6:44 p.m. -- It's Good Friday, which means it's something of a holiday in Toronto. The Bandits and Rock are about to get ready to play an important game in the Air Canada Centre.
Both teams ought to be in a bad mood tonight. The Bandits got spanked by Edmonton on Saturday night. Then the Rush turned right around the next afternoon and clobbered the Rock. Both sides, then, are interested in righting the ship. It's more important for the Bandits, since they are in the midst of a playoff fight. Any win would be appreciated after losing four in a row.
As usual as of late, some of the pregame drama centers on the Bandits lineup. The scratches were announced as Mike McNamara, Jamie Rooney and Hayden Smith. Luke Wiles has supposedly been activated off the practice squad, but there's no official word of that yet. We should see the official lineup soon. Someone would have to be dropped off the roster to make room for Wiles if the story is true.
Speaking of roster moves, old friend Mike Thompson has been signed to a one-year contract by Philadelphia. He was prompted put on the holdout list, proving once again that the word "holdout" has different meanings than it does in other sports. Nick Cotter went on the holdout list when the Bandit took a hit to the head at home recently.
As for the Rock, it plays Rochester tomorrow. Two wins this weekend would wrap up the East. After winning five of six, Toronto has gone 3-3. The Rock plays nothing but East teams the rest of the way, including one game with Phliadelphia and another one with Rochester here. So clearly, Toronto will have something to say about the playoff race.
Tonight's game is on espn3.com, as it is being broadcast by TSN here in Canada and picked up in the U.S. by ESPN. Youtube is not showing the game in North America.
Lots going on this weekend, with Canisius and Niagara in the NCAA hockey tournament. Meanwhile, of interest to, well, Syracuse grads, the NCAA basketball tournament continues through Sunday. But, the game in front of us ought to be worth our time.
7:02 p.m. - There's a familiar name on the Rock. Roger Vyse, the ex-Bandit, is playing in his first game with Toronto. Good guy.
7:07 p.m. -- Dropping the first ball tonight - Roberto Alomar. Wonder if he has ever seen a game?
Luke Wiles is dressed and in the lineup. We'll see if we can find out how he got there.
7:13 p.m. - Glen Bryan scored a short-handed goal for Buffalo, followed by a good-sized scrum behind the Toronto net. Guess we were right to figure these teams would be a in a bad mood after last weekend.
7:16 p.m. - Not much room in the penalty box.
7:23 p.m. - Another scrum has broken out, with the score 2-1 Toronto with 8:14 left in the period. Looks like Derek Hopcroft and his dance partner will be sitting for a while.
The answer to the Wiles roster spot is probably the obvious one - I assume Chad Culp has gone on injured reserve. The league as a whole sometimes doesn't do a great job of keeping everyone informed of roster moves.
7:32 p.m. - It's still 2-1, Toronto with 4:55 left in the quarter. Shots are 12-7 for the Rock, perhaps because of power play time.
7:37 p.m. - Wiles already has two minor penalties, and seems frustrated. It's now 4-1, Toronto.
7:40 p.m. - Dhane Smith gets one back for the Bandits near the end of the quarter. Buffalo trails, 4-2. I'm not sure if Dhane Smith is the most valuable player on the team, but the rookie has been very consistent this season.
7:52 p.m. - Still 9:49 left in the second quarter, and the Rock has a 6-4 lead. Buffalo got it down to 5-4 on goals by Hopcroft and Hominuck, but Bill Greer replied for Toronto right of the faceoff. Refs are calling a lot of penalties, and the Buffalo bench got a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty while the team was on a delayed penalty.
8:00 p.m. - While we wait for a review of a Buffalo goal, the arena has played an entire dance mix of a song. Bad news for the Bandits at the end, as it was waved off. Still 6-4.
8:05 p.m. - Nothing new on the scoresheet for a change lately. Toronto still lead 6-4.
8:15 p.m. - We had a bit of a flurry in the final minutes of the half. Shawn Williams's low shot beat Nick Rose with 1.1 seconds left to narrow the margin to 7-6, Toronto. John Tavares had scored with 12:29 gone in the period. Considering Buffalo's penalty problems, it has to be relatively happy to only be down a goal.
8;33 p.m. - We're back in action, and Colin Doyle has already scored for the Rock (18 seconds).
8:37 p.m. - Danger time for the Bandits. Toronto has scored three goals in 3:39 to take a 10-6 lead. Buffalo has come out a bit flat.
8:40 p.m. - Make it four straight Toronto goals to start the period. Wagar in for Cosmo in the Buffalo net.
8:41 p.m. - Doesn't help. Five in a row, 12-6. And shots are 40-23, Toronto.
8:43 p.m. - This is the fourth straight game that Wagar has come on in relief of Cosmo. In fairness, one of them was the home game in Toronto, when Wagar came on after the line brawl.
8:49 p.m. -- When it goes badly ... Shawn Williams' apparent score is wiped out after a review.
8:56 p.m. - Toronto adds a short-handed goal, and then Wiles picks up two minors and Billy Dee Smith gets a slashing minor after the goal. I'd say it's going to be a long bus ride back to Buffalo, but most of the guys live in Ontario.
9:02 p.m. .- Third quarter mercifully ends, with Toronto up, 14-6. The Rock had a 7-0 edge in the thrid quarter. The Bandits don't keep a record for being outscored in a quarter, However, that matches the worst total by a Buffalo team since 2006. It was last done by Rochester in 2009. Ugly, ugly, ugly.
9:11 p.m. - Not getting any better as Toronto is ahead by 17-8. The 17 goals allowed is a season high for the Bandits.
9:23 p.m. - Just playing out the string here. It's 18-10 with 3:09 left.
9;32 p.m. - Mercifully over with an 18-11 final.
--- Budd Bailey