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Playoff Previews - "A" Division

"A" Div. Semifinals: (3) Thrashers @ (2) Wolfpac

Wolfpac Stats

Record Overall:
12-6-0, 93 GF, 66 GA, +27

Record vs Thrashers:
3-1-0, 24 GF, 19 GA, +5

Special Teams:
PP: 9 for 38 (23.7 %)
PK: 31 for 39 (79.5 %)

Top 5 Scorers:
Jas Rai 14-13-21-34
Tony Chohan 16-10-19-29
Brenden Ham 10-13-13-26
Mike Sanghara 12-10-16-26
Gary Rai 9-12-3-15

Thrashers Stats

Record Overall:
9-8-1, 86 GF, 80 GA, +6

Record vs Wolfpac:
1-3-0, 19 GF, 24 GA, -5

Special Teams:
PP: 20 for 51 (39.2 %)
PK: 31 for 43 (72.1 %)

Top 5 Scorers:
Jay Dove 17-10-31-41
Zach Kelm 15-10-23-33
Dave Fisher 14-16-13-29
Jeff Heer 13-10-11-21
Roy Cabrita 12-13-5-18
Series Overview
     In likely the most anticipated playoff series of the first round, two long-time 'A" division powerhouses will go toe-to-toe as the Thrashers and Wolfpac face off. These teams have quite a history against one another, having already met in the playoffs on several different occasions. Here's a quick refresher of the previous meetings between the two; 2005/06 - A pre-divisional playoff match-up saw the 2nd seed Thrashers sweep an inexperienced Wolfpac team that were the 7th seed. 2007/08 - The Wolfpac win their first "A" title by defeating the Thrashers in a thrilling 3 game series. 2009/10 - The Wolfpac sweep the Thrashers with Brock Pierson scoring the cup winning goal in overtime. 2010/11 - The Wolfpac win a 3 game first round series. Spring 2012 - A two game sweep by the Thrashers ends the Wolfpac's run of series victories (but only sort of, as the team was technically playing under the NWO banner that season.). This year the Wolfpac have returned to their winning ways, taking 3 of the 4 games from the Thrashers during the regular season. After a slow first half to the season that saw the Wolfpac with a 4-5 record, they really turned it on to go 8-1 in the second half, with many of those wins being of the dominant variety. The Thrashers were the league's real Jekyl and Hyde team all season, both winning and losing games by large margins. The team was barely over the .500 mark this season, though that may be merely a reflection of the high level of play in "A" this year. 
Team Offense
     The amount of weapons these two teams have in their arsenal are staggering! The Wolfpac scored more than five goals per contest and naturally have a bunch of players that put up crooked numbers this season. Jas Rai led the team with 34 points in 14 games, good for third place on the "A" div scoring chart. Aided by his wicked wrister, he also tied for the team lead in goals with Brenden Ham at 13. Brenden dominated this season, recording 26 points in a mere 10 games. Had he played the full year and kept up that torrid pace, he would have been in contention for the scoring crown. He is among the shiftiest stickhandlers in the game, but also has a tremendously hard shot that he can get off quickly. The ever dangerous Tony Chohan finished second on the Wolfpac with 29 points. He remains one of the hardest players in the league to cover with his ability to guard the ball while carrying it and turn on a dime. Tony's long time partner-in-crime, Mike Sanghara, also had an excellent season, tying Ham with 26 points, also in an abbreviated number of games. Mike is well renowned as the deadliest one-on-one player in the game today! The team also has Steve Mulholland, probably the man with the league's best wrist/snap shot to offer goalies a different look from the other danglers. The team did suffer a loss as sensational rookie Gary Rai has been out of town for some time and is expected to miss the playoffs. The Pac have a number of hard shooting defensemen to help out their powerplay (which was surprisingly a div worst 23.7%). Mitch Miller has been a great pickup, coming over from the Barons in the off season with Brenden Ham. Jordan Chowsen has an absolute howitzer, though he tends to elevate the shot too much, but when he gets it under control it can be quite effective. Gugan Gill was the top point getter among the Wolfpac D with 10 points in just 9 games. He's a big, strong defender with great mobility for his size. 

