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Bandits notebook: A reflection

A fairly quick thought as we head into the finals of the National Lacrosse League playoffs:

The final two rounds of the postseason feature a "best-of-two" format, which has been a little tough to explain to outsiders. Both teams get a home game, and if it's tied after those two games, a 10-minute mini-game is played to decide who advances or who wins the championship. As it approached, no one in the sport seemed to find it satisfactory, although the idea of having a home playoff game went over pretty well.

Sure enough, both division finals went to the mini-game. You know by now how Calgary defeated Edmonton, and Rochester beat Buffalo. Barely.

Now, is this a fair system? Probably not. Two teams are more or less beat after 60 minutes of play, and to start over is a little odd. One bounce can be a little too important in determining the outcome.

I would think a better system would be for the first two rounds to be a best-of-one, with the finals set for best-of-three. It would still fill up five weeks, but would add more fairness. Commissioner George Daniel said on Saturday night that the league would see how the system worked, and determine whether to continue with the "best-of-twos" or tinker a bit.

But here's the one catch in all of this.

Saturday's game in Rochester was at the least one of the most dramatic sporting events I have ever attended. 

The tension in the building during that mini-game was amazing. It started when the Bandits picked up a penalty in the early going, a call that still had some players mumbling well after the game was over even though Buffalo killed it off. When the Bandits took the early lead and were holding on to it, the tension merely went up. And when Rochester scored with a little more than two minutes left in regulation, the game was almost painful to watch until Rochester won about two minutes gone in overtime. And I didn't even have a rooting interest in the teams. 

The obvious comparison would be to a Game Seven of the Stanley Cup playoffs. I saw the 1997 game between the Sabres and Senators, which I believe in Buffalo's only Game Seven win in history. That was very dramatic too.

The difference is that there is more scoring in indoor lacrosse than there is in hockey. When one team carried the ball over the center line last night, there was a distinct possibility that the attacking team could score. So there was a great deal of relief when it didn't, and the other team and its fans started to worry when the ball came back the other way. In hockey, an offensive rush always has a chance of scoring, but the odds are against it.  

Obviously all sports have their dramatic moments, particulary when everything is on the line. But I was somewhat unprepared for how this particular game in Rochester played out.

Now the league will have a decision to make. Do the stunning theatrics make up for the lack of fairness in the format? That will be a fascinating decision to follow.

-- Budd Bailey

Live from Rochester: Bandits vs. Knighthawks

7:06 p.m. - This ought to be a fun night.

The Buffalo Bandits and Rochester Knighthawks are about 30 minutes from competing in the NLL East final. The Bandits won the first game last week back in Buffalo and thus has an advantage. However, Rochester has the home field for tonight, and that could be important. If Rochester wins the 60-minute game here this evening, the teams will take a break for a couple of minutes and then play a 10-minute game. The winner of that goes on to play Calgary for the title in the next two weeks.

We're all trying to figure out the ins and outs of the mini-game concept. What did we learn last night? Calgary dominated the second half but fell short in the opener. The Roughnecks just kept playing that way in the 10-minute game and wound up winners, 2-1.  I'm still surprised that Edmonton was unable to get good shots from close range, but the Roughnecks had something to do with it.

That has one immediate effect on tonight's game. If Rochester advances, it will have the home field advantage for Games Two and Two-Point-Sixteen (the mini-game). Edmonton had the best record in the regular season. The Bandits had the fourth-best record of the four teams, so they were set to be home first no natter what happened.

By the way, Rochester is trying to become the first team in league history to win three straight titles. The Bandits won two in a row in 1992-93, but have only won two others since then.

7:24 p.m. - One issue that might come up - the Bandits do have some experience up front. Will the Knighthawks try to be a bit more, um, energetic in the game to tire Buffalo out? Would it make a difference in the mini-game? We'll see.

Meanwhile, there has been lots of chatter about John Tavares possibly playing his last game on a given night. There has been nothing official about it, but he's at least pondering it. That could give an emotional boost to the Bandits.

Aaron Wilson, Mitch Jones and Glen Bryan are out for the Bandits. Jamie Batson and Craig Point will set for the Knighthawks. The game is on youtube.com. Just don't forget about your friends back here.

