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Bandits vs. Swarm - Live from First Niagara Center

6:58 p.m. -- The First Niagara Center is open for business again.

There hasn't been much activity here since the Bandits finished their season in May, thanks to the NHL lockout. But the lacrosse team is back home tonight for the home opener. The Sabres are expected to get back to work tomorrow, pending the signing of some legal documents.

I'm going to save the phrase "big game" for much later in the season. But the Bandits certainly don't want to start the season with an 0-2 record. They did not play well on Friday night in a loss in Philadelphia. There were far too many stupid penalties, and the Wings' 5-0 run (four power-play goals) was the difference.

Then the Bandits took a bus to Baltimore, got up bright and early, flew back to Buffalo, and got ready for tonight's game. Meanwhile, Minnesota probably was resting up here for the game. The Bandits have that disadavantage going in. Back-to-backs are a little tricky, and it will be interesting to see if there are any lineup changes for Buffalo after last night.

Derek Suddons missed Friday's game with the flu. It's easy to say that not having him and the suspended Billy Dee Smith in the lineup hurt the team last night. We'll see what the scratches are this time around.

By the way, I do have a Twitter account @WDX2BB. (It's a throwback to an old hobby of mine if you are wondering.) I try to send out links to stories I write, covering such areas as lacrosse, running, book reviews, I also try to answer questions, when possible (email works for that too).

7:16 p.m. - Buffalo's scratches - Mike Hominuck, Carter Bender and Hayden Smith. Anthony Cosmo gets the start in the Bandits' goal.

7:23 p.m. -- In case you were wondering, and I was, the Bandits last started 0-2 in 2010. They lost their first four games but still wound up 8-8,

7:31 p.m. -- Cue the bagpipes. We're not sold out here, but it's a good crowd on hand.

7:38 p.m. - Props to Kevin Kennedy, anthem singer, for his all-orange suit. The matching shoes were a particularly nice touch. Speaking as a Syracuse grad, this is a snappy look that more people should try.

7:44 p.m. -- The Bandits are showing off their new uniforms tonight. For those not watching on YouTube, they look like the Broncos' road uniforms. Minnesota up, 1-0.

7:47 p.m. -- The Bandits have come out with a little zip and bounced some people around in the first five minutes. Give credit to Evan Kirk for looking good in goal so far.

7:55 p.m. -- It's been a funny game to far, with only the one goal by Ryan Benesch of Minnesota so far. I'd say the pitchers are ahead of the hitters at this time of year, but this is lacrosse and not baseball.

7:57 p.m. -- Just like that, Minnesota has scored two goals in 16 seconds, and Anthony Cosmo has been pulled for Kurtis Wagar. Five saves on eight shots. Hmmmm.

8:04 p.m. -- The Bandits have come up with a pair of goals to narrow the Minnesota lead to 3-2. Nick Cotter and Dhane Smith did the honors.

8:10 p.m. - Minnesota leads, 3-2, after 1. Jon Harasym picked up a five-minute major for a cross-check. He could have gotten a game misconduct for it; easy to wonder if the league will at least look at it this week.

8:15 p.m. - Crawford and Jackson have made it 5-2 Minnesota. Another major penalty is haunting the Bandits, just like last night.

8:20 p.m. -- Tracey Kelusky scores from close range to cut it to 5-3. Tracey has played pretty well so far in the early going (meaning Friday and tonight). Got to give him credit for that.

8:30 p.m. -- The goal scoring has turned frantic in the last 10 minutes, and Minnesota has had the better of it. Shayne Jackson has been the major villain to date. He had the last two goals to give him three for the night. Chad Culp scored for the Bandits. We have an 8-5 lead for the Swarm (Mark Steenhuis scored as I was typing this) with 4:16 left in the half.

8:42 p.m. -- 8-6 Minnesota at halftime. Off to do radio.

8:58 p.m. -- Always fun to talk to John Gurtler on the radio broadcast. We've been doing that at the home opener for five years. Shots for first half were 27-23, Buffalo.

9:02 p.m. - Tavares gets a goal to start the second period to cut the lead to 8-7, the closest Buffalo has been in quite a while.

