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Bandits blog - Live from First Niagara Center

6:50 p.m. - They're back.

The Bandits are ready to start another season. As usual, we can't possibly guess what might happen in the coming season. No one saw last season's second half meltdown, which resulted in the team missing the playoffs for one of the few times in its history. No one would have guessed a year ago that Darris Kilgour would be an ex-coach, and that Troy Cordingley would come down the QEW from Toronto to coach the Bandits.

That's where we are tonight. The NLL has an expanded schedule this season, going to 18 games from 16. That means another night in the FNC for indoor lacrosse action.

A couple of notes from the morning shootaround - the Bandits have to scratch two players, and the picks tonight are Chad Culp and Aaron Wilson. Competition up front is going to be very tough this season, as obviously Culp and Wilson can play in this league. Anthony Cosmo gets the start in goal. Cordingley told me that everyone on the roster is healthy.

I had the chance to talk to Tracey Kelusky at practice this morning. He'll be suited up for the Philadelphia Wings tonight. Tracey said he thought about retiring, but found that he still wanted to play and the Wings gave him that opportunity. Check out his thoughts in my Bandits notebook that will be in Sunday's paper.

7:28 p.m. - Ah, bagpipes. Haven't heard any in months.

7:29 p.m. - For those who keep track of such things - Joe Resetarits is wearing #5, Derek Suddons moves to #7, Ryan Benesch has #17, Andrew Watt wears #22, Rory Smith goes with #42.

7:39 p.m. - We're about ready to start. By the way, you can watch the game on YouTube. Go to nll.com for an easy link. Kyle Buchanan of Philadelphia has the game's lone goal.

7:57 p.m. - Bandits scored a power-play goal (Ryan Benesch) on a four-man passing play. I'm not sure I've ever seen more involved in a Buffalo goal in five-plus years. What did it look like? A Toronto power play. This is not a coincidence. It's 2-1, Philadelphia.

8:04 p.m. - The Wings have a 4-3 lead after a quarter. Benesch has two goals, Glen Bryan the third for Buffalo. Kyle Sweeney scored for Philadelphia. He was a Bandit in 2012.

8:15 p.m. - Good idea for a commercial break now. Lots of scoring on both ends. Philadelphia has a 6-4 lead with 9:51 to go in the period. Anthony Cosmo would like a couple of those shots that beat him back.

8:21 p.m. - Jordan Hall of the Wings has a natural hat trick, as they say in hockey. It's 8-4, Wings.

8:38 p.m. - Halftime. Buffalo has battled back with three late goals to get within 9-7. Hall has four goals for Philadelphia. Off to do radio.

9:02 p.m. - Only one goal in the first five-plus minutes of the second half, and Kelusky got it. He put Philadelphia ahead, 10-7.

9:09 p.m. - Billy Dee Smith got into a wrestling match with Garrett Thul, he of the U.S. Military Academy. Probably not a good idea to fight guys just back from West Point. Billy Dee held up well, though, as usual. It's 11-8, Philadelphia.

9:14 p.m. - Not sure if Philadelphia's 26 shots in the second period is the most against the Bandits in a period - the media guide hasn't been published yet - but it's impressive. The Wings only have nine in 11 minutes in the third period.

9:18 p.m. - Cosmo has let in two goals from long range, and he'll sit in favor of Kurtis Wagar. It's 13-8.

9:23 p.m. - After three quarters, Philadelphia has a 13-9 lead.

9:36 p.m. - It's been more bad news since the. The Wings are up 16-11 with 6:43 left. Going to take a lot to get back into this one.

9:50 p.m. - It didn't come - Bandits lose, 17-13.

11:38 p.m. - As you could imagine, the Bandits weren't too happy with their play. As Troy Cordingley put it, "We were terrible. We're lucky it's only Dec. 28."

