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Season Preview - "B" Division

1. South Fraser Stingrays - It's been an interesting year for the Stingrays to say the least. After needing assistance from another team to even make the playoffs in 09/10, the 'Rays swept the postseason to earn their first league title. That earned them a trip to the "A" division and all but wiped out the impressive roster they had assembled. A season later and back in the lower division, early indications point to this team being a top contender again. One of their key pieces has moved on in the form of James Mowat, but the return of Jim Davis and Trent Plul from an unfruitful Spring spent with the Ghostriders organization, should bring big dividends. Kevin Morash, a large contributor down the stretch and into the playoffs, also returns to the fold. One of the more exciting off-season moves made by any team is the Stingrays' acquisition of a player package from the Black Aces consisting of Cristian Campeanu, Chris Allegretto, Jeremy Skinner, and Trent Nellis. Cristian Campeanu was one of the great surprises of the 09/10 season as he posted a 10-5 record with a division leading 2.73 average and .890 save percentage as a rookie. Unlike Campeanu and Allegretto who took the Spring season off, Nellis went back to work, plying his trade in the tough "A" division with the Surrey Hitmen and earning many accolades for his play. Jeremy Skinner also found some playing time with the Surrey Spartans this past season. He is lethal carrying the ball out of his own zone as an attacking defender, but can also play forward when needed. There is a lot of buzz surrounding some rookies headed to this team as well. Sunny Sahota and Sarb Gosal were highly sought after by GM Sukh Sandhu, while Tarik Teja is an amazing stickhandler that will remind many of Hashmat Mohammad. Add to that the presence of veteran defenders like Dave Burke and Albano Carreiro, and the perfect utility man in Curtis Tarzwell, and there isn't much to dislike with this team. Look for this edition of the Stingrays to be a championship contender once again.

2. Vancity Ghostriders - This team looks strong once again, but it will be their playoff performance that is the measuring stick for just how successful they end up being after they were swept in consecutive first round series over the last two seasons. Waseem Khalil returns from a successful stint in "A" where he showed he could put up numbers with the big boys. Another returnee to the Riders fold this season will be Ian Banks, who skipped the entire spring season. He remains one of the league's great goal scorers but as has been the case for the last number of years, will only be playing a part time role. A large portion of the offense will again be coming from the ever dangerous duo of Meemo Dik and Ziad Badr. Ziad led the team in points with 16 during the Spring while Meemo put up better than two points a game, albeit in just six games played. Blake Creamer has been steadily improving since joining the league and looks poised to have a breakout year. The team also addressed a depth issue with the acquisition of Rashid Wahed, whose versatility allows him to play any position on the floor. The White brothers, Casey and Jim also provide some good scoring depth, though one or both may be used on defense this season. Andrew Jamieson and Graham Skelton will also provide a big offensive threat due to some excellent ballhandling and shooting ability from the blueline. Riz Abbas is the unquestioned man in the net for the second straight season since the team parted ways with Jay Albanese, and is coming off his statistically strongest year to date. This team seems to be well built, and should push for first all year, but again it's only the playoffs that will matter for the Ghostriders.

3. West Coast Bandits - Though GM Mario Bolognese will once again recycle his classic Rage jerseys into action, this team is very much a different animal than both the Rage and the Vikings teams he has assembled in the past. This time around he has joined forces with some of the remaining members of Bobby Basran's Sharks team. The goaltending duties will be primarily held by Bill Lundholm, who is coming off a lengthy injury absence. Bill is going to have to work his way back slowly into game shape over the first few weeks. To spell him the team has John Rubino, who showed flashes at times last year, but for the most part had a rough season in net for the Vikings. Fab Carella will be the go-to offensive player on the first line with Jeff Hall (himself battling injury concerns) and Caleb Chiu, a veteran two-way performer that always makes his team better. Another key for the franchise will be Brevil Robinson, one of the game's most electrifying players, though a busy family schedule will limit the amount of games he will play this year. A player to look out for this year will be Steve Dhillon, who impressed many with his play on the Sharks last season. The defense will be the real strength of this team this year with a veteran group of defenders that have combined for a staggering 107 seasons of NWBHL experience (that's over 21 seasons per player!). That group will be anchored by Jeff Massullo, one of the league's all-time greats at the position, but also inludes such stalwarts as Greg Hoy, Bob Haddon, and Al Yip. The team's biggest concern may be the part-time approach many of the players are taking towards the season. If the top lineup doesn't come out on a regular basis, this team could find themselves in trouble in a hurry.

