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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Second-half collapse

   Jan. 31, 1993 - We're finally done reviewing Super Bowls. The news doesn't get any better here.

   The score in Super Bowl XXVII says everything about how this day went -- Dallas Cowboys 52, Buffalo Bills 17. This was not the way the Bills wanted their third straight Super Bowl appearance to go.

   The game, played in the Rose Bowl, might be best remembered for Don Beebe catching Leon Lett from behind and swatting the ball out of Lett's hands to prevent a touchdown. It was a rather meaningless play, unless you hoped the Cowboys could win 59-17.

   This was Buffalo's worst postseason loss and one of the highest point totals allowed in team history.

   "Obviously, this is embarrassing to us, and to the organization," said linebacker Shane Conlan. "Are we going to be labeled like (four-time Super Bowl losers) Denver and Minnesota are labeled? It is something we are going to have to live with. I'd rather be there than not, but . . ."

   Bills head coach Marv Levy said, "I told the players after the game, 'You don't want to hear a speech from me now. We're all hurting and speeches won't make it go away. We'll talk about it in depth at our team meeting on Tuesday.' "

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits notebook: Random thoughts

Just wanted to make a few points as the Bandits hit the first-quarter pole of the 2012 season:

* I watched part of the video replay of the Bandits-Swarm game from Saturday night. OK, it was pretty ugly from a Buffalo perspective. I did want to see what the heck happened at the end of the first half, when 10 players were thrown out.

The feed for the game, however, cut out  right after the first half ended ... or, just when the two sides were coming off the bench and exchanging hostilities. So it was tough to tell what actually took place.

At least a couple of fans brought video cameras, and shot the action from a distance. The Bandits set a team record for penalty minutes in a game. Have you ever seen a goalie sit in the penalty box before? Mike Thompson picked up a fighting major in the incident, and Angus Goodleaf had to start the third quarter.

* Speaking of records, I did a little research on Sunday into the Bandits' loss. The 19 goals allowed was the most in the Darris Kilgour era (2003-2012). The loss wasn't the worst in Buffalo's history under Kilgour; it was the second-worst.

* After getting some quotes after the game in Rochester, I went back to the press box to write my story. There I encountered some very unhappy members of the scorekeeping crew. Lots of muttering was going on. The league has switched statistical systems this year, and the growing pains are obvoius. There have been goals scored without anyone getting credit for them, the wrong players receiving credit for goals, etc.

On opening night, I had John Tavares scoring a particular goal and Scott Self scoring another one in the win over Toronto by Buffalo. That's the way my story read for the first edition. When the official sheet came out after the game, it had Self getting credit for both goals. So, in the final edition, Self had two goals. A few days later, the league updated its stats .. and Self was back to one goal.

Last Friday night, I had Brendan Mundorf with four goals for Philadelphia in the win for the Bandits. Sure enough, the stats said three goals. Could I have made a mistake? Absolutely. But I figured I'd go with my own version this time and be consistent.

They'll get it figured out soon, I think.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Shaking up the roster

     January 30, 1986 -- The Buffalo Sabres had been treading water for most of the 1985-86 season. General manager Scotty Bowman had fired coach Jim Schoenfeld after Schoenfeld had led the Sabres to a .500 record in the team's first 43 games, but it didn't change the team's fortunes right away.

     Missing the postseason was unacceptable, since the Sabres hadn't done that since 1974. Buffalo figured it needed a little help on its roster, so Bowman made a good-sized swap. The Sabres sent defensemen Larry Playfair and Ken Baumgartner and forward Sean McKenna to Los Angeles for defenseman Brian Engblom and center Doug Smith.

     The focal point of the deal from the Buffalo standpoint probably was Smith. The Sabres had a reputation for being a slow team, and Smith could skate. In fact, he demonstrated his speed in his very first game as a Sabre, as he scored a goal. Engblom was a helpful defenseman with plenty of experience.

     Meanwhile, the Kings thought they could get McKenna to improve on a pair of two 20-goal seasons. Instead, he went backwards. Playfair stayed a couple of years and went back to the Sabres in another deal. Baumgartner was a prospect who ended up playing more than 10 years of NHL hockey.

     The move didn't help the Sabres much. They still missed the playoffs.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Here come the hats

      January 29, 1971 -- There were two big reasons to watch the Buffalo Sabres in their first year as an NHL team in 1970-71. Roger Crozier was good for a few acrobatic saves a night. And Gilbert Perreault would do something spectacular at least once or twice per night.

     Perreault must have been pretty good on this night. He had a hat trick in the Sabres' game against California.

