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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

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 6:30 p.m. Mondays and Fridays.

Find out where to find WBBZ here.

Here are segments from tonight's show:

All is quiet regarding Macker

Silence can either be golden or a warning sign. When it comes to the status of this June's Gus Macker basketball tournament in Buffalo, though, one feels like he/she should brace for an alert.

Just two weeks ago, tournament organizers, Buffalo Police Athletic League and Gus Macker, said the sides were close to a deal to hold the annual 3-on-3 tournament that's as much of a WNY tradition as wings. So close that PAL Executive Director Modie Cox said an agreement was being looked over by a PAL lawyer and that once the attorney signed off on it, it would officially be game on.

Either the PAL's lawyer is still examining it, or found something in the deal that wasn't to PAL's liking and did not sign off on it.

Which is it? Nobody's talking, but smart money could be placed betting on the latter.

Cox didn't return messages left for him.

Scott McNeil of Gus Macker said Wednesday he hasn't been told it's been cancelled when asked that question point blank, but did say PAL was trying to come up with different things?

Sounds like the sides did hit a snag if renegotiation has become part of the process, again. It seems to be a bit late in the game to still be figuring out logistics. Yet, it makes no sense for PAL to hold a fundraiser event like the Macker if there's no chance of it making a profit -- with or without assistance of a major sponsor.

Two months from Saturday traditionally would have been the start of the tournament, with a who's who of area talents flaunting their skills much to the delight of the masses in attendance.

Barring a furious late rally, that remains to be seen.

--- Miguel Rodriguez

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: Hop to it

It doesn't take long to list the weekend's running events. There is only one, and it's become a tradition on the calendar.

The Bunny Hop in East Aurora has found a nice niche on the day before Easter. Apparently, runners are looking for something to do at that time. The 5K race starts at 10:30 a.m., but get there early - there aren't many parking places near the registration area. And be prepared for a few hills. More details at buffalorunners.com

Most of the running activity is focused on Boston, with what should be a memorable marathon coming up on Monday. I talked to some runners with Western New York connections, and their stories will be in Monday's editions of The News. 

-- Budd Bailey

 

Post Time: Friday racing notebook

By Gene Kershner 

With just over two weeks to go before Kentucky Derby 140 the field is changing almost daily due to defections, injuries and connections deciding to skip the Run for the Roses on the First Saturday in May. 

Some news, notes and thoughts before next weekend's Degrees of Separation post… 

-- The last race with a chance to earn qualifying points for the Derby will be tomorrow afternoon at Keeneland where the Grade 3 $200,000 Lexington Stakes will be run. The last chance race will offer 10 points to the winner, 4 to the runner-up and the third and fourth place finishers will earn 2 and 1 point, respectively. 

-- Only one horse, Ami's Holiday (10 points) in the Lexington has a chance to qualify for a Derby gate. A win would vault him in the field at No. 20 in the current standings; a second-place finish would place him at 27th with an outside chance to get in through defections.  The Lexington will be the first start of his 3-year-old campaign for the son of Harlan's Holiday trained by Woodbine-based trainer Josie Carroll. We may well see this Ontario-bred colt later on down the road in the Queen's Plate. 

-- The horse currently in the final spot is Uncle Sigh, trained by Gary Contessa, who looks to be a lock to get in the race, as there are 2-3 horses that are likely going to drop out of the top 20 before Derby week. This would be Contessa's first horse to qualify for the Derby. 

-- To see the current standings and a first peek at my annual Derby spreadsheet loaded with analytics and statistics on each horse currently in the top 20, go here. The spreadsheet provides information on post positions, pedigree, speed figures and dosage for the current qualifiers.  I'll be updating it as more information (jockey confirmations, last race speed figures, etc.) become available. 

-- The biggest defection so far was from the Todd Pletcher barn who announced on Wednesday that Win Star Farm's Constitution, the Florida Derby winner, suffered an injury and would not enter the Derby. It does not appear to be season-ending and we'll likely see him later in the season. 

-- Ironically the horse sitting at No. 21 is Vinceremos, the Tampa Derby winner, who is also trained by Pletcher and could be his fourth entry in this year's race and is also owned by Win Star Farm. 