Jordan Hall had five goals and two assists for the Wings, while Kelusky finished with two goals and four assists. Kevin Ross chipped in with three goals, while Kyle Buchanan went 3-5-8. Dhane Smith had three goals, while Mark Steenhuis had five points (2-3). Next up - Toronto, at home, in 13 days. Think Cordingley has that one circled on his calendar.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: The 2014 Racing Kreskin

By Gene Kershner

In November, the Racing Kreskin reviewed his 2013 racing predictions where he fell well short of expectations after a solid 2012 year where he batted .500. The 2013 dip was significant as we missed our first eight selections and were looking to get off the duck at the Breeders' Cup with the final two projections. Luckily we nailed both to reach the Mendoza Line and give the Racing Kreskin some hope for 2014.

 So as we approach the new year, it’s time to pull out the crystal ball and start channeling our inner Kreskin to take a look at the upcoming 2014 racing season.  We’ll keep some of the staples in the mix (you’ll recognize them) and add a few new twists this year. So without further adieu, Mr. Kreskin…

1. A filly from the west coast will win the Kentucky Oaks. Last year, Princess of Sylmar captured the Oaks at 47-1 from the east coast. Sorry to go all 2Pac and Biggie on y'all, but it's the west coast's turn to win the Oaks.

2. The Kentucky Derby winner will come from gates 4 through 7. This is a bit of a stretch, and I could have gone with the inside and included the inner three gates, but we know that's most likely not going to happen. We're narrowing our odds here, but we're talking Racing Kreskin here, not Jimmy the Greek.

3. The Derby winner will come out of the Wood Memorial. It's been a long time since the Wood produced a Derby winner. You have to go back 13 years to Fusaichi Pegasus as the last winner. Three of the last five years' winners have been Derby threats, although two (I Want Revenge and Eskendereya) never made it to the gate.

4. The trainer of the Derby winner will claim his first. So what I'm saying here is no Baffert, no Pletcher, no D. Wayne, and no Shug.  Jerry Hollendorfer, anyone?

5. A colt will win two of the three Triple Crown races.  Wait, what? No Triple Crown again? Not only that, we're looking at two of three. Opens the door for an Afleet Alex type (Preakness-Belmont) or a disappointing failure in the Belmont, most likely.

6. Roger Attfield wins a record ninth Queen’s Plate. The Canadian and U.S. Hall of Famer is currently tied with Harry Giddings, Jr. for the top spot atop the trainer category for Plate victories. I watched his last win at venerable Fort Erie Race Track on the simulcast in 2008 when Not Bourbon helped him tie the record. Attention: This is a repeat selection, for those wondering if I was getting lazy.

7. Joel Rosario wins the riding title at Saratoga. He was red-hot going into the Spa meet in 2013, after winning the Dubai World Cup and the Derby, but finished third with 41 victories behind Castellano (66) and Velazquez (46). Castellano will be tough to beat and who knows how Johnny V responds in his recovery from his spleen removal. It's Joel's time.

8. The Haskell Hat is Green.  It's been dark colors for the past five years. Green has been off the rotation since 1997 and has to be back this year.  It has shown up on the brim in 1999 and in the stitching in 2007, but that doesn't count. Upset possibilities: white (2007) and yellow (2002).

9. A track other than Santa Anita or Churchill will be awarded the 2015 Breeders’ Cup.  It’s been a two-track rotation for seven straight years. This means we're projecting the folks at Breeders' Cup Ltd. going back to the origins of the concept and looking to rotate the Cup away from the big three (including Belmont).  This projection has the least likely chance for success.

10. The Classic winner will go off between 5-1 and 10-1. So we're saying the post time favorite won't win and it'll likely be a horse going off as the third to sixth choice on the board, but not a long shot. I like our chances here. 

That’s it for the Racing Kreskin, 2014. We made some bold predictions, but no one said this job was easy. Look for my year in racing review in print editions this weekend. 

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

Bandits notebook: A week to go

A few notes from today's morning workout at First Niagara Center:

* The captains for the team have been picked. John Tavares is the captain. One of the assistants will always be Shawn Williams. The other assistant's spot will be split between Billy Dee Smith and Mark Steenhuis.

* Coach Troy Cordingley reports there are no major injuries on the roster, so everyone should be good to go for the opener next Saturday night.

