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Playoff Previews - "B" Division

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

Panthers Stats

Record Overall:
9-8-1, 57 GF, 69 GA, -12

Record vs Ghostriders:
2-1-0, 8 GF, 5 GA, +3

Special Teams:
PP: 6 for 31 (19.4 %)
PK: 22 for 27 (81.5 %)

Top 5 Scorers:
Gary Hallate 15-5-11-16
Colton Kahle 9-8-3-11
Avi Bassi 13-5-5-10
Scott Wilshire 14-9-0-9
Randy Ratchford 14-6-3-9


Ghostriders Stats

Record Overall:
6-11-1, 66 GF, 97 GA, -31

Record vs Panthers:
1-2-0, 5 GF, 8 GA, -3

Special Teams:
PP: 5 for 26 (19.2 %)
PK: 15 for 23 (65.2 %)

Top 5 Scorers:
Waseem Khalil 18-18-22-40
Jason Makowski 17-12-22-34
Rishaad Abbas 14-4-11-15
Onkar Bhandher 12-6-8-14
Andrew Jamison 7-2-7-9
Series Overview
     These two teams played one another pretty tightly during the regular season, each winning a hard fought 2-1 victory before the Panthers took the 5-2 win in the season finale. That last game was a testy affair, which makes one think there could be some real nastiness in this series. The Ghostriders struggled a bit with turnout this year, frequently running less than two full lines, but they did manage to get 14 players qualified (excluding goalies), and if they can lure the majority of them out for the games that really matter, that could add a dimension that they haven't had all year. This series will also provide an interesting contrast of styles with the defensive minded Panthers against the run-and-gun Riders.
Team Offense
     Though the Panthers put up an identical 9-8-1 record as in their initial NWBHL season in 2014/15, the offense dried up a bit this year. They scored 19 fewer goals for a per game average of 3.17, putting them ahead of only the last place Saints in that department. In 14/15 the team had four different 20 point scorers, whereas this year the top point getter was Gary Hallate with 16. It was a breakout year for Gary who led the team by a full 5 points and did it as a defenseman, no less. In a sign of the struggle the forwards went through this season, the second man on the Panthers scoring chart was also a d-man, Colton Kahle. Colton, the son of long time Ndub player Rob Kahle, was an instrumental part of the team's success this year. He is an excellent ball mover and can really quarterback from the back end, but he also possesses a bullet shot that can overpower goalies. His 8 goals was second on the team. That total put him one behind  Scott Wilshire, the long time offensive catalyst of the club. Wilshire won the league's "Cy Young" award this season by posting the odd stat line of 9 goals and 0 assists. This is a particularly surprising considering Scott has long been known as an elite playmaker, though it might be symptomatic of the lack of finish from others that has been already been eluded to. Gary Bal, won the division goal scoring title a year ago with 21, but slumped to just 2 goals in 11 games this season. Luvdeep Gill had a similar drop off in scoring, falling from 25 points in 14/15 to just 8 this season. The team will really need these two to get going in the playoffs. The club also felt the loss of Justin Koonar who was injured early in the campaign. His offense has been sorely missed. The Panthers have had a couple of other forwards step up this season with some decent production. Avi Bassi is one of the few Panthers to significantly increase his production from his initial season, finishing third in team scoring with 10 points in 13 games. Randy Ratchford also picked up 6 goals and 9 points to finish fifth. 

