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Playoff Previews - "B" Division

(2) Stingrays @ (1) Bullies

Stingrays: 10-6-2 (.611), 78 GF, 56 GA, +22 Dif.
Bullies: 11-3-4 (.722), 91 GF, 59 GA, +32 Dif.
Top 5 Scorers
Top 5 Scorers
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
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 is the "B" division match-up people have been waiting for; the number one ranked Bullies versus the number two ranked Stingrays. The Rays took two out of three games in the season series, but it was the Bullies' victory in these team's final game of the campaign that would decide the seeding. Both of these teams swept through their first round series but, for the most part, the games very close and intense.

The Stingrays were led through the semis by their big line, once again. Taylor Plul scorched the Ghostriders for 7 points in two games (3G, 4A) with Trent picking a goal and three assits, and Lloyd notching three goals including the series clincher in overtime. The drop-off in production remains a concern as the only other person on the roster in that series to record a goal was defenseman Aaron Vautour, who collected a pair of goals in game 1. There is an inherent danger in counting on a single line to do all your heavy lifting, particularly against a good checking team like the Bullies, so the Stingrays will need to get some support form their second line players such as Curtis Tarzwell and Dogar Gill, both reliable scorers in their own right, as well as from the Dean brothers, Adam and Taylor. The team played the Riders series without veteran powerplay quarterback Kevin Morash, but it didn't seem to hurt the team's production with the man advantage, as they dropped Taylor Plul back to the point and would go on to score on their first three powerplays of the series. Morash's status is uncertain for the final, but they could certainly use the offensive depth, as well as having another big shot from the point along with Aaron Vautour and Harminder Rai.

The Bullies have an entirely different offensive structure than the Stingrays, not having to rely on a single line, but rather incredible depth throughout their forward lines. Impressive rookie Riley McQuillan carried the hot stick for the team in the first round, scoring four goals in the two games against the Warhawks. Brad Crawford played set-up man for Riley in those games finishing with four assists. The line for the Bullies that did the bulk of the damage during the regular season, Jeremy Skinner, Blake Creamer, and Sunny Sahota, was a little bit quiet in the first round, but look for them to get things going now that a championship is on the line. The back end for the Bullies also remains a scoring threat, with the likes of Larry Mey, Dustin Rind, Trent Nellis, and Jamil Jeraj all unloading their cannons from the point. Edge: Bullies

The key to success for the Bullies in this series is fairly obvious, shut down the Stingrays' big line. Doing that, however, is harder than it might seem, as the Ghostriders found out. Through the three game regular season series, the Bullies managed to put the brakes on the Plul line in just one of those contests, with the line combining for 18 points in the other two games, both Stingrays wins. Look for the Rashid Wahed line to get the checking assignment as the shut-down unit. The other big plus for the Bullies is the make-up of their defense corps, which features a nice mix of muscle and ball-moving ability, which is key to countering the Stingrays' ferocious forecheck. The Bullies play a possession style game, and the fact that they constantly have the ball on their sticks will greatly inhibit their opponent's ability to attack.

The Stingrays defense is also a big key to their success and the 56 goals allowed was the least given up by any team this season. They have some good physical players at the back such as Vince Aiello, Guy Hawkins and Gord Harada, as well as Harminder Rai, who is a master of the "zone clearing" shot. The Rays also have a great team concept of how to play defense and have a few forwards (Cutis Tarzwell and Sukh Sandhu) that are actually converted defensemen. This really ups their overall defensive awareness. This is a tough one to call as both teams excelled this season in their own ends. Edge: Draw

Though the Stingrays still have Rob Kahle, a man who is a proven winner, in their back pocket, the job this year has been well earned by Jay Albanese, who's game looks to be improving with each passing week. There was a time when he was thought to be inconsistent, but his 2.75 goals-against-average this year (best among any goaltender with more than three games played) has spoken volumes, and he has continued his play into the playoffs where he has also posted some impressive numbers; A 2-0 record, 2.82 GAA, and .887 save percentage. More important than the numbers is the fact that he shut the door in the closing minutes of the final game versus the Ghostriders and then into overtime, allowing his club to come out with the series victory.

Not to be outdone, the incomparable Cristian Campeanu, put up some first round stats that are even more impressive. How about a GAA of 1.00 and a save percentage of .952? Having said that, the Warhawks don't have the firepower the Stingrays will, so look for Campeanu to get a big test in this final series. Still, as good as Albanese has been for the Rays, I think you still have to give the nod in this category to the man that has put up the career numbers at the top of the NWBHL all-time goaltending list. Edge: Bullies

This is a great match-up of two elite "B" division teams in the Stingrays and Bullies. The Rays have already collected a pair of "B" championships after languishing at the bottom of the standings for almost a decade. Sukh Sandhu has quickly built the team into a winner and has them poised once again to take the big prize. The Bullies, on the other hand, are a brand new team this year, but one that has also been built to win. Though they have already confirmed their move up into "A" next year, they would dearly love to go up as reigning "B" champs. Both teams are stacked, but feature different methods of attack, the Stingrays having the high end scoring line, and the Bullies with great depth throughout the lineup. This series could definitely go either way, and is certainly a good bet to go three games, but I have always felt that in the playoffs, depth prevails. Edge: Bullies

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