7:29 p.m. - NLL Commissioner George Daniel just stopped by to say hello. My first question - how do you get from Edmonton to Rochester quickly? He said he flew to Hamilton and was driven here. Daniel mentioned what a roller-coaster last night was for the Edmonton fans - win the regulation game, even the series, and then lose the mini-game.

This could be a noisy night. Bandit Nation certainly has made the trip down the Thruway. I wouldn't say it is 50-50 in terms of fans, but Buffalo may produce more decibels per person. (There's a phrase I've never used before.)

7:47 p.m. - Bandits jump out to a 2-1 lead on goals by Dhane Smith and Ryan Benesch. Both teams have had some 30-second violations, as the intensity level seems to have picked up a notch.

7:56 p.m. - Dhane Smith sees his shot dribble across the line to double the Buffalo lead to 3-1. This is one noisy building.

8:06 p.m. - That might be the most intense quarter I've ever seen. The 4-4 score is exactly right. Rochester scored three straight goals to take the lead, and Jamie Rooney answered with 23 seconds left.

8:18 p.m. - Can't let Cody Jamieson get open shots. He converted on two of them, and the Knighthawks have taken a 6-4 lead. Buffalo has a power play right now; it would be a good idea to score on it to change the momentum a bit.

8;25 p.m. - Rochester runs the lead up to 9-4 with five straight goals. Johnny Powless has two of them. Funny how things can turn so quickly. 

8;30 p.m. - No change in the score with 4:32 left in the half.  

8:37 p.m. - Knighthawks take 10-5 lead into locker room at halftime. Those 6-1 periods will kill you.

8:55 p.m. - Back to work.

9:03 p.m. - Knighthawks build lead to 11-5 on Scott Campbell goal. The mini-game is lurking in the foreground now.

9:11 p.m. - John Tavares is on the scoreboard, coming off the bench as a trailer and scoring. That cut the lead to 11-6. Rory Smith is seen frequently smacking the back of Cody Jamieson with his stick. How do these guys get out of bed the next morning?

9:17 p.m. - Knighthawks finish three quarters with the 11-6 lead, and the Rochester fans appreciate it.

9:28 p.m. - Rochester is up  12-6 with 8:55 left.

9:34 p.m. - Knighthawks now have a 13-8 lead with 5:17 left.

9:42 p.m. - And that's the way it ends. A short break, and on to the mini-game.

9:50 P.M. - No score with 5:10 left in mini-game.

9:54 p.m. - Joe Resetarits' goal gives Bandits 1-0 lead. 2:48 left. Terrific drama.

9:58 p.m. - McCready's goal ties it. Bandits ball with 35 seconds to go. What more could you want?

10:01 p.m. - How about sudden-death overtime?

10":06 p.m. - Vitarelli wins it at 1:56 for Rochester. Not much to choose from here, but the Knighthawks came through.

-- Budd Bailey

 

Live from First Niagara Center: Bandits vs. Knighthawks

7:06 p.m. - Don't roll up the carpet yet. There's more lacrosse to be played here.

The Bandits advanced in the first round of the playoffs against Toronto last week. That earned them the chance to play in the East Final against Rochester. The Knighthawks had a bye in the first round. Later tonight, Calgary goes against Edmonton in the West final.

It's best-of-two-and-a-sixth, as I'm fond of saying. Each team has a home game. If both teams have a win at this time next week, they will follow the second game with a 10-minute mini-game. It hasn't been a popular move on the team level (coaches, players, etc.), but people do like the idea of having a home game in the mix.

We will have a small crowd for this one. The Bandits had sold 8,500 tickets as of this morning. It's tough to move tickets on such short notice. It will not be the worst crowd ever. The Bandits drew 6,742 for a Feb. 5, 2000 game.

No word on the lineups yet. The lineup sheet and the media notes had different Buffalo rosters, who we'll have to see who wins that one.

7:28 p.m. - Still no sign of lineups. Meanwhile, you might have seen the documentary (22 min.) on John Tavares done for AT&T. The crew is back this weekend working on a follow-up. Watch for it in about six to eight weeks; I'm sure the Bandits will give it plenty of publicity.

7:30 p.m. - Looks like the same lineup as last week. That would mean Aaron Wilson and Glen Bryan will sit. Joel Matthews and Mitch Jones on practice squad.

