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Season Preview - "A" Division

1. Surrey Wolfpac - The 'Pac have been NWBHL fall season champions two of the last three years and have a roster that is poised to challenge for the title once again. The quest to repeat got off to a rocky start this year with a tough opening day loss to a very short benched Thrashers team. The Wolfpac mantra of only playing with two lines also went out the window as they wanted to quickly initiate their full roster for game one. There are a couple of high profile pickups this season as Steve Mulholland and Faez Kanji join the team. Mulholland, who put up some big numbers during the spring with the Surrey Hitmen, possesses perhaps the league's most lethal wrist/snap shot. Kanji is a speedster that can play any position and is an exceptional passer. In addition the team has it's usual array of gunners starting with the incomparable tandem of Mike Sanghara and Tony Chohan. They are still the most dangerous one-on-one players in the game and if you try to focus on the ball while defending these guys, they can make you look pretty bad in a hurry. Manager Justin Matai was forced out of the opening game lineup due to injury but look for him to get back soon and start making his pinpoint set-ups. This team is also stocked with some pure shooters in the form of Brock Pierson and Herman Sunner, that can simply overpower a goaltender. The defense is fairly mobile and can put the ball on net at any point. Danny Chohan, Gopal Powar, and Raj Kaila along with the deft hands of Mike Hayer patrolled the blueline for the 'Pac in their opening game. Hayer of course can be moved up to forward at any point, or simply be given the green light from the back end. And finally, the team has Vince Mudaliar in net for the opposition to contend with. Vince has been one of the winningest goalies in the league over the last few years, and can always hold the team in when their stacked lineup does occasionally falter. In spite of the opening week loss, this team is still a solid bet to take this year's title.

2. New West Barons - The only "A" team not in action this past week, the Barons will get a chance to debut their 10/11 lineup against the Wolfpac on Saturday. After a few years spent in something of a rut, the Barons have re-emerged as a powerhouse, capturing consecutive Spring titles. Their roster will look similar to that team that just went 12-4-1 through the season and playoffs on their way to the championship. The missing ingredient may have been Marcel Lafortune, who moved over from the Rage after their demise. He put up huge numbers once again with 24 points in just 8 games and was even more impressive in the playoffs, taking MVP honours. The other prominent figure in the Barons offense is Brenden Ham. At just 18 years old he already has three seasons under his belt and has become a candidate to take home a scoring title. Look for fellow junior star Keenan Monkhouse to explode this year as well with more games under his belt. He showed what he can do in the last game of the Spring season when he went off for six goals vs the Wolverines. Craig Houle returns for another season of running the show on the Barons back end. Word has it that the Barons have picked up former Rage d-man Graham Tizzard, which will further solidify an already solid group that includes Ed Silva, Scott Rickards, and Jerome Drapeau. To make room, the team has parted ways with long time team member Dan Ko, who has moved on to play with the Snipers. The goaltending duties are expected to be jointly held by Dean Salsnek and Tony Ferreira, two veterans that have both had distinguished careers in the NWBHL. Look for this team to be yet another candidate for top spot.

3. Surrey Thrashers - The Thrashers were back to their old tricks in week one of NWBHL action. With only six players in the lineup, the Thrashers defeated a full benched Surrey Wolfpac team to claim first blood in what will be a heated rivalry this year. Dave Fisher was his usual unstoppable self, and after a highly publicized split with the team last year that saw him head to the Hitmen, he has returned to the Thrashers fold. Look for Jeff Heer to play much more than during the Spring season that saw him limited to a mere four games. He remains one of the game's most dynamic players at both ends of the floor, and even more important to the team than usual as Jay Dove, the other half of the league's best tandem on defense, will be missing an unspecified amount of time with an operation to shore up a nagging injury. Speaking of injuries, Pinder Gill has spent the summer working hard to come back from some serious injuries that have kept him out of the league for more than two full years. His hustle and tenacious forechecking have been missed by the team. The speedy Jason Hineman will be a key figure in the team's attack once again this year, with other long time Thrashers Sanjeev Haer and Bobby Grewal doing their part on offense as well. Look for a rebound season from Justin Faykosh between the Thrasher's pipes. He is a confidence goaltender and after a shaky postseason in the spring session, he had a tremendous outing as a Wolverines goalie in the Surrey Central summer league, carrying the team to a championship. This team has had what for them would be considered a lengthy drought, having won only one title in the last six NWBHL seasons, but they are focused on taking the big prize this year once again.