* Cordingley was asked about how Mitch Wilde made a spot on the practice squad, while Nick Diachenko - taken one spot earlier in the second round in September's draft - didn't. The coach replied that Wilde simply was the better player, based on an outstanding training camp. Cordingley added that it was tough to cut players this week not because they weren't good enough to play in the league, but because there just wasn't room for them on the roster.

14. Buffalo (from Edmonton) - Nick Diachenko, University of Delaware
15. Buffalo** (from Calgary) - Mitch Wilde, Robert Morris University - See more at: http://www.nll.com/news_article/show/276205#sthash.WSr98hM7.dpuf

* One transaction of interest slipped through the other day - the Philadelphia Wings cut ex-Bandit Luke Wiles. There has to be a story behind how someone went from an All-Star to unemployed in fewer than two years.

A full preview of the upcoming season, including an interview with NLL Commissioner George Daniel will be appearing in The News later this week.,

--- Budd Bailey

The Year in Sports Books

I'll avoid the usual cliche about last-minute Christmas shopping here. Here are the books that I thought were the best that I read in 2013 in the area of sports. They are good any time of the year, and not just now.

Click on the title for a complete review of the book in question from my website:

The NHL - D'Arcy Jenish - The author came up with some great source materials and has written something of a business history of the NHL. It really makes the league's past come alive.

Their Life's Work - Gary Pomerantz - It's a lovely look at the Steelers' glory days, even if that's not the word you'd use to describe the team. I dare say ever fan in Pittsburgh has one already.

Collision Low Crossers - Nicholas Dawidoff - I think it's the best pro football book I've ever read. It certainly does the best job of explaining what the game is like from the inside.

The Last Boy (2010) - Jane Leavy - I'm late to the party on this. I bought it at a used book sale, and was thoroughly impressed. I'm no Yankee fan, but this biography was thorough and surprising. Get it.

Francona - Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy - Hard to believe how open everyone was about Francona's time in Boston. Mostly for Red Sox fans, but it's a great look inside a baseball operation.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Friday racing notebook

By Gene Kershner

With only five days left until Christmas and 12 until the New Year, the racing season is winding down and we'll be spending the next two weekends deciding on our Eclipse Awards ballot which I will post in the first week of the New Year.

We're also feverishly working on our 2014 prognostications for next weekend (ala Kreskin) and hope we can get over the Mendoza line this year after last year's dismal showing. Last week's Festivus post received some solid traction thanks to equidaily.com's link and subsequent interview on Racing Across America via Capital -OTB TV in Albany on Wednesday ( go to 40:25 mark).

Some thoughts as we head into the holidays….

- It's regrettable that I never made it to Hollywood Park. So many great races have been held there over time.  Racing will conclude this weekend at the site of the first Breeders' Cup in 1984, and will give way to real estate development. It was No. 7 on my wish list...oh well.

- No news is typically not good news when it comes to the Ontario Provincial government that seems to be slow on the trigger to respond to the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium's 91-page proposal surrounding the Year of the Horse and festival racing at the border oval. As more time passes, the more dire the situation across the border becomes. The festival concept is interesting, but will be very difficult to pull off, mainly due to stabilizing a horse population, not just the tourism monies that will have to raised. The glass is half empty in this corner. Let's hope racing isn't shuttered across the Peace Bridge.

- While preparing for my television interview, I didn't realize that Gary Stevens has only had 369 mounts during the year in ranking third in Grade 1 wins (8) behind Mike Smith (15) and John Velazquez (13), respectively. Ironically, Smith has only 402 mounts. It appears the elder statesmen sure know how to pick their spots.

- Aqueduct is unveiling a new wager on January 1 called The Omni. A bettor will have to select two of the first three finishers to win the bet. How many times has your exacta been split finishing 1-3 or worse 2-3? The bet will have a fairly low takeout rate of 15 percent.

- On January 1, New York State will impose a 5 percent market origin fee on each dollar wagered by a New York State resident on any out-of-state account wagering deposit (ADW) company. This will affect many of the ADW's such as twinspires.com, Xpressbet and TVG, the three largest in the country. The track wagered on by the NY resident does not matter when calculating the fee. ADW's typically retain 10-20 percent of each dollar wagered according to the Daily Racing Form.