7:38 p.m. - Anthems are done. Joe McCready and Mac Allen are the scratches for Rochester. Let's go to work.

7:46 p.m. - Bandits jump out to 2-0 lead, with Mark Steenhuis getting both goals. Can't ask for a much better start from a Buffalo perspective. Bandit fans that did show up actually have been pretty loud.

7:56 p.m. - Rochester has come back with 3 straight goals. Knighthawks have a 3-2 lead with 3:11 left. Jamieson, Dawson and Walters did the scoring.

8:02 p.m. - That's where it ends up after a period. Bandits have been outshot, 15-10.

8:20 p.m. - Bandits fight back to take a 6-4 lead. John Tavares turned back the clock to score two vintage goals in a row. One came on a fast break, the other on the old jump from behind the net stuff shot. Steenhuis has a hat trick.

8:32 p.m. - Halftime - Bandits up, 6-5. Odd first half, with both teams having stretches of blocked shots, missed passes, etc. But there also have been some exciting goals.

8:52 p.m. - Six minutes (exactly) have gone by in the second half, and there's been no change in the scored. Buffalo still up by a 6-5 count. The Bandits have 55 seconds left on a power play. Frankly, not too much has happened in the early going of the half. Lots of bad possessions have taken place.

8:58 p.m. - Dan Dawson got open right in front of the net. The future Hall of Famer cashed in on the opportunity to tie the game at 6. We have 4:52 left in the third quarter.

9:05 p.m. - Cory Vitarelli puts the Knighthawks up again, 7-6. The lead holds up through the end of the third period.

9:14 p.m. - Dhane Smith ties it for Buffalo. 7-7 with 10:28 left. In other words, nothing has been decided.

9:24 p.m. - Buffalo explodes for three straight goals to lead, 10-8 with 4:50 to go.

9:31 p.m. - Bandits up 12-8 with 1:13. Tavares with four goals.

9:36 p.m. - Bandits win, 12-8, a win from NLL final.

--- Budd Bailey

 

Live from Air Canada Centre: Bandits vs. Rock

6:52 p.m. - It's take two on the live blog, but this should work. Hello from the playoffs. The Bandits and Rock are ready to go in a first round playoff game.

You remember playoff games, right? We haven't many lately. So this should be fun.

Bandits fans know the circumstances of this one. Buffalo stumbled down the stretch with eight straight losses. Toronto won its last four to grab the home field advantage. This is all about a second chance for the Bandits, who could erase some hard feelings with a win here.

6:54 p.m. - If you don't want to watch nll.com for the broadcast, I'll be here for you.

Troy Cordingley will go with a veteran lineup. Kevin Brownell and Mitch Jones are the scratches. Billy Dee Smith and Jamie Rooney will play. Joel Matthews has come off the roster, which probably means he came off to make room for Billy Dee.

Buffalo has lost three straight playoff games to Toronto, mostly in dramatic fashion. The Bandits certainly don't want to make it four.

And one obvious element. A Bandit loss could  - could - mean that this is the last game ever for such players as John Tavares and Shawn Williams. Tavares has talked about thinking about it, while Williams hasn't had a good year - although Shawn admitted has had a ton on his mind in the last few months. I'm sure they'd be happy to keep playing a while longer.

7:06 p.m. - And in case you are wondering, it's not exactly a sellout here. It's tough to sell tickets on short notice. The Bandits would have done better than this, but they probably would not have been close to a sellout either in a week.

Should be fun.

7;15 p.m. - Andrew Watt had the first goal of the game, giving the Bandits the lead. This may not seem like much, but I don't think the Bandits led at any point in two of their last three games (all losses.)

7:24 p.m. - Bandits are ahead, 2-1, with 4:38 left in the first quarter. Both sides seem a little tentative. Ryan Benesch has the other Buffalo goal. Leaving him alone by the net is a bad idea.

7:28 p.m. - One from Alan of nll.com - neither goalie has a playoff win in his career. Might end tonight ... but there could be a substitution. Now 4-1 Bandits.

7:34 p.m. - Rock get a goal from Kasey Beirnes to cut it to 4-2. Buffalo has done a good job of breaking down the Toronto defense. All of the goals have been a case of someone being open right by the net. Bandits can't complain much about the first 15 minutes.