     There was little doubt which players drove the offense this year on the Ghostriders. Waseem Khalil and Jason Makowski made for a terrific twosome, combining for 74 points. Waseem took the "B" Division scoring title this year with numbers of 18-18-22-40. The 18 goals also tied for the most in the division, with Myles Scott of the Mercenaries also hitting that number. Waseem has quietly been putting up some big career numbers and this is actually his fourth division scoring title! Jason Makowski came over to the Riders this year after starring with a couple of struggling teams (Stingrays and Chiefs) over the past three seasons. Playing with some more elite players has allowed his numbers to take off, and he averaged two points per game, finishing with 34 of the campaign, good for second in "B" behind his linemate. There's a bit of a drop off after that in the team scoring chart, but Rishaad Abbas, who's skill set has dramatically improved over the years, comes in third with 15 points in 14 games. The real surprise on the team this year has been Onkar Bhandher. Long known for being the defensive dman on a stacked "A" div blueline with the Thrashers, Onkar has lit it up this year for the Riders. His 6 goals and 14 points put him among the blueline scoring leaders for the div. A pair of veteran scorers that played sporadically during the season might play a big part for this club in the playoffs. Ian Banks, one of the leagues all-time top snipers, managed 8 points in 11 games, while elite playmaker Taz Dhillon collected a typically assist heavy stat line of 1 goal and 7 assists in just 8 games played. Aside from Onkar, the team has some decent offense from the back end with the big shooting Andrew Jamison to work the point on the powerplay. The Riders did have a couple of key offensive cogs that missed the playoff qualification minimum in Meemo Dik, Mojib Emami and Nilesh Singla. The loss of their production hurts, but there are more than enough talented finishers on this team to give the Panthers a good test.
Team Defense
    The Panthers have long been a dominant defensive team. They excelled in that area once again this year, giving up a div low 69 goals. They have a number of competent ball moving defensemen that help them at both ends of the floor. Gary Hallate and Colton Kahle have been really dynamic offensive threats for the team this season, but the club also has Zoran Babic who is a capable of chipping in on the scoreboard as well. Jasmeet Koonar is an athletic defender that can match up against their opponent's top players. The team also has Mandip Koonar, and the diminutive but very solid Bryan Sakata rounding out their defensive corps. The Panthers play a full team defense quite well and limit the shots and quality scoring chances for the opposition. In fact, the Panthers surrendered a mere 21.7 shots per game in 2015/16. The team also finished with the second best Penalty Kill rate in the league at 81.5%, just a shade behind the Burnaby Rage.

    The Ghostriders gave up a whole pile of goals this season. They came just short of the century mark, finishing with 97 allowed. In an 18 game schedule that's an average of almost five and half per contest. The team will definitely have to improve in that area if they want an extended playoff run. Part of the problem may have been the inconsistent lineup they have dealt with for much of the season. Low turnout and a revolving door on the players that were actually in the lineup are both ingredients for defensive problems. This team also likes to play fast and loose, and doesn't mind trying to out score the opposition, so by their nature they will give up their fair share of goals. The Ghostriders Penalty Kill was a serious problem this year. They finished with a league worst success rate of 65.2%. The good news is they managed to keep the penalty totals down to a reasonable level, which isn't usually the case with the Riders. They'll want to stay out of the box in this series or at least improve the PK. Only Onkar and the dependable Francis Singh played regularly as defenseman for the team this season, with Andrew Jamison, Mandeep Kaila, and Aven Boparai barely making the playoff minimum.
Goaltending
    Dave Sherwin pretty much went the distance this season for the Panthers, with the exception of one game that saw the team use Bob Dhaliwal as an emergency goalie this year, (but who didn't?). In Dave's 17 games, he posted an even 8-8-1 record with a 3.87 Goals Against Average and an .821 Save Percentage. His GAA was behind only the Whalers' Cody Campbell among "B" div goalies, although Campbell only played 3 games, which is a pretty small sample size. Overall, Sherwin has been quite solid this year, and now in the later years of his competitive hockey career, he is really enjoying playing the game, and would love to add another title to the collection while he has the opportunity.

    The Ghostriders used Riz Abbas for the majority of the season, but have a handful of appearances from both Derek Smith and long-time Warhawks stalwart Ami Gill. Riz played quite well at times, earning a couple of 3rd stars as well as one 1st star, in a game that would see him stand on his head stopping 32 of 33 shots fired his way. As it happens, that game came against the Panthers. For the season, Riz posted numbers of 5-6-0, 4.41 GAA, .833 Save %. Those numbers put him in the middle of the pack in goaltending this year. Ami Gill, one of the top goaltenders of the last several years, had some struggles in his time with the Riders this year. He got lit up by a pair of "A" teams including a 10-0 mercy at the hands of his former teammates, the Warhawks, that may well go down as the darkest day in Ghostriders history. He did, however, pick up a nice win vs the Mercenaries this year. Derek Smith, whom we are more likely to see during this series, also had unimpressive numbers by his usual standards, and was unable to notch a win in his three starts, going 0-2-1. He has won some big playoff games for this franchise before and remains an elite goaltender, so don't be surprised to see him in an elimination game, if not sooner.
Overall Outlook
     These two teams play a drastically different style of hockey from one another. The Panthers would probably like to see a close-checking 3-2 or 2-1 score, while the Ghostriders with their run-and-gun philosophy would likely feel more comfortable in a high scoring affair. The Panthers were in 8 games that were decided by a single goal (or finished in a tie), while the Riders only saw three games that were that close. The majority of their games were blowouts, both for and against, so it will be interesting to see how that translates into typically tight playoff hockey. In a series that pits good offense against good defense, I think the Panthers are the slight favourite here, but don't be surprised to see this series go the distance. Series Prediction: Panthers in three







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