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Playoff Previews - "B" Division

(4) Warhawks @ (1) Bullies

Warhawks: 8-9-1 (.472), 57 GF, 87 GA, -30 Dif.
Bullies: 11-3-4 (.722), 91 GF, 59 GA, +32 Dif.
Top 5 Scorers
Top 5 Scorers
Harneil Lilly 17-11-10-21
Sunny Basi 18-8-13-21
Amrit Shergill 16-7-12-19
Bronson Cooper 6-5-8-13
Ami Gill 11-6-4-10
Jeremy Skinner 18-8-22-30
Sunny Sahota 15-11-16-27
Blake Creamer 17-15-8-23
Larry Mey 17-10-11-21
Nick McNicol 15-10-9-19

This match-up comes as a bit of a surprise, especially considering the rather strange events that led to the Warhawks' back door playoff entry, but now the they will finally have the opportunity to play in some postseason games after being on the outside looking in for so many years. The bad news is they find themselves matched up against the first place Bullies who proved they were the class of the "B" division all season long. The Bullies even managed an incredible 5 out of 6 points in their "A" crossover games, as they showed off their ability to compete against a top level opponent.

The Bullies led the "B" division in scoring by 13 goals over the next highest scoring team, the Stingrays. In fact, The Bullies were the only team in the div to average over 5 a game, finishing with 91 in 18 games. Depth is the key to the offense for the Bullies though they are led by a high end scorer in the form of Jeremy Skinner, who had a team high 30 points. His game is reminiscent of Dave Fisher's, matching an incredible work ethic with soft hands. The often overlooked Sunny Sahota put up terrific numbers this campaign with 27 points in 15 games. The other man on that line, Blake Creamer scored a team leading 15 goals and is a terrific leader on the floor and in the room. Brad Crawford is another handy weapon that is under the radar, though the team failed to qualify his partner-in-crime Matt Lisson, but the team has many other players that will fill in the secondary scoring. The stick-handling wizardry of Tariq Teja and the jack-of-all-trades, Nick McNicol will also be important players in the offensive scheme. Look out for slick rookie Riley McQuillan as well. The back end features a couple of hard shooters in Trent Nellis and Dustin Rind and the league's most dynamic ball rushing defenseman Larry Mey, who will likely give the Warhawks defenders fits.

The Warhawks team's fortunes started to change in the last month of the season when Bronson Cooper started to come out for the team regularly. He practically carried the team on his back as they won their last three contests and Bronson finished with 13 points in 6 games. You can't talk about the Warhawks without mentioning Sunny Basi and Harneil Lilly. The Sedin twins of the Warhawks have been offensive partners since the inception of this franchise and continue to get things done on the top line. They finished in a tie for the team lead with 21 points apiece. Amrit Shergill, a veteran of the league that has played for the Wolverines and Rays in the past, really strengthened the club when he came over to the team last year. He finished as the third leading scorer collecting 19 points in 16 games. One of the interesting moves the club made this year was moving Kevin Booth back to defense to solidify the team's back end. This has unfortunately cut his offensive output this year as he put up numbers of 14-0-6-6 this season that are well under his typical season output. The top line has scored all season, but it's the supplementary offense that will have a big impact on this series for the Warhawks. Players such as the always entertaining Raman Bains and the former goaltender Ami Gill. Things get pretty thin after that. The Warhawks' 57 goals this year was the second lowest total in the league ahead of only the Burnaby Rage. Edge: Bullies

The Bullies have the most formiddable defensive corps in the division. They also seem to possess the different components that make up a team tough to score on, which begins with a big nasty defensemen in Trent Nellis that makes opposition forwards wary of going in front of the Bullies' net. They also have a couple of fast ball rushing defenseman in Larry Mey and Dustin Rind, who makes use of one of the most impressive strides in the league. Azaad Bharmal is a rookie to this league but has been one of the team's steady defenders. MJ Brown is a true competitor capable of winning any battle for the ball, and is a great shot-blocker as well. The team has some strong defensive forwards as well, but they will particularly count on Rashid Wahed to be their shutdown centerman.

The defensive side of the game has long been a weakness of this Warhawks team, but as previously mentioned the transfer of one of their top ball control players, Kevin Booth, to the blueline has helped solidify that element of their game. Another long time member of this team, Cyril Duncan, has long been one of the most underrated defensemen in the league. He possesses a good shot and has good awareness while out on the floor. Though not known for his offense, he did fire a pair of goals in the team's clutch win over the Spartans to get into playoff position. The big man on the back end for the Warhawks is Deepak Takhar. He is a firce competitor, not unlike Trent Nellis, but he has managed to keep his penalty minutes under control this season while still providing the team with the required toughness in front of the crease. The Warhawks in general, are going to have to up their defensive game if they are going to win this series. They averaged 4.83 goals against this season and now find themselves matched up with the division's top offense. Edge: Bullies

Playoffs in the Ndub always give us some intriguing goaltending match-ups, and this will certainly be one to keep an eye on. We certainly won't have to worry about any backups in this series as both teams are led by an unquestioned number 1 goalie. For the Bullies it's Cristian Campeanu. In a few short years in the league he has put his name among the Ndub's all-time greats. His .887 save led all qualifyers and yet is below his career average of .900, which is the second highest total on record. Cristian's only weakness might be hois focus versus what he considers inferior competiton, an element that may come into play in this series. However, he is also a big game goalie and this is the playoffs, so focus might not be an issue after all.

For the Warhawks, the man is Cliff Stayner. He has been the team MVP ever since he started playing with this team a year ago. He has consistently held them in games despite the team being badly outshot, and is the biggest reason that the team left the league's basement to become a mid-range club. He plays well with getting a lot of shots and often seems tireless in net. He will definitely get his share of work against the Bullies and will have to once again stand on his head to pull out a victory or two. He is one of the league's best goalies, so it was difficult not to call this category a draw, but in this case he is matched up against the one guy that may be head and shoulders above the rest. Edge: Bullies

For the Warhawks, this playoff appearance is a benchmark, as the team has progressed from being a team that won just three of its first twenty-four games, to a team that is can be a regular contender. If they want to go further than this series, it would likely take a herculean team effort on all fronts, with Cliff Stayner stealing one or both games in goal. The Bullies, albeit a first year team, have been built to win from the start, and have their eyes set firmly on the prize. They have to be careful not to overlook their first round opponent as they had previously been expecting to match up with the Ghostriders, but there is not question that it's their series to lose. I'm calling this one for a Bullies sweep. Edge: Bullies

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