7:47 p.m. - The scoring has picked up a bit. Buffalo has a 6-4 advantage. Mark Steenhuis hit the top corner with a bullet from about 25 feet, and Jamie Rooney converted a fast-break opportrunity. We have 8:39 left in the half.

7:53 p.m. - Colin Doyle's two straight goals tied the game at 6-6, but Ryan Benesch just scored his third of the night to put Buffalo back in front. It's 7-6 with 4:53 left in the first half. This has been a little more wide-open than I thought, but it's entertaining.

8:02 p.m. - Ryan Benesch broke a 7-7 tie in the final minute to give the Bandits an 8-7 lead after 30 minutes. That's four goals for him already. Impressive.

8:19 p.m. - Back to work.

8:26 p.m. - Kasey Beirnes ties it for the Rock. Dhane Smith was stopped shortly after that on a clean breakaway. We have 9:05 to go in the third quarter.

8:34 p.m. - Huge goal by Benesch (who else?) to get the Bandits back to even at 9-9 after Toronto seemed to have all the momentum. We have 4:19 left in third.

8:41 p.m. - The attendance is announced at 7,867. Emphasis on announced, although honestly I'm not here enough to give a guess as to how many people are actually here. It's 10-9, pending a review of a Benesch goal that would tie it. P.S. Count the goal.

8:45 p.m. - It's 10-10 after 45 minutes. Hold on to your hats; we're in for quite a ride.

8:56 p.m. - Bandits lead, 12-11, with 10:53 left.

8:58 p.m. - Benesch's seventh ties team record for goals in a playoff game. (Steenhuis, 2008)

9:07 p.m. - Bandits lead, 14-12, with 4:25 left.

9:19 p.m. - Bandits win, 15-13. Amazing. There are at least two more games left.

-- Budd Bailey

Live from First Niagara Center: Bandits vs. Knighthawks

7:01 p.m. - Here it is, the last night of the regular season for the Buffalo Bandits, and we still don't know what's in store for them in the immediate future.

Yes, unlike last year, we know they will be in the playoffs. They will finish either second or third in the NLL East. But where? Second puts them at home a week from tonight against the Toronto Rock. Third puts them in Toronto, except at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30 p.m.

In case you are wondering if two teams with non-winning records have ever met in the NLL playoffs, it didn't me long to find an example of that. Rochester and Philadelphia were both 7-9 in 2012 when the playoffw opened. Toronto and Buffalo are both 8-9.

Now ... Toronto is playing in Minnesota at 8 p.m. If Buffalo wins or Toronto loses, the Bandits are home next week. Otherwise ... it's up the QEW.

Not much news at practice this morning. Troy Cordingley indicated that Andrew Watt would be in the lineup tonight. But something changed between then and now. He is listed as a scratch. Aaron Wilson is said to be on injured reserve. Kevin Brownell is still in the lineup - he was supposed to sit for Watt. It looks like Jamie Rooney was activated but scratched, based on the lineup sheet.

Joel Matthews gets to play game number two tonight. He debuted last week, and played pretty well against Rochester.

It looks like a very good crowd tonight, probably the best of the season. It is Fan Appreciation Night.

7:10 p.m. - And if you were hoping the Knighthawks might give Matt Vinc an extra week off by starting someone else in goal tonight, no such luck. He is the listed starter. Vinc was brilliant last week in beating the Bandits.

7:21 p.m. - Anthony Cosmo will get the start in goal again for the Bandits. If you are wondering, and I did, Kurtis Wagar has played in two games this season, for a total of 20 minutes. It's tough backing up the team's MVP, but Wagar has maintained his good sense of humor.

7:32 p.m. - Come to think of it, in 2013, Rochester played Philadelphia last year in the first round of the playoffs ... and neither side had a winning record. Rochester was 8-8; Philadelphia was 7-9.

7:38 p.m. - One obvious thought about tonight's game - easy to wonder if this could be - could be - the last game in Buffalo for John Tavares. We'll have to see, of course.

7:45 p.m. - Bandits have gotten off to a poor start. It's 4-0, Rochester after less than five minutes. Ugh.

