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Playoff Previews - "B" Division

"B" Div. Semifinals: (4) Rage @ (1) Ghostriders

Ghostriders Stats

Record Overall:
13-5-0, 82 GF, 62 GA, +20

Record vs Rage:
2-1-0, 16 GF, 12 GA, +4

Special Teams:
PP: 13 for 38 (34.2 %)
PK: 23 for 32 (71.9 %)

Top 5 Scorers:
Ziad Badr 15-11-17-28
Jonathan Yueh 15-10-11-21
Waseem Khalil 16-10-11-21
Meemo Dik 8-11-5-16
Brodie Jackson 13-7-6-13

Rage Stats

Record Overall:
10-8-0, 76 GF, 61 GA, +15

Record vs Ghostriders:
1-2-0, 12 GF, 16 GA, -4

Special Teams:
PP: 6 for 35 (17.1 %)
PK: 19 for 28 (67.9 %)

Top 5 Scorers:
Trent Plul 16-8-20-28
Jim Davis 18-9-15-24
Floyd Jewell 17-12-10-22
Lloyd Weir 11-9-5-14
Jay Taylor 16-4-9-13
Series Overview
     The Ghostriders were the team to beat this year in "B", posting a division best 13-5 record. The Rage on the other hand, had to claw their way into the playoffs, but a three game winning streak at the end of the season not only ensured them a playoff berth, but made sure they would go in on a high, and well battle tested. In fact, the Rage's final win of the season actually came against the Ghostriders in an early series preview. The Ghostriders won the first two games in the season series, but they were much earlier in the schedule. The Riders have been struggling a bit over the last couple months, and actually come in with three losses in their last five games. Having said that, the division seemed to be in hand a while ago and it may have just been a motivation issue. Now the team plays for real, and look for the team's top lineups to start appearing.
Team Offense
     The Ghostriders feature a well balanced attack with many dangerous forwards as well as some hard shooting defensemen. Ziad Badr led the club in both scoring (28 points) and penalty minutes (24 PiM). His discipline is an ongoing concern for the club but it should be noted that this was actually his lowest penalty-per-game output since he's been with the team. Jonathan Yueh and Waseem Khalil tied one another with identical 10-11-21 stat lines, though Yueh played one game fewer. They provide a great one-two punch with Khalil's quick release and soft hands along with Yueh's relentless work ethic and speed. Meemo Dik, as is often the case, was only in the lineup for around half of the team's games, but he will be one of the most prominent figures in their championship drive. He took Playoff MVP honours the last time the Ghostriders were in the NWBHL postseason during the Spring '12 season. Other notable forwards for the team include star rookie Brodie Jackson who was a point-a-game player and big Amolak Gill, who missed a bunch of games this year due to injury, but is now back and ready to put his size and talent to work in the power forward role. Also back from injury is long time Ghostriders player, Casey White. He has long been an inspirational leader on the team and an important contributor to the offense. The team will also have a couple of big gunners on the back end with Kais Naibkhil and Andrew Jamison, each of which has a bullet of a shot and can really quarterback a powerplay. 