9:06 p.m. - Funny how when the Bandits need some important goals, John Tavares is the one to get them. Are we sure he is 44? We have 8:50 left in the third quarter, and the Swarm is up, 8-7.

9:15 p.m. -- The scoring pace has slowed down a bit. Jordan MacIntosh has the only goal of the last few minutes. He took a relatively slow shot that seemed to fool Wagar. It went just over his shoulder and into a small opening in the top corner.

9:21 p.m. -- The score remains the same, as Led Zeppelin almost sang. It's 9-7, Minnesota after three quarters.

9:43 p.m. -- Computer problems here. We're at 12-12 with 4:34 to go. Nice burst by the Bandits but them ahead, and we've traded goals lately. A thriller.

9:48 p.m. - 30 seconds left. Minnesota has the ball, down one. Can't ask for much more than this for a season opener, eh?

9:51 p.m. - Bandits win it, 13-12. Big win by game two standards.

11:47 p.m. -- I resisted the temptation to ask Dhane Smith if the game-winner was the biggeest goal of his life as a pro. He said he shot without looking; ah, rookies.

This was a good win for the Bandits. With a bunch of divisional games on the horizon, the team didn't want to be 0-2 at this point in the season.

A couple of other notes - Mat Giles will resume practicing in the near future. The forward is on the injured list. Coach Darris Kilgour said that he'll let him become fully healthy before reaching a decision on his status. Derek Suddons was still weak from the flu but gave it his best shot for a while. He finally sat out the final few minutes because he had nothing left to give.

On to Rochester next week to see the defending champs.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Tim Horton

(Born on January 12, 1930) -- Count yourself as a hockey fan if you see the name Tim Horton on a storefront and think of hockey first. Count yourself as a big hockey fan if you know the Hall of Famer’s first name was Miles.

Horton was born in Cochrane, Ont., a small town almost due north of Buffalo not too far from Hudson Bay. He spent some time as a boy in Quebec and in Ontario. By 1948, the Maple Leafs had scouted him and signed him, and Horton moved to Toronto to continue his career.

The defenseman arrived in the NHL for good in 1952, and stayed with the Maple Leafs for 18 years. There he was a first-team all-star three times, and a second-teamer three more. Horton was known for his incredible strength, settling physical disputes by his mere arrival on the scene.

Horton went to the Rangers and Penguins, but his former coach in Toronto, Punch Imlach, couldn't resist the chance to sign Horton in 1972 at the age of 42 for the Sabres. The defenseman had plenty left in the tank, and helped Buffalo qualify for the playoffs while mentoring such young players as Jim Schoenfeld and Craig Ramsay.

Horton signed for one more year in 1973, but sadly didn’t live to finish the season. He was involved in an auto accident while driving back to Buffalo after a game in Toronto and was killed. The Sabres eventually retired his number.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Friday racing notebook

By Gene Kershner

The 2012 racing year is in the rear view mirror and the Kentucky Derby trail is about to start heating up with three more races this month with available points before we move into the Kentucky Derby Championship Series. The stakes go up when we enter the Series portion of the schedule in February where pre-determined races produce a larger amount of points up through the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in April.

Next weekend is Eclipse weekend in Hallandale Beach, Florida, where Gulfstream Park will host the 42nd annual awards show. Here are some of the things that have been rattling around the squirrel cage... 

-- There’s a good chance that Wise Dan will come away with Horse of the Year (HOY), but not win a single individual category. The odd occurrence could happen with Little Mike (Older Turf Male) and Fort Larned (Older Male) could take both categories from the probable HOY.  I voted for him in the HOY and Older Male categories, but did give Little Mike the nod in the Older Turf division based on his three quality victories in the Arlington Million, Turf Classic and the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

-- The Eclipse finalists (top three) in each category were released last Saturday and can be found here at the NTRA website.

-- The next three races in the Derby points system are the Lecomte (Fair Grounds), the Smarty Bull (Oaklawn) and the Holy Bull Stakes (Gulfstream), all with a 10-4-2-1 scorecard for the top four spots. All are prep races for races in the Championship Series portion of the schedule at the three respective tracks.