8:00 p.m. - Rochester takes 6-3 lead with 3:41 left in period. Cosmo has been chased; he wasn't playing well but didn't get much help.

8:03 p.m. - And now it's 6-4. Buffalo has equalled its goal total for the entire game last week. It's going to be one of those nights.

8:07 p.m. - That's the way it winds up after the first period. Joel Matthews had his first NLL goal late in the period for Buffalo.

8:11 p.m. - Building have some searchlights that come on in different colors tonight. Looks like disco has returned. In other news, Cosmo came back on the field for the start of the second quarter.

8:19 p.m. - Bandits tied it up on goal by Resetarits - 6-6. Shots are 23-13.

8:26 p.m. - Knighthawks get three in a row to lead, 9-6. This is a little like the old days, with lots of scoring and up-and-down play.

8:30 p.m. - Matthews cuts the lead to 9-7, and now there's 3:38 left in the period. My guess is that the place is about full.

8:35 p.m. - Toronto and Minnesota are tied, 1-1, late first quarter.

8:38 p.m. - Rochester's Sid Smith steals the ball with 15 seconds left, and scores into a vacated net - Buffalo had pulled Cosmo in anticipation of setting up the last shot. Never seen that before, in six years.  Rochester exits with a 10-9 lead at half. Off to do a radio interview on 1520 AM with John Gurtler.

8:56 p.m. - Third period starts. Toronto leads, 4-2, late second.

9:01 p.m. - Power-play goal by Benesch ties the game again at 10-10. Toronto leads Minnesota, 4-2, with less than a minute in the half. Rock has taken 35 shots.

9:09 p.m. - Rochester goes back up, 12-10, on two goals by Johnny Powless.

9:17 p.m. - Steenhuis' completed hat trick cut the margin to 12-11 with one quarter left.

9:24 p.m. - Two short-handed goals by the Knighthawks on the same penalty. Ouch. That's bigger than huge in that situation. It's 14-11, Rochester, with 12:13 to play.

9:34 p.m. - It's not 16-11 Rochester, with 6:06 left.

9:40 p.m. - Buffalo strikes twice to cut it to three. 3:05 left.

9:45 p.m. - 16-14, Rochester, with 1:02 left.

9:49 p.m. - Rochester wins, 16-14.

--- Budd Bailey

 

Live from Rochester - Bandits vs. Knighthawks

7:18 p.m. - Greetings from the Blue Cross Arena. The Bandits try to get back on the winning track tonight as they play the Knighthawks. Buffalo has lost six in a row, tying the franchise record set last year. Second place has not been clinched - stop me if you've heard that before - as the Bandits need a win or a Toronto loss to wrap up the home field in that first round game.

The Bandits have made a couple of roster moves since last night. Joel Matthews has been activated off the practice squad. Kevin Brownell is off the injured list. The scratches are Aaron Wilson and Glen Bryan.

Anthony Cosmo will be starting in goal. It's a back-to-back weekend for him. Cosmo said after the game Friday that he likes playing two games in two nights; it makes it sharper.

7:28 p.m. - Rochester has nothing to play for tonight. The Knighthawks have clinched first place in the division, and can't catch Edmonton in the overall standings. However, a Buffalo uniform usually brings out the best in Rochester, so this could be a spirited contest ... as usual. '

7:38 p.m. - Andrew Watt and Jamie Rooney are not on the roster at the moment. No word on their situation.

7:50 p.m. - Lots of action going on, but not much scoring. John Tavares made a spectacular cross-field pass to Joe Resetarits, who stuffed the ball in the net. How did he even see him? That's the only goal of the game with 6:58 to go in the first quarter.

7:56 p.m. - Derek Hopcroft has popped up on the Rochester roster. Hopcroft was a Bandit last season, but didn't make the team out of training camp. He sort of got lost in the shuffle among a crowded group of forwards last season. This is his first game of the season as a Knighthawk.

8:01 p.m. - Remember, the Bandits did not lead for a second in Friday night's game.

8:03 p.m. - We're done with a period, and Buffalo has a 1-0 lead. Buffalo hasn't capitalized on a couple of power plays, although it did get a score at the start of the period with the man-advantage.