- New York is obviously trying to discourage out-of-state ADW's with dealing with NY customers and to drive customers to one of the OTB accounts in New York or NYRA Rewards. However, when I contacted twinspires.com they assured me of the following: "This will not affect you in anyway. This fee is something that we as the ADW will have to pay. This is not a fee we will be passing on to our customers who live in NY. There is a chance some people would be affected but those are rebated players and it could affect their rebates."  Good news for the weekend warriors who like to use services like twinspires.

Happy holidays!

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

Video: 'Bucky & Sully' on WBBZ, by segment

News Sports Columnists Bucky Gleason and Jerry Sullivan have a live show that airs on WBBZ-TV twice weekly, at 7 p.m. Mondays and Fridays.

Find out where to find WBBZ here.

Here are segments from tonight's show:

Continue reading "Video: 'Bucky & Sully' on WBBZ, by segment" »

Bandits reach roster limit

The Buffalo Bandits released nine players on Monday to reach the 20-man roster limit for National Lacrosse League teams.

The biggest surprise among the moves may have been Nick Diachenko, who was the team's first draft choice in the 2013 draft. Diachenko went in the second round. Others to go are Dylan Goddard, Derek Hopcroft, Steve Fryer, Mike McNamara, Colin Boucher, Mitch Wilde, Hayden Smith and Jordan Critch.

Boucher, Critch, Smith and Wild were all placed on the team's practice squad. In addition, goalie Eric Penney was placed on injured reserve.

Rosters went from 23 players to 20 this season as part of the new collective bargaining agreement. That probably damaged the chances of Hopcroft and McNamara returning to the team. Both played for the Bandits last season.

Most of last year's team is back for the 2013-14 campaign. However, the listing of Mark Steenhuis as a forward was eye-opening. Steenhuis, once one of the top goal scorers in the league, has spent much of his time in a transition role in recent years. While Steenhuis is capable of playing either position, the roster listing may mean new coach Troy Cordingly will give the veteran a long look up front.

The opening night roster:

Forwards: Ryan Benesch, Chad Culp, Joe Resetarits, Jamie Rooney, Steenhuis, John Tavares, Shawn Williams and Aaron Wilson.

Transition: David Brock, Kevin Brownell, Dhane Smith, Jay Thorimbert and Andrew Watt.

Defensemen: Glen Bryan, Steve Priolo, Billy Dee Smith, Rory Smith and Derek Suddons.

Goaltenders: Anthony Cosmo and Kurtis Wagar.

The season begins on Dec. 28 at home against the Philadelphia Wings.

--- Budd Bailey

Video: 'Bucky & Sully' on WBBZ, by segment

News Sports Columnists Bucky Gleason and Jerry Sullivan have a live show that airs on WBBZ-TV twice weekly, at 7 p.m. Mondays and Fridays.

Find out where to find WBBZ here.

Here are segments from tonight's show:

Continue reading "Video: 'Bucky & Sully' on WBBZ, by segment" »

Bandits: Hominuck retires

The teams of the National Lacrosse League must cut down to 20 people on their active roster by Monday at noon. It sounds as if Mike Hominuck decided opted to make the decision by the Buffalo Bandits' coaching staff a little easier.

The veteran forward of the Bandits has announced his retirement.

"I wish I could've played one more year, but it wasn't in the cards and I'm happy to be going out a Bandit," Hominuck said. "I will always be a supporter and continue cheering for the Bandits."

Hominuck, 32, played nine seasons in the NLL, three with the Bandits. In 102 games, he finished with 127 goals and 184 assists. Hominuck also played with Minnesota, Edmonton, Toronto and Philadelphia.

He was fairly effective last season with the Bandits. Hominuck did get caught in a numbers game at times last season, as the Bandits brought in many new faces during the 2013 season and had some problems finding adequate playing time for all of them.

For what it's worth, Hominuck was one of the best interviews on the team. He's an eighth-grade teacher in Welland, Ont., and is a smart, interesting person. Speaking as a media member, you hate to see those guys go.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: It's a Racing Festivus 2013!

