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Live blog from First Niagara Center: Bandits vs. Rock

7:02 p.m. -- If you have any idea what we might see out of the Buffalo Bandits tonight, let Darris Kilgour know. He's guessing just like the rest of us.

The Bandits take on the Toronto Rock at 7:30 p.m., and Buffalo remains a huge puzzle. Only two weeks ago tonight, we gathered here to see the Bandits handle the Minnesota Swarm. It was their second straight win, and they seemed on the right track.

Then last week, they went into Calgary and got absolutely smoked. Perhaps the most disturbing part was the way Buffalo did so little in the fourth quarter. Yes, they got into a big fight, but that doesn't take much drive.

So, we go into tonight's game with the Bandits chasing the rest of the East. Rochester already has lost today to Colorado, so Buffalo could move into a three-way tie for second in the East.

Tracey Kelusky is out with an Achilles injury, and Jay Thorimburt isn't playing either. Josh Sanderson is out for Toronto. Mike Thompson is Buffalo's starting goalie.

8:38 p.m. -- Rock takes a 7-5 lead into the dressing room. Toronto has a 4-0 edge in power-play goals. Lesson for second halfr for Buffalo -- stay out of the penalty box.

7:21 p.m. -- Jimmy Purves is the third Buffalo scratch. That means Roger Vyse and Tom Montour finally get to play tonight.

7:47 p.m. -- Life isn't fair. Kevin Buchanan did some great work to get shooting room in the slot. He just missed, and the ball carried off the boards and back into the slot. Mat Giles was standing in the slot, jumped up, caught the ball and shot with one motion. Goal.

Meanwhile, Sabres losing and Capitals winning. Hope Mike Harrington returns the favor in his Sabres live blog. (Just kidding, Mike) Buffalo is down, 2-1, with 9:42 in first.

7:55 p.m. -- We're waiting to see if Roger Vyse will get credit for his 100th goal, or if it is waived off after a review. ... Nope, crease violation. It's still 3-1, Toronto. By the way, really good crowd tonight -- a bit of a surprise after the struggles.

8:01 p.m. -- The clock reads 3:10 left in the first period, and the Bandits trail, 3-2. Toronto has a 12-6 edge in shots. Some of that is due to the fact that the Rock had a major-penalty power play.

8:08 p.m. -- Toronto scored just after the end of the first period, but the Rock still has a 4-2 lead after 15 minutes.

8:18 p.m. -- The Bandits have put on a nice little burst. Tavares and Scott Self have tied the game at 4-4. On the Tavares goal, Travis Irving came up the field in open space. He wisely figured out that Tavares should have the ball. A good pass resulted in a one-touch goal.

8:28 p.m. -- Garrett Billings' goal put the Rock ahead, 5-4. Toronto's power play is mighty good. The Rock move the ball very, very well. Boston had a good PP last season, and this might be about as good ... and Toronto is missing a couple of key players to injurY.

8:45 p.m. -- Halftime in Buffalo. Toronto has a 7-5 lead. The shots are 37-19. Think Darris Kilgour will say something like "STAY OUT THE PENALTY BOX" at halftime?

9:05 p.m. -- A five-minute power play for Buffalo has been partially negated by a Mat Giles minor. Ouch. Rock leads, 8-6, early in the third.

9:10 pm. -- A ball got lost under the carpet by the boards just now. Can't say I've seen that in four years of watching this sport.

9:13 p.m. -- Brenden Thenhaus' second goal puts Toronto up, 9-6. The Rock is slowly taking control of the game, at least at the moment.

9:22 p.m. -- Toronto had a goal waived off, so the Rock has that 9-6 lead after three quarters.

9:29 p.m. -- The Bandits have cut the lead to 9-8. Tavares got his third of the night, and Tom Montour added a short-handed score. Toronto is still working on a five-minute power play.

9:38 p.m. -- Power-play goals are killing Buffalo. Toronto is up to seven, and the Rock have a 13-8 lead with 6:54 left. Oops, make it 14-8

9:42 p.m. -- The Bandits have collapsed. Toronto has a 16-8 lead with 5:35 left.

9:55 p.m. -- Bandits lose, 15-9.

-- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Tom Barrasso

   (Born March 31, 1965) -- Tom Barrasso had a very strange stay in Buffalo at the start of his professional career in hockey.

   Barrasso was drafted out of Acton-Boxborough High School (Mass.) fifth overall by the Sabres in 1983. He was considered one of the best U.S. goalie prospects in history, and immediately justified that scouting report.

   Barrasso was named the opening night starter ahead of veteran Bob Sauve. From there Barrasso went on to the greatest year by an 18-year-old goalie in NHL history. He won the Vezina Trophy and the Calder Trophy.

   The young netminder had a slow start in 1984-85 and spent five games in the minors, a slight he didn't forget for quite a while. But statistically he was almost as good in his second year as in his first.