8:14 p.m. - Rochester finally gets on the scoreboard, and follows with another goal to take a 2-1 lead. Hopcroft had the second on a nice feed from Cody Jamieson.

8:22 p.m. - Johnny Powless has two goals in 24 seconds for the Knighthawks. That turns it into a 4-1 Rochester margin. Buffalo's offense hasn't scored in about 37 minutes.

8:30 p.m. - Buffalo held to a single goal in the first 30 minutes. That's one better than its last trip, but still not good enough. The teams had to the dressing room with a 4-1 lead for Rochester.

8:46 p.m. - Back to work.

8:50 p.m. - Dhane Smith just beat Vinc, but goal was wiped out by a crease violation. Challenge turned down. Looked like he let the shot go in time; question was whether it got to the net before Smith landed. Troy Cordingley sure thought it did.

8:54 p.m. - Bandits fight back with two goals to cut it to 4-3. Hmmm.

8:57 p.m. - Rochester responds on a goal by Brad Self. A Bandit may have screened Cosmo on the play. So... it's 5-3 with 9:39 to go in the third quarter.

9:06 p.m. - Powless now has a hat trick for Rochester as the Bandits trail, 6-3.

9:11 p.m. - That's where the score stands after three quarters.

9:21 p.m. - Bandits now trail, 7-4, with 9:26 left. Ryan Benesch has the latest Buffalo goal.

9:29 p.m. - Short-handed goal by Rochester makes it 8-4 with 4:39 left. That might do it.

9:40 p.m. - Bandits lose, 8-4. That's an all-time worst for goals in a game.

--- Budd Bailey

Live from the Air Canada Centre: Bandits vs. Rock

6:37 p.m. - Hello from Toronto. It's Good Friday, and all the stores are closed on this side of the border. That made for an easy trip up for tonight's game between the Buffalo Bandits and Toronto Rock. I believe this is the second such game in recent years between the teams on Good Friday, and the idea certainly has my approval. 

It's a big game for both teams relatively speaking. There is something at stake here, as second place has not been decided in the NLL East. Buffalo would have to lose its remaining games, while Toronto would have to win its two. That's not out of the question, The Bandits play in Rochester Saturday and then come home next week to face the Rock, and the Knighthawks wouldn't mind spoiling that party. Toronto plays Minnesota next week. Buffalo, therefore, would like to win this one right here and get to rest its regulats a little bit.

Kevin Brownell has been sent to the disabled list with a case of the fly. David Brock is back in the lineup, as Jamie Rooney is the other scratch. 

Anthony Cosmo will start in goal for Buffalo. When he makes his 17th save tonight, that will be his 663rd save of the season. That would break the NLL record for saves in a season. The old mark was set last year by Matt Vinc of Rochester. Cosmo will be doing it in his 16th game of the season, the same as last season's schedule. So, you'd have to say he earned this one as opposed to taking advantage of the 18-game schedule.

6:43 p.m. - The league announced today it is trying something new with its awards. Three finalists for the various honors will be announced after the season in the month of June. Then there will be a ceremony in Toronto on August 31. Sounds like a good idea, although following the hockey example of doing it right after the playoffs probably would give it a bigger publicity boost. But I'm told there will be an NLL camp here in late August, so it will go along  with that. We'll see how it works out. 

6:46 p.m. - By the way, Josh Sanderson and Jimmy Purves are scratched tonight. Nick Diachenko is playing for Toronto. He was the Bandits' first second-round draft choice last fall, but didn't make the team. He's found a spot in Toronto for now. Nick Rose will start in goal.

I saw Troy Cordingley in the hallway before the game tonight. I asked if he had any trouble finding the visiting locker room. "It's only been four years," he said with a laugh. Cordingley used to come in here as coach of Calgary before he took the Toronto job. He won championships in both places.

6:48 p.m. - By the way, tonight's game is on Radio 930 AM. No pregame show. Tomorrow, the game is back on Radio 1520 AM. I had it wrong in the newspaper this morning, but at least got it corrected for the online edition.

7:07 p.m. - One of the best crowds I've seen up here. The lower bowl has lots of people in it. Well, it is fan appreciation night. Wonder if I'll win anything?

7:15 p.m. - Mitch Jones as the goal for the Bandits, as it's 1-1 with 5:10 gone. Jones just finished up his college hockey season and then joined the Bandits. He's looked good.