By Gene Kershner

It's that time of year where we dance around the Festivus Pole and discuss Thoroughbred Racing’s 2013 Feats of Strength and the Airing of Grievances. Time to gather round the table and enjoy a wonderful Festivus meal and a few Festivus ales as we're ready to unveil this year’s Racing Festivus for the rest of us...

“Feats of Strength”

Stevens and Lukas steal the limelight old school style. 50-year-old Gary Stevens won the Preakness aboard Oxbow, the Breeders' Cup Distaff on Beholder and the Breeders' Cup Classic on Mucho Macho Man to cap a terrific year after a seven-year layoff. Stevens was named the winner earlier in the week of the Big Sport of Turfdom by the Turf Publicists of America. D. Wayne Lukas teamed with Stevens in the Preakness and added the Travers win with Will Take Charge in addition to a nose loss in the Classic during a big comeback year for the 78-year-old conditioner.

Calidoscopio's incredible closing finish in the Brooklyn. NBC's Larry Collmus described Calidoscopio's win as "he came from the clouds" after trailing by a whopping 22 lengths during the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap. The 2012 Breeders' Cup Marathon winner bred in Argentina became only the second 10-year-old horse to win a graded stakes race with the win. You can watch the incredible finish here on the sloppy Belmont track on the eve of the Belmont Stakes in the mile and a half race.

Will Take Charge's late season charge. After struggling through the Triple Crown season, the 3-year-old who stands well over 17 hands tall, stole the show once the summer racing season began. Big wins in the Travers, Pennsylvania Derby and Clark Handicap surrounding a nostril loss in the Breeders' Cup Classic should vault the Lukas-trained sophomore to divisional honors in January. He ran a herculean 11 times during 2013 and finished the year 11-5-2-0, earning nearly $2.9 million during the year, clearly a feat of strength.

Ok, so here’s what you’re really looking for, the annual airing of grievances…also known as “I’ve got a lot of problems with you people!”

“Airing of Grievances”

NYRA increases attendance prices at Belmont and Saratoga for 2014. Clubhouse admission prices will rise $3 (or 60%) to $8; and general admission will be increased $2 (or 67%) to $5 for patrons attending both Belmont and Saratoga in 2014. Bettors will be a little lighter in the wallet. Come on NYRA, how about a season pass for the faithful that show up daily at the two venerable tracks? I can see you fleecing the unsuspecting tourist, but the loyal bettor that keeps your handle up. Promises of increased customer service to enhance the experience, ring hollow when you can't hear the sound system.

Derby Points System  current year revisions still shun Illinois Derby. It was more than obvious of the snub that parent company Churchill Downs pulled when eliminating the Illinois Derby from its new points system in 2013, and when changes were promised in 2014, the race is still on the outside looking in. You can bet that Churchill officials were holding their collective breath hoping that 2013 Illinois Derby winner Departing didn't win the Preakness. The Illinois Derby is run at Hawthorne Race Course, the rival Chicago track to Churchill-owned Arlington. Draw your own conclusions, but I’m continuing to air a grievance here.

Ontario government turns back on Fort Erie. The folks at the border oval have had to resort to presenting a festival-style meeting over a three-week period in August that still will require government approvals to extend thoroughbred racing into the 116th year at the Fort. It's a shame that the jewel across the bridge could be shuttered in 2014.  I got a lot of issues with your provincial governing, Ontario!

Breeders' Cup will return for third straight year to Santa Anita. Am I really upset that I have to go back to beautiful Santa Anita next November for Breeders' Cup XXXI? From a personal standpoint the answer is, of course not. But what about the original mission to showcase racing's best across the country at various tracks? Since 2006, the Cup has rotated between two tracks, with one miserable underwater venture at Monmouth Park in 2007. I'll give BC Ltd. credit for renaming the Ladies' Classic back to the Distaff this year, but the original mission and plan seems to be thrown away for the siren of Hollywood. Sorry, but I'm calling you on it, BC.

That’s a wrap for this year’s Racing Festivus. In the next few weeks, we’ll look at some 2014 prognostications, Kreskin-style. Happy holidays, racing fans.

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

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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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