7:17 p.m. -- Hello from the downtown arena. It's the last regular season game of 2011, as the Bandits host Rochester. This has no bearing on the playoff matchups. It will still be Boston and Buffalo next week, while Rochester will play Toronto.
You'd think the Bandits might sit some veterans tonight, but they really can't. Brandon Francis has received four games in suspension due to an incident last week against Boston. He is appealing, but he is out for the time being and probably won't play next week as well. And, Jay Thorimbert is out with a sore shoulder; he could be back next week. Brett Bucktooth had a death in the family.
So it's all hands on deck, although it wouldn't be a surprise to see names like Tavares and Kelusky get a little more rest than usual. Rochester is sitting old friend Pat McCready and Sid Smith.
Angus Goodleaf will be the starter. He is still looking for his first win of the season (0-3). Mike Thompson probably will get to rest a bit.
The Bandits have had offensive problems at times this season, so they welcome the chance to get some work in for the playoffs. And speaking of the postseason ... I don't have a clue who is going to win the title, and I don't know that anyone that does.
7:26 p.m. -- One interesting note from out of town -- the owner/GM of Calgary has appealed for ticket sales for the first playoff game. He says if the fans turn out, they might have to sell the rights to a second game to another city (perhaps the opponent, I guess). That would be, um, unique. I'm sure the Bandits would be happy to take a championship game off Calgary's hands if it came to that ... although having already gotten a passport in anticipation of that possible matchup, I'd be forced to ask the State Department for a refund.
7:40 p.m. -- By the way, we are sold out. And a reminder, the game will be shown on Versus tomorrow afternoon at 4.
7:44 p.m. -- I'd have to look this up to make sure, but it's tough imagine a worse start by the Bandits. Rochester has a 4-0 lead with 4:32 gone in the period. It's prompted a timeout and a goalie change, as Mike Thompson has checked in. I wonder if Mike was enthusiastic about this assignment, considering the way the defense has played so far.
7:52 p.m. -- Perhaps not. He hasn't helped, as Rochester has run its lead to 6-0. Buffalo richly deserves that deficit.
7:59 p.m. -- At least the Bandits are doing a good job of killing off a five-minute major. But they are still down, 7-1, with 3:01 left in the first period.
8:05 p.m. -- The first quarter has mercifully ended, and the Bandits still trail, 9-1. Rochester had a 17-9 edge in shots, and has gotten to most of the loose balls, too. A dreary 15 minutes for Buffalo.
8:18 p.m. -- The Bandits have stopped the bleeding for the moment. Buffalo has cut to the lead to 7-2 and showed a bit of spark. Still, not much is happening for Buffalo in the offensive end. There is 9:37 left in the second quarter.
8:27 p.m. -- Roger Vyse and John Tavares have scored, so the Bandits have cut the lead of Rochester to 7-4 with 4:31 left. This is turning into one of the really odd games in recent memory.
8:35 p.m. -- The Bandits trail, 8-5, after 30 minutes. That's more than they could have expected after falling behind early.
9:00 p.m. -- It's 9 o'clock on a Saturday, and the Bandits are still down three, 9-6. It's been a pretty even half to date, although Buffalo needs more than a draw the rest of the way.
9:11 p.m. -- Not a great deal happening on either side so far in the second half. We went more than five minutes without a goal until Jarrett Davis scored moments ago for Rochester. The Knighthawks have and 11-7 lead with three minutes left in the third.
9:18 p.m. -- It's stays 11-7 through three quarters, as we have completed a not particularly dramatic 15 minutes of play.
9:34 p.m. -- More trading of goals; John Tavares just cut the Rochester lead to 13-9. By the way, I didn't win the 50-50 draw for $20,000, so I'll have to go to work tomorrow.
9:40 p.m. -- Rochester came into the game 0-5 against Buffalo and Toronto. This has to give the Knighthawks a needed boost of confidence for the playoffs. 3:15 to go, with Rochester up five.
9:49 p.m. -- Rochester wins, 15-9. Off to the locker room.
11:21 p.m. -- This was a strange game. The Knighthawks certainly played with more emotion in a contest with nothing at stake. It did raise some questions about the Bandits heading into a postseason. They have lost their last three in a row at home, so no opposing team should come in here thinking they are bound to lose. Can they throw the on switch for the playoffs?
"Obviously the guys shut her down with two weeks left in the season," Bandits coach Darris Kilgour said.
"They weren't too worried about our home record. They were more worried about getting through the
games unscathed and hopefully pick it up in the playoffs."
See any easy games in the postseason? I sure don't. Rochester and Boston are playing extremely well, while Toronto and Buffalo staggered home. I must ask the boss to not make predictions about the way it all comes out.
Good night from downtown.
--- Budd Bailey