7:28 p.m. - Bandits trail, 3-2. Kasey Beirnes with a pair for Toronto.

7:34 p.m. - Brief delay while the officials sort out a scrum. It started when Steve Priolo checked Rob Marshall into the Buffalo bench, although checked might not be the right word. Lots of pushing and shoving. 

7:40 p.m. - Rock has a 5-2 lead after 15 minutes. Shots are 17-11, Toronto. The Bandits haven't been able to get their transition game going, while Toronto has gotten in good shooting position frequently.

7:52 p.m. - Bandits have turned their fortunes around at the start of the second quarter. They have tied the game at 5-5. John Tavares, Aaron Wilson and Shawn Williams have the goals. 

8:00 p.m. - Cosmo has broken the record for most saves in a season. Bandits trail, 6-5.

8:09 p.m. - And that's the way it winds up after a half. Fairly even 30 minutes, even if Buffalo never led.

8:25 p.m - Ready to go for teh second half. Toronto has a 31-24 edge in shots.

8:34 p.m. - Stephan Leblanc ends a rather dull stretch of play with a Toronto goal; it's 7-5.

8:42 p.m. - Bandits got the deficit back to two on a goal by Mark Steenhuis,

8:51 p.m. - Toronto has a 9-7 lead after three periods. Could have been closer, but Toronto won a challenge on another Steenhuis score. 

9:01 p.m. - Bandits trail, 10-7, with 9:04 left in the game. 

9:11 p.m. - Time is a factor now, as Buffalo trails, 10-8, with 4:31 to play. A six-game losing streak looms. 

9:18 p.m. - Toronto up, 12-9, with 1:15 left.

9:23 p.m. - It ends, 13-9, Toronto. Bandits have lost six in a row, matching their longest-ever losing streak (last year). 

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Justice coming?

For those of you who are still waiting for a refund for the half-marathon in Orchard Park in June 2012 that was never staged by the original organizer, help may be on the way.

The Indiana Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against Rapid Running, claiming that runners in five events including the one here lost almost $100,000 in entry fees. More details will be printed in Friday's editions of The News.

The weekly race calendar is still a week away from picking up, but here's what is going on this weekend - courtesy of buffalorunners.com:

* The Mustache March, 5K, Mang Park in Kenmore, 10 a.m. Saturday, 877-0477. Can't say I've seen many races that hand out mimosas after events, so this first-year race has a chance to be interesting even for the clean-shaven among us.

* Bemus Point 5K, Long Point State Park in Bemus Point, 9 a.m. Sunday, 488-0788.

Recently I had the chance to interview Frank Shorter, the 1972 gold medalist in the marathon. He certainly ranks as one of the most interesting people I've ever questioned, to the point where I couldn't put everything he said into one story. So Part One comes on Sunday in The News, when he discusses that marathon and its effect on him. Then in two weeks, I'll have his thoughts on the upcoming Boston Marathon. He'll be one of the television commentators for Universal Sports.

-- Budd Bailey

Bandits notebook: A game away

Derek Keenan represents the biggest link between the two best starts in the history of indoor lacrosse.

Keenan was a member of the Buffalo Bandits in 1993, which won all 10 of its games in recording the first and only perfect season in league history. Buffalo won all eight of its regular season games, plus two playoff games.

Now Keenan is the coach and general manager of the Edmonton Rush, which has won its first 10 regular season games. Number 11 on Friday would be a statistical first for the league. Keenan sees some similarities between the two teams.

"They both have the ability to overcome some adversity, and not get rattled when things don't go their way," he said. "The Buffalo team was very much like that. We had a lot of veterans with the mixture of some young guys. These guys here have learned to grow together. ... They have the ability to not look at what happened and find what's next. That's a similarity with the '93 team."

* * * *

The Bandits stood pat at the trading deadline on Tuesday. Assistant coach Rich Kilgour said Buffalo wasn't too tempted to make a move.

"We're going pretty well, and the locker room is really good," he said. "Guys really enjoy spending time with each other. When you are 8-2, a lot of things are fun. When you're 2-8, things are not fun. My opinions were asked about a couple of things ... but we decided at this time that no deal blew our socks off. We're ready to go for the second half of the year."

