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Playoff Previews - "A" Division

(3) Wolfpac @ (1) Executioners




Wolfpac: 8-8-2 (.500), 82 GF, 76 GA, +6 Dif.
Executioners: 13-4-1 (.750), 123 GF, 74 GA, +49 Dif.
Wolfpac
Top 5 Scorers
Executioners
Top 5 Scorers
Rob Sangha 14-13-17-30
Steve Mulholland 14-10-10-20
Herman Sunner 10-10-9-19
Jonny Pal 14-6-10-16
Justin Matai 14-5-9-14
Chip Gill 12-16-17-33
Jay Dove 15-15-17-32
Shane Khan 16-14-18-32
Bryce Goligher 12-7-21-28
Dave Fisher 14-13-14-27

During their opening round series, the Wolfpac emerged from their season long slumber and finally looked like the team that had built such an impressive resume over the past five years. They dispatched the Barons in two games straight, to the surprise of many, as the Barons had been a dominant force all season long, dropping only a handful of games all year. The Executioners, on the other hand, had a harder time than expected with the Jaguars as theirs was the only series to go to a game three. Not to mention the Exec's actually trailed that deciding game 3-0 at one point, before staging a furious second half rally. The Executioners took two out of the three games between these teams this season, in some rather high scoring affairs. In total the Exec's outscored the Wolfpac by a 22-16 total in the season series. Strangely, this will be the first playoff match-up between these two long standing teams.

Even without Tony Chohan, one of the league's elite scoring threats, the Wolfpac showed they were still able to dial up the offense when needed during their semi-final tilt with the Barons. Balanced scoring was the key as the team received goals from eight different scorers during the two games, with only Marco Carotenuto recording more than a single tally. Steve Mulholland finished as the high point man in the series with a goal and three assists, including the all important game-winner in the first contest. Herman Sunner and the often under-rated Gopal Powar also chipped in three points each against the Barons. The one concern the team may have is the powerplay which went 1 for 6 in the series and seemed a little out of sorts. The team has been trying Mike Sanghara on the point to give them a different look. The team still has Jordan Chowsen unleashing his cannon from the back, and he showed his effectiveness in that situation when he takes the extra time to make sure he gets the shot on target.

Even with the Wolfpac regaining their old form, it's hard not to like the Executioners to take this category. They pretty much carried their blistering regular season scoring pace into the opening round versus the Jags, a team that made the mistake of trying to play run-and-gun with an Exec's team that averaged almost seven goals per game all year long. Not surprisingly, they cashed in another twenty goals over the three games, seemingly flipping on the switch in parts of the game when they needed goals the most. Their powerplay went 5 for 12 as it continues to be a lethal weapon operating at a rate over the 40% mark for the season. Dave Fisher turned set-up man versus the Jags, recording six assists and drawing numerous penalties with his ceaseless work ethic. Jay Dove and Lee Bryant each finished with identical 4-1-5 point totals, though Bryant missed one game. Three of the eight goals scored by those two did come on the powerplay where they each man a point and get off some powerful shots. Young Jesse Churchwell and the nifty Bryce Goligher also collected five points each in the first round. Add another four players that had at least four points, and you get the picture, this team can score at will. Edge: Executioners

The Wolfpac had a very comparable team goals-against compared to the Executioners this season, but it seems of the two styles of play, the Wolfpac are the team that tends to focus a bit more on the defensive end. The club did a great job against an explosive Barons team, holding them to just six goals scored in the series. However, the team's achilles heal all season, the penalty kill, reared it's head once again as the Barons converted 3 of 6 chances. Counting the regular season, the Wolfpac have now surrendered a stunning 20 goals on the opposition man-advantage. This will definitely be a key to the series to keep an eye on, though the Wolfpac's best answer to this problem might be to avoid taking the penalties in the first place.

The Executioners are very comfortable with an end-to-end type of game, and will simply try to outscore their opponents, but that doesn't mean that they are satisfied with giving up a bunch of goals either. The coverage was a little loose in the Jaguars series, particularly on their most dangerous player, Daniel Lafortune, who was left alone in front of the net on multiple occasions. The team will definitely need to pay more attention to the details involving coverage, particularly against an explosive team like the Wolfpac. Like their opponent, the Executioners also struggled on the PK this season with a poor kill rating of 65.5%, but the team managed to stay out of the box and in the first round weren't shorthanded at all in either of their two wins. This is a tough category to pick, but assuming there is a lot of five-on-five play, I like the Pac's defense over the Exec's, but if this series becomes a special teams shootout, all bets are off. Edge: Wolfpac

Any questions about the lingering effects of injury on Rick Baker have been answered...and then some. Baker was unreal in the Barons series, and was named first star in a game two victory that actually saw the Wolfpac outshot 39-17. Perhaps the lengthy layoff has given him the rest he needed, because in his three games back he has posted a record of 3-0 with a GAA of 2.33 and a save percentage of .928! Rick Baker has carried the Wolfpac to championship glory before and he looks like he is in top form to do it again.

Veteran Jeff Fernquist did get the call for the Executioners, and picked up the wins in the series, with Alam Cheema taking the loss. The Executioners are very comfortable with Fernquist's championship pedigree, and the role he will fill for the team is not unlike what Grant Fuhr did for the Oilers in the 80's, which is to say, you can give up some goals behind a very offensive minded team, but come up big when the game is on the line with the key save. Edge: Wolfpac

This should be an explosive "A" division championship final for sure. Both of these teams have lethal lineups that know how to rack up the goals. The Executioners have been playing great hockey all season long, whereas the Wolfpac looked to be disinterested at times during the regular season, but now look like the team that has won multiple NWBHL championships. There are a lot of factors to take in to account for this series, but the one that immediately jumps out at me is the current play of the Wolfpac keeper, Rick Baker. Many a playoff champion has ridden hot goaltending to victory and if it happens again in this series, I would not be the least bit surprised. Edge: Wolfpac








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