took it's toll on all of us, but I think we all ran really well considering how far we had to go to do it (!) and the climate change. People were dropping like flies at the finish line. The course was nice - right along the waterfront and past the floating soccer field. The water they handed out was mostly ice, which was a relief, and they had two water stations. After the race, they had a banquet for us with non-stop amazing food. The race organizers told us they are adding Bejing to the list of race cities - that's going to be one to race for!

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits notebook: Decision day?

A report from IL Indoor says that Brandon Francis of the Bandits received a hearing on Thursday for his appeal on his four-game suspension. We may hear a decision as early as today.

The Bandits hope to get the punishment reduced so that Francis could in theory return this season. The guess is that the punishment might go down to two games, which would take him out of this week's contest with Boston. But nothing is certain.

Meanwhile, the Bandits are staging a "Party in the Plaza" before Saturday's playoff game. The party goes from 5 to 7 p.m., and the festivities will feature a live band. Refreshments will be sold. Check bandits.com for details.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Game Seven, in overtime

    April 29, 1997 - Derek Plante had just scored one of the most famous goals in Sabre history, an overtime tally to beat the Ottawa Senators, 3-2, in Game Seven of their first-round playoff series. Teammate Garry Galley watched some of the celebration of the first Game Seven victory in Buffalo's history, and then headed to the locker room.

   "I watched everyone come in. I was one of the first guys in the room," he said. "I saw Teddy (Nolan, head coach), Paul (Theriault, assistant coach), Donny (Lever, assistant coach) and all of the players. I really got a jolt out of watching those guys come in with their smiles. I knew what they were feeling, because I had been there before. Every time you get to that point, it's such a great thrill. It's a real heart-jolt. To see these guys have that kind of smile on their faces after seeing so many long faces through this series over a lot of things, I think it was nice."

   Almost all of the 18,595 in HSBC Arena felt the same way. They had watched a playoff classic, as Buffalo rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the third period. Then, about five minutes into overtime, Plante took off after a turnover.

   "[Steve] Duchesne tried to dump it in and it basically hit me in the chest," the center said. "We had an odd-man rush. I looked to the middle and took a stride, and took a slapper [outside] Duchesne's heel and it kind of screened [Ron] Tugnutt …  I didn't know it was going in, but I saw Tugnutt dive back for it and the crowd erupted."

   Tugnutt got a piece of the puck, but he couldn't stop the shot from dribbling over the goal line at 5:24 of overtime. The Sabres were on to the second round to face the Philadelphia Flyers.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Everyone knows it's windy

   Interesting week for running, eh?

   From frequent rain and gusty wind to sunshine, from a shirt and shorts to rain gear, it's been an odd few days. The weather is supposed to be good Saturday, at least, so we can all look forward to that.

   One note of interest: former residents of Western New York deserve a mention for finishing the Boston Marathon too. You might remember Jen Gwen (now Thiessen), a former women's assistant basketball coach at Canisiuis. Jen ran the race in two hours, 54 minutes and 32 seconds.

   The weekend schedule, courtesy of buffalorunners.com:

   * SFC Race for a Cause, 5K, 2745 Seneca St. in West Seneca, 6:30 p.m. Friday, 824-4655. Warm weather must be coming; it's the first Friday night race of the year.

   * Young Life Dyngus Day Dash, 5K, S4999 McKinley Parkway in Hamburg, 9 a.m. Saturday, 830-7852. No one goes away from this race hungry. I remember doing this race a few years ago and seeing rain, hail and snow at various times; little chance of that happening this year.

   * GBTC Grand Island Half Marathon (Buffalo News Runner of the Year race), Beaver Island State Park in Grand Island, 10 a.m. Saturday, 883-2117. This is a great stand-alone event or a warm-up for the Buffalo Marathon at the end of May.

   * Three Kings Royal Race, 5K, 10893 Sisson Highway in North Collins, 10 a.m. Saturday, 337-3780.

   * Zach's Run, 5K, Clinton Ave. in Fredonia (Little League Field), 10 a.m. Sunday, 269-9703.