    The Thrashers actually averaged 5 goals per game once you factor in that their last game was actually a forfeit win. Their traditionally strong powerplay was the best in the league once again, accounting for 20 goals and a sparkling 39.2% conversion rate. The Wolfpac will definitely want to stay clear of the penalty box in this series. The success of the PP is no mystery as they feature the best point tandem in the league with twin towers Jay Dove and Jeff Heer firing bombs from both sides. Jay enjoyed another stellar offensive year, finishing second in league scoring, ironically to a another defenseman, Harp Kalkat. Jay's 41 points marked the fifth time he has eclipsed the 40 point mark in the NWBHL. Zach Kelm finished second on the club in scoring and fourth in the division with 33 points. He is amazingly hard to knock off the ball and always seems to come out of the traffic with possession. His vision of the floor and finish are also impressive. The incomparable Dave Fisher lead the Thrashers in goal scoring this season with 16. There is still no other player in the game that can out work "Fish" shift in and shift out. He also scored a pair of shorthanded goals this year to establish a new career record with 24. Roy Cabrita, one of the league's strongest players and fiercest competitors, also chipped in 13 goals, good for second on the team in that department. There are also numerous other players on this roster that qualified for playoffs with impressive league resumes. Sanjeev Haer, Inder Mann, Faez Kanji, and Stan McClellan, each deserve to have their own write-up, but we're running out of room. When this team puts it's top offensive lineup together there are few other teams that can compete. Having said that, the Wolfpac may just be one of the few. Call this one a draw...
Team Defense
    Many people would probably be surprised to find out that despite the Wolfpac posting the lowest team Goals-Against in the division, that they actually gave up more shots on average than any team in "A", including the last place Barons. They can definitely thank their goaltender for getting them the defensive standing they currently enjoy. One can always argue that the shots were from the outside and low percentage, but it doesn't really matter, as the amount of goals you allow will always trump shots anyway. The bottom line is the team is getting the job done. The team has numerous offensively gifted defensemen at it's disposal (Gugan Gill, Mitch Miller, Indy Jhuti), but also some stay-at-home types as well in Davinder Chohan and Raj Kaila. These guys aren't counted on to put up points, but just take care of their own end and occasionally make a smart breakout pass to start the team's deadly transition game. 

    The Thrashers are another team that like to play defense by just having the ball all the time. When their opponent does have it they always run hard to get it back. Players like Fisher and Cabrita are well known for their defensive abilities to supplement their offensive game. The team also has Jay Dove and Jeff Heer as a one-two punch on the back end, still a dominant force for the Thrashers after all these years. Jay does occasionally have some issues with turnovers in his own end, but he has always put several goals in at the offensive end for each one he surrenders. He is also an underrated shot-blocker. Jeff Heer uses his incredible reach to his advantage in his own zone, as well as a great stride that allows him to carry the ball out of his zone in a heartbeat. He is quite dangerous once you let him pick up any momentum. The defensive guys that the team will also count on to take care of the action in front of the crease are Paul Kang, Jag Pandher, and the always entertaining Onkar Bhandher. 
    The Wolfpac have one of the best goaltenders in the game backstopping them for this playoff run in Rick Baker. He has been there for the team since taking over the regular team duties in the 07/08 playoffs when he guided the Pac to their first "A" championship. He played the full schedule this year going 12-6 with a 3.67 GAA and .871 Save Percentage. The Average and Save % were both second best in the division this season, after the Giants' Dave Lewis, while the win total was tops. Rick is a strong positional goalie but also has great reflexes. His championship record is solid evidence that he is a big game goaltender as well. 

    The Thrashers have had a bit of a rough year with their netminders. In spite of surrendering almost five shots less per game than the Wolfpac, the team actually gave up more than a goal more on average. The team went through several goalies this year trying to find the right guy. Therefore, the team currently has four different players qualified; Eddy Bordignon, Jeff Fernquist, Derek Smith and Bill Lundholm. Fernquist has by far the best track record of any of those goaltenders, and pending his availability, he would be the logical choice to get the call for these playoffs. They may have just got him a couple of games early on with that plan in mind. However if he is unable to go, the team has been using Bill Lundholm as their recent starter, having picked him up just before the deadline from the Rage. Bill is a veteran who has played some good games for the Thrashers since his arrival, but much like the rest of the team has had some issues with consistency. Derek Smith is another guy with a solid playoff track record, that has won titles before in this league with the Jaguars as well as just this past season with these very Thrashers. There are some good candidates there, but none of the aforementioned tenders have been able to consistently do the job for the Thrashers this season quite as well as Baker has for the Wolfpac.
Category Breakdown
Special Teams
Overall Outlook
     Whether you look at this season or the playoff history between these two teams, the Wolfpac often seem to have the Thrashers' number. That's not to say this is a lock for the Wolfpac, by any means. There are quite a few areas of comparison that you could say were even, though the big goaltending edge to the Wolfpac is definitely a huge factor in their favour and one of the most important categories, not to mention the fact that the Wolfpac enter the playoffs on fire, having won 8 of their last 9, while the Thrashers have continued to be all over the map. Regardless of who wins this series, these guys should put on a tremendous show as they always do when they face off against one another. Let's get it on! Series Prediction: Wolfpac in three

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