     Too bad most Sabres fans didn't get to see it, since the contest was played in Oakland. Perreault opened the scoring with the only goal of the first period. Donnie Marshall added a power-play goal in the second period for Buffalo. And Perreault made 3-1 early in the third. After the Golden Seals closed to within 3-2 with a goal in the last minute, Perreault ended the game's suspense with an empty-netter with 26 seconds left.

     Not only was it Perreault's first such three-goal game in the NHL, but it was the Sabres' first as well. The win was part of a 2-0-1 unbeaten streak the team had on a West Coast swing.

     Perreault wasn't done scoring at that point. He went on to tally 512 goals in the NHL and ended up in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Another one departs

      February 20, 2007 -- Think this season is the only time in Buffalo Sabres' history that the team has been hit hard by injuries? Think again.

     The Sabres defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 6-3, for an easy win in Buffalo. Still, the win was tempered by the loss of Daniel Paille, who broke a finger late in the game and was slated to miss significant playing time.

     That meant the Sabres had lost six regulars to injury in about two weeks.

     "I actually laughed," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said of being informed the winger was hurt. "What can you do? The doctor said it's going to be maybe two or three weeks. I said, 'That's a short one for us.' "

     As for the game, Buffalo had little trouble with a Flyers team suffering through a rare difficult season which would see it finish last. Andrew Peters scored his first goal for the Sabres in 75 games.

     Meanwhile, Ryan Miller had a strong night in goal with 32 saves.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Drama until the end

   January 28, 1995 -- Shutouts are quite common in outdoor soccer -- maybe too common. They are very rare in indoor soccer.

   Therefore, a shutout by the Blizzard in a game in Buffalo was big news. A crowd of 6,287 in Memorial Auditorium held its breath until the final buzzer when the Blizzard had finished a 23-0 romp over the Dayton Dynamo.

   Tony Meola did the honors for the Blizzard. There had been 27 shutouts in the National Professional Soccer League until that point, and this one had more points scored by the winner than any of them. What's more, it came on a day when posters of Meola were handed out to fans, with the caption, "Keeping. It's all about getting it done."

   Meola told Robert J. Summers of The News after the game, "It [the quote] is something I believe in. My theory has always been that I don't have the greatest technique, but I just find a way to get it done. It doesn't matter for me how I save the ball, as long as I save it."

   The save of the game came with less than four minutes left when he got a hand on a shot by Chris Pfau. The shutout was a nice response to a loss the night before, a 15-7 loss to Harrisburg.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Sorry to bring this up ...

   January 27, 1991 -- I know, I know. It still hurts.

   The Bills lost, 20-19, to the Giants in Super Bowl XXV in Tampa. You may remember some of the details.

   For what it's worth, Scott Norwood got an instant "bad rap" for missing that field goal. A 47-yarder on natural grass was out of his range, and he shouldn't have been expected to have made it. Too bad the rest of the nation couldn't figure that out.

   It was one of the great Super Bowls in history, as the lead went back and forth. New York kept the Buffalo offense off the field, about doubling the time of possession figures. The Giants erased a 19-17 Bills' lead on a field goal by Matt Bahr with 7:20 left.

   From there, the Bills had the ball twice but couldn't score the winning points. Buffalo drove down the field in the last two minutes, but didn't have enough time to get any closer. Norwood's kick was long enough but pushed just a little bit to the right.

    "I hit it solid, but I guess I tried to kick it too hard," Norwood said. "I needed more follow-through; I should have brought my hips into it quicker to make the ball draw."

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Breeders' Cup Juvenile Champ Hansen starts run at the Derby

By Gene Kershner
     On Sunday afternoon, the undefeated Hansen will take on five other colts in the first of three prep races scheduled at Gulfstream Park as horses attempt to gather much needed graded earnings to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. Hansen, with his Breeders' Cup upset victory over the highly-regarded Union Rags, will have more than enough earnings to earn a starting gate in Louisville.

The roan colt has entered the Grade 3 $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes as his first race of 2012 and appears he will take the Florida route to the Derby, one that's been successful for 3-year olds such as Barbaro and Big Brown in recent years.Let's take a gander at the field (trainer, jockey in parenthesis):

1 -- Silver Max (Romans, Leparoux). As what happens when the Derby trail heats up, horses that have been racing mainly on turf take a shot on the dirt. Leparoux gathers the mount for the first time, as Algorithm's jock Javier Castellano helped him break his maiden going a mile the last time out after five straight second-place finishes. Talk about being the bridesmaid and not the bride. The rail post is winning at a phenomenal 22 percent clip; this colt could catch a piece of the trifecta or exacta.