--- Budd Bailey 

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Ill-fated choice

   April 28, 1981 -- The Buffalo Bills had the 23rd pick in the first round of the NFL draft. They opted to trade down when the Oakland Raiders called.

   The Bills picked up an extra third-round in 1982 in order for the Raiders to jump up five spots. Oakland took guard Curt Marsh of Washington.

   Then the Bills took fullback Booker Moore of Penn State when their turn came up on the clock. It would be fair to say the Bills were rather unlucky with that choice.

    Moore was diagnosed with a mild case of Guillain-Barre syndrome shortly after he was drafted. That involves a weakness in the nervous system, and can be life-threatening.

   Moore missed all of the 1981 campaign, and only had 16 carries in the strike-shortened 1982 season. His best season came in 1983, when he ran for 275 yards, but he contributed little in two seasons after that and was soon out of football.

   Moore became a sheriff's deputy in Michigan, and died of a heart attack at the age of 50 in 2009.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Shields comes through

   April 27, 1997 -- The Buffalo Sabres were in a tough spot on this date. They were trailing the Ottawa Senators, three games to two, in a first-round series. Buffalo had to face elimination in Game Six with a game in Ottawa. And the league's most valuable player, Dominik Hasek, was out with an injury.

   When the game was played, it was a case of Steve Shields coming to the rescue.

   Shields came up with the game of his life, a 3-0 shutout of Ottawa that sent the series to a deciding Game Seven. That was in spite of the fact that coach Ted Nolan was urged to use goalie Andrei Trefilov instead of Shields.

   "It was a big game, but we haven't done anything yet," Shields said.

   "We have a ton of confidence in Steve," teammate Brian Holzinger said. "We knew he could do the job for us. He's proven that all year long since he's been called up. Unfortunately we have not been able to put the offense in front of him to help him out. It's not only a big confidence booster for Steve Shields to shut out the Ottawa Senators, but for the rest of the team to score three goals and help him out."

   The game set up a memorable Game Seven back in Buffalo. Shields had a supporting role in that game too.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: First-round exit

   April 26, 2010 -- The memories of this one are a little fresh, so you probably still don't need too much reminding. Even so, this was the night for a disappointing loss by the Sabres.

   Buffalo dropped a 4-3 decision to the Bruins in Boston. That gave the Bruins the first-round series win, four games to two.

   The loss wiped out a solid regular season in which Buffalo won the division to earn home-ice advantage in the first round.

   "You want to make the playoffs, and being out of hockey, being done in April still hurts," Sabres forward Adam Mair said to The News' John Vogl. "It was a good regular season. We ended a little early. It's not where we wanted to be. We wanted to go deep in the playoffs, and we didn't do that. "

   If you want to point a finger at a statistic, look at special teams. Boston was 6 of 22 on the power play while Buffalo was 0 for 19. And they gave up two-goal leads in Games Two and Four.

   "The disappointment is huge," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "It was a series where there wasn't much breathing space the whole series."

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Goal explosion

   April 25, 2007 -- For a while, it looked as if the Buffalo Sabres would get off to a stumbling start to their second-round playoff series with the New York Rangers.

   Even thought Buffalo was at home, the Sabres couldn't solve Rangers' goalie Henrik Lundqvist. He had an eye on stealing Game One, as the score was tied, 0-0, after 35 minutes.

   "You want to burst his bubble," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said to The News' Tim Graham. "The more saves he makes, the better he feels about himself. A big save is almost like scoring a goal. Sometimes that momentum goes the other way."

   Then the Sabres turned it up. Buffalo scored three goals on four shots, and went on to a 5-2 win over the Rangers. Thomas Vanek had two of the goals in that second-period outburst, while Ales Kotalik also scored.

   Ryan Miller had 32 saves of his own, and stopped the first 29 shots on goal by the Rangers.

   The Sabres had a difficult series, but eventually broke through to win the series in six games.

--- Budd Bailey

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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.

@WDX2BB | bbailey@buffnews.com

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