   Barrasso stayed in Buffalo for a little more than three years, not reaching those heights again. The Sabres had another goaltending prospect coming along in Daren Puppa, who not only was good but reportedly was more popular among Sabre teammates. Buffalo traded Barrasso to Pittsburgh for Doug Bodger and Darrin Shannon.

   The netminder helped the Penguins win Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992, and was the first American goalie to win 300 games. He played for four different teams after leaving Pittsburgh. Barrasso now serves as the goaltending coach of the Carolina Hurricanes.

 --- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Frank Resetarits

   (Born March 30, 1985) -- How often does a local athlete get to play for a team he used to watch when he was young? Not very often, so Frank Resetarits gets some credit for living out that particular dream ... at least for a while.

   Resetarits grew up in Hamburg and became one of the best lacrosse players in Western New York history. He worked on his skills while playing box lacrosse in St. Catharines, Ont. From there it was on to the University at Albany, where he led the Great Danes to the NCAA tournament as a senior and was one of the best players in the country.

   That attracted the attention of the San Jose Stealth, which took him fifth in the National Lacrosse League entry draft. He also played outdoor lacrosse in Long Island.

   After a couple of years with the Stealth, Resetarits got his wish to come back to Buffalo and play for the Bandits in front of family and friends. The forward was acquired for a third-round draft choice.

   Unfortunately, this isn't a "happily ever after story." He was on his third year in Buffalo when he was released by the team earlier this month.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Mario Clark

   (Born March 29, 1954) -- Mario Clark's time as a member of the Buffalo Bills fell into neat compartments … one good, one not-so-good.

   The cornerback from Oregon was taken in the first round (18th pick) by the Bills in 1976. Clark hadn't been in the East and was surprised to discover that Buffalo was a long way from New York City.

   It didn't take him long to take a spot in the starting lineup. He even made the NFL's all-rookie team in 1976. The problem was that Buffalo, a playoff contender for the preceding three years, fell apart.

   Clark, then, was a good player for some bad teams in the late 1970's. Luckily for him, Chuck Knox arrived in 1978 and slowly turned the team's fortunes around. By 1980, the Bills won the AFC East and Clark was a reason why.

   Buffalo made the playoffs in 1981, but Knox left after the 1982 season. Clark stayed with the Bills for one more season under Kay Stephenson. Then he was traded to San Francisco for a fourth-round pick.

   Clark finished his Buffalo career with 25 interceptions, including seven in 1977, and never missed a game here.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Erik Rasmussen

   (Born March 28, 1977) -- The Buffalo Sabres haven't had that many draft choices in the top ten picks over the years. That's the price they've paid for being generally in the upper half of the standings.

   The 1996 draft was an exception. Buffalo had the seventh choice after missing the playoffs the preceding season, and used its pick to select Erik Rasmussen. The forward had scored 48 points in 40 games for the University of Minnesota. He was big and tough with a scoring touch … who could ask for much more?

   Rasmussen spent one more year at Minnesota before signing with the Sabres. He arrived in Buffalo for part of the 1997-98 season, when he played 21 games.

   Rasmussen's first playoff goal might have been the highlight of his career. He got a game-winner in the Conference finals against the Maple Leafs, scoring in Game Five.

   The center/left wing stayed in Buffalo through 2002, with a career high of 31 points in 2000-01. Then he was traded to Los Angeles for Adam Mair. Rasmussen landed in New Jersey for three years before finishing his career overseas.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Terry Pegula

     (Born March 27, 1951) -- Was it that long ago that virtually no sports fan in Western New York had ever heard of Terry Pegula? It didn't take him long to change that.

     Pegula used to be just another businessman who liked hockey. He founded a company called East Resources in 1993, which was in the energy business.

     But along the way, Pegula had season tickets to the Sabres. He made the trip up to Buffalo whenever he could to catch a game. Then, his proverbial ship came in -- he sold the business to Royal Dutch Shell for a reported $4.7 billion.

     Pegula made a donation to construct an ice rink at Penn State. He also sent word to Sabres' owner Tom Golisano that he'd be interested in buying the team if it became available. Golisano made that move, and the deal was completed in Feb. 2011.

  Pegula took off all financial restraints on the team, and approved some big acquisitions the following summer. In addition, the new boss bought the Rochester Americans to serve as a minor-league affiliate and rebuilt part of the team's facilities in its home arena.

     We'll have to see how everything works out with the team, but Pegula needed no time at all to become one of the most popular owners in Buffalo sports history.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Michael Peca

    (Born March 26, 1974) -- Michael Peca and the Buffalo Sabres seemed like the perfect marriage ... for a while. It just didn't last.