-- The first annual ThoroFan Awards Brunch will be held the morning after the Eclipse Awards at Gulfstream with trainer Nick Zito and 2012 NHC Champion handicapper Michael Beychok will be the guest speakers. Mrs. Patrice Wolfson, owner of the last Triple Crown champion Affirmed, will accept the inaugural ThoroFan Award on behalf of her and her late husband, Louis.

-- It was reported on Wednesday morning, that the Pletcher-based Archwarrior, a colt that was mega-hyped during his 2-year-old campaign, is off the Derby trail and may return in time for the Belmont.

-- Buffalo Raceway opened on Wednesday night and will run through mid-July at the Hamburg oval. Make sure you follow their twitter account (@BuffaloRaceway) for updates and promotions.

-- On December 29, my namesake, Kershner ($9.00), a 3-year-old Trippi colt won at Tampa Bay Downs, and filling my inbox, as opposed to my wallet.

-- It looks like New York State Racing & Wagering Board Chairman John D. Sabini will step down as the state’s chief racing regulator today. He has been in that post since 2008. The pending merger with the state Lottery division into a state Gaming Commission on Feb. 1 and the fact he would only be paid on a per diem basis in the future if retained, appear to be the main reasons behind his stepping down. 

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turfxwriter, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Mike Williams

(Born January 11, 1980) -- This is not the Mike Williams who grew up in Buffalo and achieved success in the National Football League. This is the Mike Williams who represents a huge disappointment for the Bills and their fans.

Williams was born in Dallas and played high school football there. It was a natural step for the big offensive lineman to move on to the University of Texas. There he was the right tackle for quarterback Chris Simms, the son of Phil and a left-hander. Since he was used to protecting a passer’s blind side, NFL scouts thought he’d be a great fit as a left tackle for most teams.

The Bills certainly thought so. They had the fourth pick in the first round of the 2002 draft, and saw Williams as the type of player who could fill a spot on the line with All-Pro play for more than a decade.

Williams had his chances. He started at both tackle sports for a while, but eventually lost the left tackle job to free agent Jason Peters, who became an All-Pro. The Bills tried him at guard and even used him once in a while on the defensive line, but eventually gave up on him and released the 330-pounder in 2006.

Williams was picked up by Jacksonville, but was gone by the end of 2006. After two years off, Willliams was signed by Washington despite weighing about 400 pounds. He started for the Redskins at guard at 2009 but developed blood clots and eventually was released.

-- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: George Carter

(Born on January 10, 1944) -- George Carter wasn’t good at every sport on the planet. It only seemed that way.

He established that reputation at Silver Creek High School. Carter was an all-Western New York selection twice in basketball, and had the same honor in football once. In the spring, Carter won a sectional title at the 100-yard dash.

Carter went down the road to St. Bonaventure for college. He led the Bonnies in scoring twice and in rebounding three times – not bad for a 6-foot-4 player. Then in 1967, Carter had his choice of professions ... since he was drafted by the Detroit Pistons, and the Buffalo Bills, and the New York Mets.

Carter only played in one game in the NBA before serving a two-year commitment in the armed forced. He came back to the American Basketball Association, the swingman played for eight different teams in seven years. He scored no matter where he played, averaging about 18 points per game. Carter also played with such stars as Julius Erving and Charlie Scott.

Since retiring from basketball, Carter has spent plenty of time going to Hall of Fame inductions. Everyone from his high school and college to the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame has honored him.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Rob McClanahan

(Born on January 9, 1958) -- When it comes to Olympic heroes who played for the Buffalo Sabres, it’s easy to think of Mike Ramsey - a member of the “Miracle on Ice” group that won a gold for the United States in 1980. But don’t forget one of McClanahan’s teammates, Rob McClanahan.

The forward was part of a national championship team at the University of Minnesota in 1979. He joined the Olympic team the next season, and became a standout. McClanahan only trailed Mark Johnson in the exhibition season in the run-up to Lake Placid.

When McClanahan arrived, he was ready. Not only did he have five goals in the tournament, but McClanahan scored the game-winning goal in the third period against Finland. Moments don’t come much better than that.

The Sabres signed him right after the Olympics and brought him to Buffalo to play. That must have been a difficult emotional task, but McClanahan still had some good moments for a Buffalo team that reached the NHL playoff semifinals.