4. Surrey Ballhogs - The newest addition to the NWBHL is the Surrey Ballhogs, that have been competing in the Parks and 'Rec league for the past several seasons. The team lost it's inaugural game in the league by an 8-6 score to the Executioners, but were dealt an early curveball when they learned their starting goaltender, Rico Gill, had to serve a game suspension picked up at the conclusion of the previous season. Expect this team to have a tremendous amount of scoring ability in the lineup on most nights. Ricky Dusanj is making his debut in the N-dub after putting up solid numbers in the other local leagues. Goji Sidhu, whose attempt to play this past year with the Sharks fizzled out due to scheduling issues, should also be a key contributor. Ron Sandhu, the architect of this team, has a deft scoring touch and has been known to play both forward or a rushing style of defense. Former Exec's player Binda Gill is also a big talent with a big frame on the back end for the Ballhogs. Another veteran, Harp Pandher has apparently had his services picked up by this team as well to solidify their defensive corps. The Ballhogs also have both Herman Bains, the junior and senior, on the roster. Bains Jr is another former Exec, albeit for only a few games in the 09/10 season, that will be expected to be a dominant force with the Ballhogs. Lucky Bahia, who showed his big shot off this past season with The Game, should also turn out for this team in the coming weeks. There have been numerous other big names in the ball hockey scene attached to the Ballhogs name over the last few weeks, but we will have to take a wait and see approach before we are able to fully judge the depth of this team. Should be fun to watch though!

5. Mainland Executioners - It was a bit of a new look lineup for the Executioners in their first game of the season with plenty of new faces to the team. And what a debut it was for Bobby Samra and Simran Kang who each netted six points in their first game with the Exec's. These two players have some real chemistry having played together on multiple teams in different leagues over the past year. Add the sniping ability of Shane Khan to that line and it looks like this team has another solid line this season. Big time scorers Lee Bryant and Andy Saran were back to start the season with the Executioners with Bryce Goligher expected to return as well. Bryant is still the team's top pure shooter while Saran has the innate ability to hold on to the ball and wait for teammates to get open. The team will be missing it's leading scorer from last year, Ben Saggu for a while, but look for him to return from the his injury around the mid season mark and give the team an extra boost down the stretch. On defense the team added big Mike Hughston, who looked very capable in his own end and gives the team another big body along with Steve Tung to make things tough on opposition forwards. Alam Cheema played the opening game for the Executioners but look for Craig Hagan to continue to be the man that gets the big minutes for this team. Though the man called "Fram" has been around this league for many years with some excellent teams, he comes off a career season that saw him post an average of 1.88 with a .905 save %. Ron Sharma is also back in the goaltending mix for the Executioners this year. This team is a potential darkhorse.

6. Surrey Hitmen - After losing Dave Fisher, Justin Matai, and Steve Mulholland from the spring edition of the Hitmen, GM Amit Ghuman has a bit of a rebuild on his hands. However, the folding of the Wolverines for the season has become the Hitmen's gain as they have signed a host of players from that team. The always entertaining Andy Hundhal may be the highest profile player coming over, but keep an eye on Zach Kelm, one of the league's emerging stars. Though he has been playing defense for the past season, he is a forward by trade and may see some time up front for the Hitmen. Other former Wolverines to sign on include Dogar Gill and "Mr. Personality", Harminder Rai, though an upcoming eye surgery will take him out of the lineup for a while. There are many key pieces from last season's Hitmen team that are still in tact including the NWBHL's all-time leading scorer, Stan McClellan, who is searching for his sixth scoring title. Defensive mainstays Sunny Saggu and Phav Johal are also still a big part of the team. The Hitmen have loaded up on some good young players this season and should have several potential candidates for Rookie of the Year. The Hockley brothers, Julian and Ben, will bring up many comparisons this year to the Sedins in both appearance and play. Julian got his career off on the right track with four points in his debut. The highly touted Brendan Brar will show off his impressive shooting skills this season while Nathan Pangalia will showcase his poise on defense. The Hitmen have signed former Sharks tender Dave Lewis who is expected to split time with Ami Gill who turned many heads in his rookie season in the spring. It's an outstanding tandem that should give the Hitmen the opportunity to win each game they play. Definitely in contention for a playoff spot.

7. B.C. Snipers - Don't be deceived by this team's opening week lineup. An  Abbotsford tourney decimated their lineup including all of their top point producers. The only high profile player in action, Steve Carruthers, was forced to play goal by the absence of Mike Ireland, who has had a stranglehold on the team's goaltending duties since their inception. It does need mentioning that Carruthers played an all-world game in the Snipers net, making an incredible 52 saves in the loss. Once this team gets things going for real look for them to be in a lot of games with the top teams, if not able to win them. Daniel Lafortune carried this team on his back through the spring playoffs to the "B" division title with a performance for the ages. He posted a goal or assist on 20 of the team's 24 goals, accounting for 83% of his team's offense during the playoffs. He should get some scoring support from James Mowat this year, after a couple of successful seasons in the league with the Stingrays and The Game. The team will need him to be a full time player in order to be competitive on a regular basis. The other major offensive players like Orien Matsubara, and Steve Carruthers will also have to continue helping in the scoring department. The real key for the team may be the production of the second line with players like Jay Taylor and Kono Douglas chipping in regularly. Jas Sidhu, who debuted for the Stingrays this past season, is a nifty little forward with good moves that will add to the team's depth up front. The veteran presence of Dan Ko has been also added and should help this team immensely. Along with GM Enrique Miranda and Brad Dafoe, the team has a good group of shooters from the back end and must get plenty of traffic to the front of the net and blast away. For the Snipers a simple, fundamental style of play might help overcome some of the team's shortcomings.

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