4. Vancouver Cougars - The Cougars came up just short in the playoff hunt during the Spring season, losing out to the Ghostriders for the final spot by virtue of a tie-breaker. They had wildly inconsistent turnouts as they suffered severe problems with player turnover throughout the season. Team manager Pawan Bains hopes to have that problem rectified this year so that the team can build on a solid core that it has been collecting. Kevin Uppal stole the "B" scoring title with a final game six point effort, finishing with impressive totals of 14-9-23 in a mere seven games played. Amrit Virk was held to just three games during the spring due to school commitments, but he should be back as a regular contributor on the top line. Chase Butler has always been a good producer for the team and his wheels and fore-checking ability should prove beneficial once again. The Lynch brothers, Matt and Nick, have found their way over from the Sharks (those of which who didn't join the Bandits), and should add some good depth to this Cougars team. On defense, Jaz Mahal was a late season pick-up that should make a huge difference for this team moving forward. The 08/09 winner of the league's top defensive defenseman award, Jaz should dominate on the back end with his size and tenacity for the Cougars this year. Also on the blueline, veteran Kuldip Grewal re-ups for another season and should provide more strong leadership to what remains a young group. He will have help in that department from the likeable Randy Sihota. It looks like the same goaltending tandem returning from the past season as well with Manj Shergill and Stan Renoir each looking to step up and carry the load for the team. Based on their lineup this could be a solid team, but like the Bandits they must show up to play with the full team on a weekly basis.

5. Surrey Spartans - The Spartans struggled to a 3-9 record in their first NWBHL season, but they did manage to beat a couple of good teams in the Ghostriders and The Game. The team hopes to keep building and returns much of the core from the Spring season. Floyd Jewell has really blossomed as a player and has now earned the tag as the Spartans go-to-guy. With 22 points in 12 games last season, he came up just shy of the "B" division scoring title. He is a hard working player who knows how to go to the tough areas to get scoring opportunities. Myles Scott also impressed in his rookie campaign, ending with 15 points, good for second on the club. There are also a couple of veteran scorers on the team in the form of Paul Bennett and the ultra-intense Brad Gunsten. The team will need some good contributions from them once again this year. On defense Chuck Emery continues to supply the muscle and the big shot from the point. He is frequently one of the goal leaders among rearguards in the league. The Black Aces' loss has been the Spartans gain as this team has picked up many players remaining from the Aces' dissolution including Steve Aitken, Steve Aspiri, and Mike Wood. Sean Kobierski is another former Aces player who also backstopped the Warhawks last season, but will in all likelihood see less shots in the Spartans net. Jason Ashby is also still with the team after coming over from the Cougars last season, but an impending surgery will prevent him from lacing up the pads as full time goalie, but look for him to see some time on defense. With improving depth, this is a team on the rise but they will face some stiff competition for a coveted playoff spot.

6. Richmond Warhawks - It's been a bit of a tough go for this club through their first two campaigns as they have an all-time record of 3-19-2. The job of getting the Warhawks on track wasn't made an easier by their late admission to the league this season nor the fact that their goalie from last season, Sean Kobierski, had already signed on with the Spartans. It looks like the team will be going with ex-Stingrays ballstopper Cliff Stayner. The Warhawks had a sizable improvement offensively last season as compared to their first year, jumping up from a per game goal scoring average of 2.42 to 3.67. Kevin Booth quietly had an excellent season and was among the league's scoring leaders for much of the season. A late slump took him out of contention for the scoring title but he still finished with a decent 16 points in 10 games to lead the club. Harneil Lilly also had a breakout season with the team as he more than doubled his rookie season output by scoring 13 points. His ability to hang on to the ball and wait for a scoring chance to develop was noticeable on a team that tended to panic more often than not when they had possession. The other major offensive catylyst for the 'Hawks was Sunny Basi, who likely has the most dangerous shot on the team. It is hard, and he can get it off with a quick snap, surprising goalies. Sunny finished second on the team with six goals, one behind Harneil for the team lead. There is still a lot of room for improvement for the team on offense, particularly from a depth perspective, but the achilles heal of the team to this point has mainly been their play in their own end. The team has had serious coverage issues and has to get all their players on the same page as to how to defend opposing teams.

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