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Live from First Niagara Center: Bandits vs. Knighthawks

7:17 p.m. -- There's always been a little drama tonight. It only took the starting lineup's release to have it.

Mike Thompson is the backup goalie for the Bandits tonight as they get ready to play the Rochester Knighthawks. Thompson has a sprained knee, but Buffalo might have been forced to release a player to make room for him. So, Thompson will be on the bench as Anthony Cosmo tries to stay healthy.

Darryl Gibson is out with a thigh bruise. Tracey Kelusky will play as he tries to come back from a concussion. Travis Irving is the other scratch for Buffalo.

It's simple as far as the postseason is concerned -- the Bandits need to win tonight in order to clinch a playoff spot. If they lose, they must win in Washington next week to make the postseason. By the way, the Bandits haven't beaten a Western team on the road this season.

7:34 p.m. -- Mat Giles just won the Unsung Hero award, while Chris White captured the Kilgour Award for displaying the characteristics of a Bandit. The team MVP award went to John Tavares. Hard to argue with those selections.

It is Fan Appreciation Night, and the place is pretty full. Ought to look good on televison.

7:45 p.m. -- Luke Wiles has the first goal of the game at 4:39. It's been a pretty wide-open game so far, with some good scoring opportunities and a few goal posts.

7:47 p.m. -- Then the Knighthawks replied on a goal by Tyler Burton. Plenty of emotion in the building tonight. I have the feeling that Rochester would get some enjoyment about spoiling the Bandits' playoff plans tonight. By the way, the Knighthawks need two wins to get a home playoff game.

7:52 p.m. -- Chad Culp's goal made it 2-1; it was his first goal since March 16.

8:04 p.m. -- That's the way it winds up after the first period. Tracey Kelusky's playing time has been somewhat limited so far. We'll keep an eye on that as the game progresses.

8:12 p.m. -- Sure enough, Kelusky finishes a nice pass from Giles to make it 4-1. Wiles had the other Buffalo goal.

8:17 p.m. -- Mark Steenhuis answered a Stephen Keogh goal with one of his own to keep the lead at three goals, 5-2. It was the 300th goal as a Bandit for Steenhuis.

8;28 p.m. -- Not much new on the scoresheet here. About 10 minutes have elapsed in the second period, and the Bandits are still up, 5-2. This is an impressive defensive performance by Buffalo so far, especially with only five defenders. Those guys are going to earn their pay this evening.

8:33 p.m. -- Jay Thorimbert scores on a slow-developing transition play from long range. Nice shot. It's 6-2, Buffalo.

8:37 p.m. -- That score hold up until halftime. Time for my traditional "last home game" interview with John Gurtler on Radio 1520 AM.

8:55 p.m. -- Giles rolls a shot like a bowling ball, and somehow it goes in. Buffalo jumps up, 7-2, a minute into the second half.

8:59 p.m. -- Rochester just scored as many goals in 28 seconds as it did in the entire first half.

9:02 p.m. -- And the Knighthawks added another score by Cody Jamieson 21 seconds left to make it 7-5. We've got a game again.

9:09 p.m. -- We're reviewing a goal by Wiles ... and there goes the horn. Buffalo leads, 8-5. I know Tavares was MVP this season, but Wiles isn't far behind.

9:14 p.m. -- Anthony Cosmo has made a couple of great saves in the past few minutes. And he's staying healthy, which is important considering the backup has a sprained knee. It's 9-5, Bandits.

9:22 p.m. -- Assuming Kelusky's goal holds up under review, which it should, the Bandits will have an 11-5 lead. The wave breaks out as we wait. ... and the goal counts. I smell a trip to the postseason.

9:37 p.m. -- Steenhuis is up to four goals, Buffalo is up to 14, and goalie Matt Vinc has been pulled. There shouldn't be much drama down the stretch.

9:47 p.m. -- As I furiously type my story for the newspaper, the Bandits' lead is down to 14-7 with 5:52. It is still safe. Buffalo, Philadelphia and Rochester could still finish at 7-9, setting up a tricky three-way tiebreaker. Not sure who would come out on top there. Oops, make that 14-8.

9:50 p.m. -- OK, 14-9. Can the Bandits go into the Four Corners? Have they borrowed the Red Sox bullpen for the fourth quarter? (This is written by a sad Red Sox fan today.) We'll see

9:58 p.m. -- Seventy seconds left, and the Bandits are up 14-9.

10:03 p.m. -- On to the playoffs. 14-9 final.

--- Budd Bailey

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