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Playoff Previews - "B" Division

(3) Ghostriders @ (2) Stingrays

Ghostriders: 9-7-2 (.556), 72 GF, 64 GA, +8 Dif.
Stingrays: 10-6-2 (.611), 78 GF, 56 GA, +22 Dif.
Ghostriders
Top 5 Scorers
Stingrays
Top 5 Scorers
Jim White 15-9-15-24
Dennis Hintz 11-8-11-19
Ian Banks 6-5-11-16
Mojib Emami 14-4-11-15
Hashmat Mohammad 13-10-4-14
Taylor Plul 17-15-26-41
Loyd Weir 17-16-24-40
Trent Plul 17-11-26-37
Curtis Tarzwell 14-4-13-17
Sukh Sandhu 17-4-5-9

After the interesting developments that came out this week, the Riders have been matched up with the Stingrays. This is going to be a very good series. The season series went the Stingrays way as they won both games against the Riders including a great back-and-forth overtime battle in the last meeting. This won't be the first time the Rays and Riders have met in the first round of the playoffs as the two teams met two years ago with the Stingrays sweeping the Riders in an upset enroute to their first Championship! These teams match up well as both GF and GA numbers are similar with the slight edge going to the Stingrays and they both have solid goaltending. There are some intriguing player matchups as well. Will Jim White be able to stifle the league's top line? Will the Stingray defense be able to contain the speed of the Rider forwards??

The Stingrays possess arguably, the most potent top line in the league. Taylor Plul and Lloyd Weir both eclipsed 40 points this year with linemate Trent Plul, not far behind with 37. Their line has a deadly combination of speed and skill and will definitely cause problems for the Riders. One reason they are so effective is that they can adapt to different situations. They can beat you on the rush or, more likely, set up in the offensive zone for extended periods of time and blast one-timers all day. After the top line, the production drops off a bit. Curtis Tarzwell had an excellent season, matching his career high in points while his linemates Adam and Taylor Dean established themselves as significant threats off the rush and also, tenacious forecheckers. The Stingrays failed to qualify stud defenseman Kevin Flather but the late acquisition of Kevin Morash more than takes care of the offense from the D. Aaron Vautour has also been a nice addition as he has great poise with the ball and a booming shot. Harminder Rai will be expected to chip in as well.

The Ghostriders have a very balanced attack this season and leading the charge, is super Dman Jim White. Jim had his best season since the 2005/2006 campaign with 24 points in 15 games and I don't expect the playoffs to slow him down. His grinding, bull-rush style is tailor-made for important games like these. The Riders boast a terrific trio of speedsters. Hashmat Mohammad, Mojib Emami, and Haseeb Mohammed have excellent vision and they give the Riders a distinct speed advantage in this series. All 3 put up excellent numbers with Hashmat scoring a career high 10 goals. Add to that, two bruisers in Jeff Berkey and Dennis Hintz, who both had great seasons in their own right. Dennis in particular, plays a punishing style and combines grit and more grit to get the job done. The Riders were smart to qualify Ian Banks as he can be a game-breaking forward. He put up great numbers again and could possibly turn the tide for the Riders if he shows up on a regular basis. Besides Jim White, Graham Skelton is a formidable ball rusher on the back-end and posseses great vision. Nameet Kumar put up modest numbers this year but he is a shifty defenseman with pinpoint passing and I wouldn't be surprised if he beats his season totals in the playoffs. Edge: Stingrays

The Stingrays had the lowest goals against of any team in both divisions. Their D core shows no weakness and have proven to be very difficult to play against. This group is led by rugged Dmen like Guy Hawkins, Vince Aiello, and journeyman, Gord Harada. Gord is a beast on D and is also a surprisingly good ball-rusher. I think one of the reasons the Rays gave up so few goals is the play of the second line forwards Taylor and Adam Dean. These guys forecheck as well as anyone in the league and it's pretty tough to score goals when you can't get out of your own end.

The Riders are maybe not as deep defensively as the Rays but they are no slouch as they posted the 3rd lowest Goals against in the B's. Derek Sprosten has proven to be a rock on the back end this year and is one of those unsung heros that teams rely on to be successful. Mike Grandia has been an underrated player for the Riders as well. He makes a great first pass and is solid in his own zone. As good as Jim White has been offensively, it is defense that is his bread and butter. He is excellent and blocking shots and taking away passing lanes. Jeff Brailsford is a very underrated defensive forward as well with slick faceoff skills. Edge: Stingrays

Jay Albanese has taken over the number one job with the Rays and he hasn't let go. He posted stellar numbers this year and led the league with a sparkling 2.75 goals against average. He's also had playoff success before as he was part of the Rays team that won the B's two seasons ago. He has remained remarkably consistent this season and should get the bulk of the work this playoffs. If not, veteran Rob Kahle will be ready to go.

Derek Smith is coming off a B championship season with the Jaguars and will be the go-to guy for the Riders this time around. Due to injury, Derek was limited to only 6 games this year that didn't stop him from turning in some decent numbers. His goals against average of 3.37 was good enough for third among B goalies. He's a big goalie and he is great at utilizing his size on rebounds and screens. The crafty shootout specialist, Dave Malmberg, waits in the wings for his crack at the Rays as well. Edge: Draw

If the last game these two teams played, is any indication, this series should be a barn-burner. It wouldn't be much of an upset if the Riders beat the Stingrays as they were only 2 points apart in the standings although they definitely took different paths to get there. Stingrays spent most of the season perched atop the standings while the Riders were closer to the middle of the pack. They are very evenly matched but the question is....will the Riders be able to contain the Stingrays top line? If so, I believe the Riders can take this series. I'll go with the upset...Riders in 3! Edge: Ghostriders








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