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Early Season Review - Part I

NWBHL Early Season Review - Part I

Season Overview


     We have officially completed the first third of the season with each of the teams having completed six games (with a couple of clubs having a seventh under their belt). Although there are always some interesting to things to see in the standings in any given year, this season in the Northwest League has been without precedent. The level of parity to this point has been unbelievable, and the standings have been amazingly tight. How close is the race so far? There are no less than 8 teams separated by a single point! The top team in the league at the moment has been a perennial "B" div club and the historically powerhouse franchises have been taking losses at a surprising pace. Even the lowest team in the Standings, the Titans, are shockingly good and in most other seasons would likely find themselves in the middle of the pack. As is, they remain in striking distance of the pack and are not to be taken lightly. It's not just the standings that have been close, either. In the 34 games played to this point, there have been 17 games decided by 1 goal or less (including 8 overtime contests), as well as another 10 games decided by a margin of 2-3 goals. That means that 27 of 34, or roughly 80% of the schedule have been competitive games. 

     With that all said, here is Part I of my breakdown of each of the teams and how they have performed in the early going of the 2016/17 campaign. Teams are currently listed in the order that they currently find themselves in the standings (close as that as). Here are the first five clubs with the remaining six to be published tomorrow in Part II.

North Van Mercenaries


     What a start it's been for the Mercenaries! After their first six games they remain the league's only perfect team at 6-0. The club currently boasts an outstanding +20 goal differential, meaning that they are winning by an average of over three goals per contest. By comparison, the next best differential in the league are a pair of clubs, each at +7. The Merc's have won games in multiple different ways, at times eking out close victories, while also hammering teams on other occasions. Four different players have scored in double digits so far this year, showing off the team's offensive depth. David Prestage currently leads the team in scoring with 13 points, but he is trailed closely by Myles Scott and Karson Levack with 12 points each. Amolak Gill has also been a big producer with 10 points in five games played. The team has used multiple different goaltenders this season, but Josh Cabrita has posted a 3-0 Record with an outstanding save percentage of .905. The Mercenaries themselves are trying to come to grips with their success in the early season. Can they keep this going? Time will tell, but for my money they look to be the real deal.

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B.C. Clappers Club


     After the Mercenaries, the Clappers have been the next best team in the league through the first third of the season. They too carried an unbeaten record into the last weekend before suffering their first loss at the hands of those same Mercenaries. A notable moment in their season came just the previous week when almost the club's entire lineup was absent, yet they somehow managed a tie with the Storm using players pulled out of the woodwork, and no subs. The Rana Brothers continue to be the driving force offensively for the Clappers club. Ravind has piled up 14 points already, with Karman collecting 13 of his own. Puneet Sandhu and Paras Saggu have also been regular contributors with 11 and 9 points, respectively. The Clappers continue to add to their depth as the talented Andy Hundhal made his season debut this past week. Look for him to rack up the points alongside long time teammate Mont Saran. Interestingly, though this team is one of the most potent offensive clubs in the league, they have struggled on the power play in the early going, posting a 2 for 13 success rate with the man advantage. Like with the Mercenaries, early season netminding duties have been split among multiple goaltenders, but expect Justin Singh to be the main man for the team this year.

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Surrey Giants


     After dropping three of the first four games, the Giants appear to be back on track, with decisive wins in their last two contests. They have now levelled their record at three and three, and hope to move over the .500 mark with a win this weekend against the Core. Harp Kalkat continues to dominate the league with four goals and five assists through four games played. Justin Matai is also off to a hot start with matching offensive output, albeit in an additional game played. A quick look at the games played numbers for the team shows the squad has been understaffed for much of the season, averaging just over eight runners per contest. The team will need to improve its player turnout if they are to continue to be successful in a league that has seen its calibre steadily increase over the last few seasons. The Giants haven't had much opportunity to work on the power play this year as they have garnered a league low two power play attempts through six games. The Giants are another team that has had the goalie carrousel in full swing the season, with four different netminders seeing time between the pipes in the just first six games.

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Surrey Wolfpac


     The Wolfpac season has mirrored that of the Giants early season campaign. This team also started with a surprising 1-3 record, before coming back to life with a pair of impressive wins over the Pirates and the Saints. The dynamic duo of Tony Chohan and Mike Sanghara remain one of the deadliest one-two combinations in the league. After playing five games each they have 11 and 10 points, respectively. Former Crooks standout Manvir Pooni (not to be confused with the Titans player of the same name), is also on a two point per game pace so far. The legendary Dave Fisher is also a key cog in the Wolfpac offense, though an injury currently has him sidelined. The talented Jason Makowski has also been a big addition to the club this year after spending a couple of successful seasons in the Storm/Ghostriders organization. The penalty kill is off to a rough start with three goals allowed in just four opportunities. Grant Anderson has played the majority of the games for the team in net this year. His stats took a beating in a game versus the Outsiders in which the team suffered a 10-0 drubbing behind a skeleton crew lineup that had to pluck a player off the street just to avoid a forfeit. That game aside, Anderson has been solid.

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West Side Pirates


     The Pirates are part of the 3-3 record club along with the Giants and Wolfpac. The difference is that unlike those other two teams that struggled early and are pulling things together, the Pirates actually shot out to a quick 3-0 start and have been sliding with losses in three consecutive outings. Trent Plul has been one of the league's top scorers this year with 4-9-13 through 6 games played. He enjoys a sizeable lead among the next highest player on his team, which is Lloyd Weir at 8 points. Graeme Spence, one of the NDub's top two-way players, is next with 7 points in 4 GP. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Lafortune brothers while talking about the Pirates. Daniel has been limited to just three games played due to injury, but has been as productive as usual in that time, contributing at a two point-per-game clip. Marcel's stats are a bit down from his usual pace (4-3-2-5), but he still remains the driving force for this team and has been named a game star in two of his five contests. The Pirates' special-teams numbers are impressive across the board, with a league best PP efficiency rate of 44.4% and a fantastic 10 for 11 while killing penalties. Steve Carruthers has played every minute for the team in goal, and has been consistently good.

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