There was only one transaction on a quiet deadline day. Toronto acquired goalie Brandon Miller from Philadelphia for transition player Kyle Belton and a couple of draft choices.

* * * *

After Buffalo's game in Edmonton on Friday night, the team heads to Minnesota for a Sunday afternoon date in Minnesota. If the Bandits win both of those games, they would wrap up a playoff spot. It's not certain if just a victory over the Swarm would be enough to get the Bandits into the postseason. Buffalo would have tiebreakers over Minnesota and Philadelphia, but a three- or four-way tie is still possible. The National Lacrosse League is looking into whether there are any scenarios that would leave Buffalo on the outside of the playoffs after a win over Minnesota.

--- Budd Bailey

Live from First Niagara Center: Bandits vs. Mammoth

7:47 P.M. - I have discovered that the usual blog is not appearing on the News home page. Time to do it old school. 

We are six minutes into the game, and the Bandits lead Colorado by either 1-0 or 2-0 depending on how this goal review goes. Kevin Brownell and Aaron Wilson are the Buffalo scratches. Billy Dee Smith is back in the lineup after missing a game with an ankle injury. 

Adam Jones and Casey Powell are out for Colorado. 

Chad Culp has the first goal of the game. The Bandits' forward has 400 career points. The video review overtuned the goal ruling, so we are still at 1-0. 

7:50 p.m - Bandits are wearing green uniforms for St. Patrick's Day. Pretty nice, actually. 

7:54 p.m. - John Tavares got into open space when a Colorado defender missed a chance to intercept a pass. He still knows what to do in that situation. It's 2-0, Buffalo. 

8:06 p.m. - Joe Resetarits thrills the Hamburg contingent with a goal from close range. Then Steve Priolo strikes with a short-handed score. We're at 4-0, Buffalo. 

8;20 P.M. - Resetarits strikes again. It's 5-0 Buffalo, even though the shots are 19-17. And we take a break for the silly blooper reel. 

8:24 p.m. - Just when I started looking up when the Bandits last had a shutout half, John Grant Jr. strikes for Colorado. My fault. 

8:34 p.m. - Mammoth closed to within 5-3, thanks in part of a pair of power-play goals. But Ryan Benesch got the lead back to three goals with a nice cut to the net. We are 6-3 at the half. 

8:48 p.m. - Rochester just had an 8-1 quarter against Toronto, and leads, 13-10, after three. I get the impression that the Knighthawks and Bandits ought to have some fun games the rest of the way, including the postseason.

8:57 p.m. - A couple of veterans - Mark Steenhuis and Grant - have scored in the second half. The net effect is the same; the Bandits lead by three with 9:10 left in the third quarter.

9:07 p.m. - Colorado has cut the lead to 7-5, and has a 5-minute power play coming. A key part of the game is about to begin. There are 3 minutes left in third period. 

9:14 p.m. - John Grant Jr. tied the game with two goals on the Mammoth power play. But Tavares untied it in the final moments of the period. Bandits lead, 8-7, after three periods.

9:20 p.m. - Buffalo leads, 9-8, with 11:26 left. There's one Colorado fan below the press box. His cheers for Mammoth goals, um, stands out.

9:24 p.m. - Time is down to 8:11, score still the same. 

9:29 p.m. - Williams and Steenhuis strike to make it 11-8, but Colorado has a power play. 

9:35 P.M. - Cosmo has been great down the stretch. Good thing I picked him as a star.

9:42 p.m - Bandits win, 12-9. Off to locker room. 

11:32 p.m. - As you'd expect, the Bandits were a satisfied group after the contest. They didn't like most of the third quarter, and five power-play goals against were almost costly, but they still won the game.

“It’s nice to see our team dominate fourth quarters,” Bandits forward John Tavares said. “To me it looks like we know how to win. The last couple of years, it seems like we found ways to lose. This year we’ve found ways to win. That’s the sign of a good team.”

By the way, Colorado's loss tonight means Edmonton has clinched a playoff spot. That's with about eight games left. Impressive. We'll see how the Rush do against the Bandits on Friday night. Good night from Buffalo.

--- 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.

@WDX2BB | bbailey@buffnews.com

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