-- Midnight Hawk, the son of Midnight Lute, sits currently at No. 14 (52 points) is entered in this weekend's Illinois Derby, a prep race for the Preakness.  It would be highly unlikely for trainer Bob Baffert to wheel him back in two weeks in Louisville, so that appears to be a potential open gate for the next qualifier. Midnight Hawk is owned in part by former football coach Mike Tice and current Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. 

-- In his first work since winning the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, Wicked Strong breezed a solid half-mile in 49.62 seconds on Thursday morning over the Belmont Park training track in preparation for the Derby. Named after the bomb victims of last year's Boston Marathon, the son of 2007 Derby runner-up Hard Spun will be among the favorites for this year's race. "He did most of his work on the turns, which is what I wanted; I thought it would keep him from working too fast," said trainer Jim Jerkens, 55, who has never saddled a Derby starter. "He eased up a little bit in the stretch and then picked it before the wire. It was just what I was looking for."

--  Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack (FLGR) will kick off the 2014 live thoroughbred racing season this afternoon. The historic Western New York track’s 52nd season will begin with the nine-race Opening Day card. Post time for the first race is scheduled for 12:35 p.m. Chris Englehart will also be presented an award for his achievements in 2013. He was the top FLGR conditioner for the eleventh consecutive year. Englehart saddled 143 winning horses to register his thirteenth career trainer title. He surpassed the 3,500 mark in lifetime wins during the FLGR break.

-- The grandson of former thoroughbred owner and late Buffalo real estate entrepreneur Roxie Gian passed along a letter his grandfather received from late Bills owner Ralph Wilson recently.  The letter from Wilson on his Oxford Stable letterhead to Woodbine Hall of Fame trainer Frank Merrill was to purchase five horses back in February 1969 for $20,000. 

-- Expect the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to be in full force during Derby week after posting a damning video about trainer Steve Asmussen's barn. The group placed an undercover volunteer in the barn last year at Churchill and Saratoga in attempts to document certain practices in Asmussen's barn. He currently has the likely favorite for the Kentucky Oaks (Untapable) and a top contender for the Derby (Tapiture) and will be facing media scrutiny most of the week. 

Let the analysis begin… 

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 6:30 p.m. Mondays and Fridays.

Find out where to find WBBZ here.

Here are segments from tonight's show:

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 6:30 p.m. Mondays and Fridays.

Find out where to find WBBZ here.

Here are segments from tonight's show:

Post Time: Talent-laden Arkansas Derby on tap Saturday

By Gene Kershner

If the latest Wireplayers.com Derby Dozen is any indication of the talent in this weekend's $1 million Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, we're in for a whale of a race. Of the dozen horses on the listing, five of the eight horses are scheduled to run on Saturday at Oaklawn Park. The race will be seen live on the NBC Sports Network between 6-7 p.m. ET.

The Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland will be part of a 90-minute telecast on Fox Sports 1 from 4:30 - 6 p.m. Saturday afternoon preceding the Arkansas Derby. The Blue Grass drew a full field of 14 horses with one on the also-eligible list.

Trainer Bob Baffert ships in the lightly raced Bayern (2-1), who will attempt to qualify for the Derby with a top-two finish in the Arkansas Derby. Embattled trainer Steve Asmussen has his best Derby hope and morning line favorite, Tapiture (9-5), looking to increase his point total (42) to ensure a gate on the First Saturday in May.

Let's take a look at each of the horses in the Arkansas Derby (trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):

1 - Danza (Pletcher, Bravo, 15-1). This Street Boss colt won the G2 Saratoga Special last summer and has only one race in 2014 under his belt at Gulfstream. He stretches out for the first time and will need a top two finish to even sniff the Derby. Looking elsewhere.

2 - Knock Em Flat (Von Hemel, Quinonez, SCR). Trainer Von Hemel announced on Thursday that the son of Flatter will skip the Arkansas Derby and run in Saturday's $100K Nothern Spur instead.