     Peca was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the second round in 1992. He spent most of the following season in junior hockey but arrived in the pros for good in the 1993-94 campaign. Peca came to Buffalo with Mike Wilson and a first-round draft pick (Jay McKee) for Alexander Mogilny.

     Peca spent the next five seasons with the Sabres. He turned into an outstanding defensive center here, mixing determination, skill and grit. What's more, he could score as well. Peca had 27 goals in the 1998-99 season, which ended with the Sabres in the Stanley Cup finals.

     But there was another legacy involving Peca -- contract problems. He missed part of the 1997-98 season because of a financial dispute. Then in 2000-01, the center sat out the entire season. Agent Don Meehan reportedly urged Peca to take the Sabres' last offer in order to make sure he played, but Peca was determined to get what he considered his market value.

     The stalemate ended when Peca was traded to the Islanders for Tim Connolly and Taylor Pyatt. He won his second Frank Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward in 2002 (the other was in 1997). Peca later played with the Oilers, Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets.

     Now retired, Peca serves as the general manager of the Buffalo Junior Sabres.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Pat Hughes

     (Born March 25, 1955) -- It's not often that an NHL team gets to acquire a player with a Stanley Cup ring collection. The Buffalo Sabres did that when they added Pat Hughes in 1985.

     Hughes was an Alberta native who was drafted in the third round in 1975 by the Canadiens. He had two years in the minors in which he scored exactly 68 points in each year, and that earned him a promotion to Montreal in 1978. There he helped the Canadiens win the Cup in 1978-79.

     When Ken Dryden retired in the summer of 1979, the Canadiens swapped a package that included Hughes to Pittsburgh for goalie Denis Heron. The forward spent almost two years as a Penguin before going to Edmonton at the trading deadline in March, 1981. Hughes stayed with the Oilers through 1985, and won Cups in 1984 and 1985.

     The Sabres added Hughes in a three-cornered trade with Pittsburgh and Edmonton involving Randy Cunneyworth and Mike Moller. Sadly for Buffalo, championships stopped following Hughes around at that point. He had four goals and nine assists in a Sabres' uniform in 1985-86.

     Hughes played one more season in the NHL (St. Louis and Hartford) before retiring. He reportedly now serves as a policeman at Ann Arbor, Mich.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Philippe Boucher

     March 24, 1973 - When the Buffalo Sabres drafted Philippe Boucher in the first round in 1991, they hoped he would have a very long career in professional hockey. He did exactly that; it just wasn't with the Sabres' organization for a very long time.

     Boucher was quite an offensive defenseman in junior hockey, piling up more than a point per game with the Granby Bisons. That got the Sabres' attention, and they took him 13th overall in the Entry Draft.

     The defenseman joined the Sabres during the 1992-93 season, and played in Buffalo and in Rochester. That started a pattern. The next season, Boucher played for both teams. It was more of the same in 1994-95.

     On Feb. 14, 1995, Boucher found a new home. He went to the Los Angeles Kings with Grant Fuhr and Denis Tsygurov for Alexei Zhitnik, Charlie Huddy and Robb Stauber. Boucher spent the next seven seasons in the Kings' organization. He couldn't earn a regular spot in the big leagues until the 2001-02 season, when he participated in 80 games for the Kings.

     From there, Boucher spent almost six years as a regular for the Dallas Stars. He had a career-high 19 goals in 2006-07, and played in the NHL All-Star Game.

     Boucher had part of one more season in his after leaving Dallas. He played 25 games for Pittsburgh, and then retired.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Ron Jaworski

     March 23, 1951 - Ron Jaworski has come a long ways since his days in Western New York. It looks like he was one of the lucky few who won't need to get a job without a football connection.

     Jaworski was the classic three-spot standout (football, baseball, basketball) when he played high school sports in Lackawanna. His right arm was good enough to attract the attention of the St. Louis Cardinals, who drafted him out of high school. Jaworski wanted to sign and try his luck, but his dad -- who worked in a lumber yard -- wanted his son to go to college.

     Therefore, it was off to Youngstown State. His father got to see Ron hold for place-kicks before he died in 1971. Ron's career took off shortly after that. He was a standout at Youngstown, and even played in the Senior Bowl to solidify his ranking as a top prospect.

     Jaworski was drafted in the second round by the Los Angeles Rams in 1973, and spent four years there. Then his rights were traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. There coach Dick Vermeil helped him reach the top of the profession Ñ Super Bowl quarterback. The Eagles lost to the Raiders in 1981.

     Jaworski started in 116 straight games at quarterback, the NFL record until Brett Favre broke it. Along the way he became known as "Jaws," a nickname placed by basketball player and coach Doug Collins who said Ron's mouth was always open.

     Jaworski became a free agent in 1987 and played briefly for Miami and Kansas City before retiring in 1990. There it was on to broadcasting. Jaworski worked his way up the ladder there, and is now an analyst with ESPN.

--- 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.