In the fall of 1981, the Sabres put him on waivers, and the Whalers claimed him. McClanahan also spent time with the Rangers before retiring because of injures. From there it was on to a second career, working on investments back home in Minnesota. Think anyone asks him about Lake Placid?

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Billy Joe Hobert

(Born January 8, 1971) -- Everyone who was a Buffalo Bills fan at the time remember the most famous episode in Billy Joe Hobert’s career. In fact, it might be one of the most infamous moments in team history.

Hobert had some credentials to be a good quarterback. He led Washington to a national championship in 1991, taking over when Mark Brunell was hurt. But he confessed to taking loans from family and friends while a Huskie, causing a major scandal.

Hobert went in the third round of the 1993 NFL draft to the Raiders. He was a backup quarterback there for four years, and then he was sent to the Bills in 1997.

Todd Collins was the starter, but in one game against New England he was hurt. Hobert came in as a replacement and was terrible. Right after the game, Hobert admitted he never expected to play and was completely unprepared to do so. That bit of honesty cost him his job, as the Bills released him.

Hobert eventually landed with the Saints, and finished his career with the Colts in 2001.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Randy Burridge

(Born on January 7, 1966) -- When Randy Burridge came to Buffalo in a Bruins uniform to play hockey, many Sabre fans quietly hoped that Burridge sometime would wind up as a member of their favorite team. It took a while, but they got their wish.

Burridge was born right across the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie and played Junior B hockey there before working his way to the Ontario Hockey League for junior play. He was drafted 157th by Boston in the 1985 Entry Draft.

The Bruins brought him up in 1985-86, and he was a good fit on the Boston teams of that era - hard-working and tough. He had 27 goals in his first full season of 1987-88, and 31 a year later. Whenever Burridge played in Buffalo, his family reportedly had a sign waiting to greet him.

The right winger was traded to Washington and then went to Los Angeles. In 1995-96, Burridge arrived in Buffalo, a great fit for a team that needed some experience in the midst of a rebuilding project. Burridge had 25 goals that year, and then helped Buffalo win a division a year later.

Injuries caught up with him, and he was out of pro hockey by 1999. At last report, he was coaching youth hockey in - of all places - Las Vegas.

--- Budd Bailey

1270 The Fan will debut Monday

It’s out with Frank Sinatra, in with sports talk for Cumulus radio’s AM 1270 on Monday.

The former WHLD, an “adult standards” music station, will be rebranded as 1270 The Fan, with most of its programming from the CBS Sports Radio network.

The station will have one local talk show, airing noon to 3 p.m. and hosted by Rich Gaenzler, who was formerly a regular on the Buffalo Bills Radio Network. CBS Sports Radio broadcasts Jim Rome’s program at that time; Rome’s show show airs here on Entercom’s WGR 550.

Among the shows scheduled to air on AM 1270 are ones hosted by John Feinstein (9 a.m. to noon), Doug Gottlieb (3-6 p.m.), and Chris Moore and Brian Jones (6-10 p.m.).

-- Greg Connors 

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Carl Voss

(Born on January 6, 1907) -- We have to go way, way back into Buffalo’s hockey past to find this standout. Carl Voss probably wasn’t the first “star” in the city’s pro hockey history, but he was close.

Voss was born in Massachusetts, but moved to Canada at a young age and picked up the game there. After some time in the Toronto area, including a two-game stint with the Maple Leafs, the forward landed in Buffalo for the 1929-30 season.

He stayed for three seasons, and got better each time. Voss finished with 41 points in 1931-32. That led the league in scoring, and he helped Buffalo win the second of two straight championships.

At that point, Voss was dealt by the Bisons to the New York Rangers for Lorne Carr and $15,000 - a tidy sum by 1932 standards. You’d have to say he was ready for the NHL then, because he won rookie of the year honors in 1932-33 - the first-ever Calder Trophy winner.

The center played for a variety of teams in 1938. Then he retired and moved into an administrative role in officiating. In fact, Voss was the NHL’s referee-in-chief for 15 years, and that helped get him into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 1974.

--- 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.