3 - Tapiture (Asmussen, Rosario, 9-5). He ranked on top of my Wireplayers ballot, but so did Cairo Prince before the Florida Derby two weeks ago, so I could be giving him the kiss of death. Lost the Rebel to Hoppertunity last month, who came back to post a solid second behind likely Derby favorite California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby last weekend. He's a versatile colt that can go to the lead or set off it to make his run. The one to beat.

4 - Ride On Curlin (Gowan, Court, 12-1). The son of the 2007 Arkansas Derby winner will try to match his daddy's efforts on the Oaklawn strip. He finished a half-length behind the favorite in the Rebel for a respectable third. Trainer worked him 7-furlongs earlier last weekend trying to sharpen his fitness for the big one. He sits in 22nd place on the Leaderboard with 15 points, so a top three finish will be important to his Derby chances. Contender.

5 - Thundergram (Casse, Arroyo Jr., 30-1). Casse puts the blinkers on and wins at a 17 percent clip second off the layoff. Fashions a bullet workout last Saturday over the track and could be an exotics play underneath.

6 - Commissioner (Pletcher, Smith, 8-1). Any time you have these connections north of 5-1 it pays to stay attentive to the odds board. The son of A.P. Indy definitely has the stamina and was taken back on the speed-favoring surface at Sunland in his last effort. He's won two of three at the 1 1/8-mile distance and guessing Mike Smith will have him closer to the pace on Saturday. He could be sitting on a big one and he's hard to dismiss at that price. The pick.

7 - Conquest Titan (Casse, Borel, 10-1). A lot of racing pundits have been high on this colt, who just hasn't delivered on the Derby trail to date.  In 35th place on the Leaderboard with 9 points, he desperately needs to succeed to make the Derby. He'll be trying his seventh different track in his last seven races. Not buying the hype.

8 - Bayern (Baffert, Stevens, 2-1). Son of Offlee Wild comes off an impressive allowance win in early February by over 15 lengths. Baffert swooped in to win this race and a Derby berth with Bodemeister two years ago, who ended up with the highest finish ever (second) in the Derby for a colt who never ran as a 2-year-old. Baffert and Bayern will hope to better that mark with a big effort on Saturday. Coming off an injury right into the fray is asking a lot of a lightly raced colt, so we're going to try and beat him at that price.

9 - Strong Mandate (Lukas, Saez, 9-2). Talented colt sits in 26the place on the Leaderboard with 11 points and will have to step up his game to qualify for a spot in Louisville. His sire is a two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner so he won't have any issues with the distance; questions persist about his consistency however.

Post Time Outlook: 1 - Commissioner; 2 - Tapiture; 3- Ride on Curlin; 4 - Strong Mandate

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

Running notebook: Save the date

One of the lessons that's often preached to new race directors come in the form of picking an uncrowded weekend. The first two weeks of April are a good example why.

Last week, there were five 5-kilometer runs on the buffalorunners.com calendar. This week, there's one. Maybe having more of a balance would have worked for some of those races last week. In fairness, sometimes races have to go on a specific date because of a tie-in with the sponsoring organization. But usually, it good to look around a bit when setting a date.

By the way, the North Tonawanda Health Fair 5K attracted 271 runners last week. Perhaps the $10 entry fee for non-residents had something to do with that.

By the way, Sunday's Shoes for the Shelter Race was a News' Runner of the Year event. Aileen Hoak is two for two in wins already in the series, so she seems serious about having a good year.

Here's the short schedule for the weekend:

* Run Along Jericho Road 5K, 184 Barton St. in Buffalo, 9 a.m. Saturday, 374-3018. This takes a not-often-traveled path around the West Side. I think I heard a few different languages along the way, and some of the old architecture is very interesting. Good cause, too.

* BPAC 6-Hour Distance Classic, Northtown Center in Amherst, 8 a.m. Sunday. This event always bring out an impressive cast of runners, who score points just for running a good portion of the event - let alone finishing it.

Coming up on Sunday, I'll continue my conversation with Olympic gold medalist Frank Shorter, who will be in Boston again to be part of the television coverage of the marathon. His memories of last year make for dramatic reading, I believe.

-- Budd Bailey

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