The Rage have some good scorers of their own this season. Trent Plul finished fourth in division scoring (a spot behind Ziad Badr), with an impressive stat line of 16-8-20-28. The 20 assists ranks him second behind only Sean Magee among "B" players in that category. Jim Davis finished second on the team in scoring with 24 points. Though he doesn't score goals at the clip he once did, Jim still remains an effective shooter for the team, and as always, a great team leader for the Rage. Floyd Jewell led the club in goals this year with 12, to go along with 10 assists. He has a heavy shot that he is not afraid to take from anywhere on the floor, and he is always great at taking the ball hard to the net to score the tough goal. Lloyd Weir was having a fine season for the club with a better than point-per-game pace before missing the last four games of the regular season. His status for this series is uncertain. Jay Taylor and Jere Dulibich are two solid players that will have to chip in some secondary scoring if this team is to have a chance to win this series. They finished fifth and sixth in team scoring with 13 and 11 points, respectively. The Rage do have an interesting wild card up their sleeve in Mike Kowalczyk. He often flies under the radar due to his part time status with some Ndub teams, but he is a real game breaker with some of the best speed in the league and an ability to finish. He is absolutely deadly while playing shorthanded, and he could be a huge difference maker in this series. The biggest area of concern for the team offensively, might be the powerplay which struggled along to a 17.1% efficiency rating. The team will definitely need more production from their extra man attack in this series. The Rage showed they could score this year, but will still need everyone firing to match the offensive depth of the Ghostriders.
Team Defense
    All four teams that qualified for the "B" div playoffs have very similar numbers in the Goals Allowed category. The teams range from 57 to 62 GA, with not surprisingly, a big margin between them and the three non-playoff teams. What might be a bit surprising, however, is that it's the first place Ghostriders that finished just a bit behind the other qualifiers in this department. It's worth noting that the team wasn't able to put together its true playoff lineup for much of the season and struggled in the latter part of the schedule, but look for the defense to be shored up with all hands on deck from here on out. They have a couple of solid defense-first blueliners in Bhal Randhawa and Sat Ahluwalia, as well as good ball movers like Kais Naibkhil and Andrew Jamison. The team will unfortunately be without one of its big weapons from the back end as Kavi Padda failed to qualify. Look for this team to play a pressure forecheck style that will limit the Rage's time in possession of the ball. 

    The Rage have always been considered a solid defensive team, and are well suited to win a low scoring game. They have a veteran defensive corps with a ton of experience under their belt. Graham Tizzard is one of the top shut down men in the league and Jeff Lim and Bob Hadden play a smart, conservative game in their own end. Guy Hawkins is one of the Ndub's premier battlers on the floor, and that is always a huge asset come playoff time. The speedy Daniel Fraser will be counted on to carry the ball out of the Rage end whenever possible. The team has some strong defensive forwards as well, none more noteworthy than the veteran Ray Diesel, who has claimed the league's Top Defensive Forward award on several occasions. This team will definitely have to play well together as a unit to keep the speedy Ghostriders' forwards at bay, as that seems to be where the biggest mismatch in this series lies.
    The Ghostriders are well stocked in goal this season. They have two NWBHL veterans in Vince Mudaliar and Derek Smith, as well as a capable replacement in rookie Henry Lu, should the other two be unavailable. Derek Smith is likely the playoff starter for the team. He missed much of the latter half of the season with injury, but returned to the team late in the campaign. Though he may still be fighting off some of the rust from a period of inactivity, he has had an excellent season, going 5-1 with an impressive 2.83 GAA and a division best .899 save percentage. Vince Mudaliar struggled with his numbers this season, but he still finished with a 4-2 record. He still has one of the quickest glove hands in the league, and is great at quickly moving the ball in transition to catch the opposition napping. Both of these goaltenders have brought teams to an NWBHL championship before, and the pressure will be on them as the goalies of the top seeded team to get back there. 

    Andy Vandenberg is the starting goalie for the Burnaby Rage. If that sounds familiar it's because this is the 22nd season that he has suited up for them, making him the longest tenured goaltender in the league by a wide margin. This is actually the first season he played all 18 games for the Rage, posting a 10-8 record in the process. He had same solid numbers this season with a 3.32 goals against and an .861 save percentage. Vandenberg is an old-school stand-up goaltender that challenges the shooters well. He also possesses a fiery competitive streak, and those that crash his crease had best beware! 
Overall Outlook
     An initial look at the standings would lead one to think the Ghostriders have completely dominated their opponents this year, and though their 13-5 record looks mighty impressive, there have definitely been some under whelming performances from the team this season, including many in the latter part of the season. The team won four games by a single goal and another four by two goals, though it's also the mark of a good team to win the close ones. The Rage got better as the season went along, posting a pair of three game win streaks in the second half of the schedule. Though the Rage are the more veteran of the two teams, the edge in playoff experience actually goes to the Ghostriders, who won the NWBHL title in the Spring of 2012 and finished runner up the spring prior. The Rage haven't had much playoff success in recent years and, in fact, missed the postseason in a few of their more recent campaigns. This should be a tight battle that will likely go the distance, but I think the offensive depth of the Ghostriders might just prove to be the deciding factor. Series Prediction: Ghostriders in three

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