2 -- Consortium (McLaughlin, JR Velazquez). Love the jockey/trainer combo here and the Bernardini colt is running with first time Lasix, an angle that has proven time and again to be one not to ignore. He had a sharp workout Jan. 21 and ran a close second to 6-Algorithms in an allowance race here in December. Dangerous player.

3 -- My Adonis (Breen, Trujillo). He had a rough outing in his last out in the Delta Jackpot over the bullring at Delta Downs. He's been firing bullets at Palm Meadows since after Christmas so he appears to be fit and ready to roll here. Owned by the Halls, who won the Belmont Stakes with Ruler On Ice.  His two tries at a mile distance have been impressive, with a 5-length victory in a non-graded stake at Delta and a half-length loss to Jackpot winner Sabercat. If someone goes with Hansen and sets insane fractions, this one could pick up the pieces.

4 -- Hansen (Maker, Dominguez). Ramon flies down from New York for the mount and has won two of his three rides at Gulfstream this winter. Hansen will be sure to be on the lead as he has in his first three races unless his connections start experimenting to see if he can rate, something that is almost a necessity when it comes to the Derby's classic 10-furlong distance. The is one to beat.

5 -- Fort Loudon (Gold, Maragh). After winning three straight non-graded stakes at Calder, he faded to seventh after being caught 4-wide early in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He's probably a little overmatched in here.

6 -- Algorithms (Pletcher, Castellano). Todd Pletcher will be a factor on this year's Derby trail and this race is no different. The five-time Eclipse winning trainer has a solid crop of 3-year olds taking aim at the Run for the Roses. Algorithms should have no problem stretching out to a mile based on his pedigree. The Bernardini colt will be running only his third lifetime race after breaking his maiden impressively in June at Belmont. Pletcher is white hot at Gulfstream, currently winning at a 35 percent clip. I'm going to favor the chalk here based on the mile distance.

Consortium interests me with the first time Lasix angle and McLaughlin is 26 percent using this move. Algorithms should be coming late and will challenge Consortium for place honors.  Throw in My Adonis for your trifecta and superfecta plays underneath these three.

Post Time Outlook: 1-Hansen; 2-Consortium; and 3-Algorithms

Good luck this weekend and let's go cash some tickets!

 Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.

 

Running notebook: Coming close

Vacation time is about over in running circles. It's time to get back to work.

I ran in my first "guess your time" race last week in Delaware Park. I had no idea what conditions would be like when I sent in my registration form a couple of weeks in advance,
which made it difficult.

Saturday came up pleasant if cold, and the Ring Road was nicely plowed for the most part. I finished 6.6 seconds faster from my prediction, and I was happy about that. Still, I only finished eighth overall. Some people really do have clocks in their head.

Last week the running column had some statistics, courtesy of Fritz Van Leaven. Here are 2011's biggest races in terms of registered finishers:

Race - Finishers 

Turkey Trot - 11,880

Around the Bay (Hamilton) - 5,878

Shamrock Run - 3,572

Buffalo Half Marathon - 2,553

Niagara Falls International Half Marathon - 2,208

Flower City Half Marathon (Rochester) - 1,862

It's a Wonderful Run (Seneca Falls) - 1,820

Rochester Half Marathon - 1,657

Johnny's Runnin' of the Green (Rochester?) - 1,655

JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge - 1,508

The race calendar comes from buffalorunners.com, as usual. It looks like February and March have gotten less crowded than in previous years. Something to keep an eye on.

On Sunday, the annual Penguin Run will be held 2425 Niagara Falls Blvd. in Amherst at 11 a.m. Call 549-6307 x201. It's one of the best buffets of the year from a race.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: New man in charge

   January 26, 1979 -- Front office change is no stranger to the Buffalo Bills ... as long time fans of the team know all too well.

   The Bills changed general managers on this date. Bob Lustig had been serving as vice president and general manager of the team. However, he left the Bills' organization to become the CEO of a new insurance company that Ralph Wilson was creating in Detroit. You probably wouldn't see a move like that today; it was a sign of how the football business was changing.

    Former Bills offensive tackle Stew Barber, one of the top players from the team's glory days, was promoted to GM on his day. Barber had served as a scout and as an assistant general manager for the team. When he took the job, he became the first, and to this point the last, ex-Bills' player to serve as general manager.

   Barber certainly played a role in the rise of the Bills upon his arrival, as the team returned to the playoffs in 1980. However, coach Chuck Knox probably got more of the credit for that one.

   Barber might be best remembered for the fact that two top draft choices "got away" during his tenure -- Tom Cousineau and Jim Kelly. Barber stayed through 1983, when he was fired and was replaced for a short time by Pat McGroder and then by Terry Bledsoe.

--- Budd Bailey

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