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Playoff Previews - "B" Division

"B" Div. Semifinals: (3) Whalers @ (2) Mercenaries

Mercenaries Stats

Record Overall:
9-8-1, 80 GF, 76 GA, +4

Record vs Whalers:
2-0-0, 10 GF, 7 GA, +3

Special Teams:
PP: 4 for 22 (18.2 %)
PK: 17 for 25 (68.0 %)

Top 5 Scorers:
Myles Scott 17-18-14-32
Kevin Geddert 15-12-7-19
Karson Levack 15-6-12-18
Riley McQuillan 16-4-12-16
David Prestage 12-7-6-13

Whalers Stats

Record Overall:
9-9-0, 67 GF, 70 GA, -3

Record vs Mercenaries:
0-2-0, 7 GF, 10 GA, -3

Special Teams:
PP: 6 for 23 (26.1 %)
PK: 16 for 23 (69.6 %)

Top 5 Scorers:
Shaquille Gehlen 16-11-14-25
Aiden Mottus 12-9-14-23
Harp Khakh 10-9-8-17
Vic Rai 10-6-8-14
Trevor Heselton 9-3-10-13
Series Overview
     The Mercenaries won both games of the season series with the Whalers this season, but both were extremely close. The Merc's won a 6-4 contest on Jan 16th, and a Jon Bickford overtime goal gave them a 3-2 win on Feb 13th in a game that was notable for how many of the top Mercenaries players were absent at a Vegas hockey tournament. However, the Whalers who played last season and even the first few games of this campaign as the Hornets, have shown amazingly rapid improvement over a very short period of time. The Mercenaries were the "B" division runners-up in the Spring and would dearly love to take things one step further this season. 
Team Offense
     It's been another productive scoring season for Myles Scott in the Ndub. He finished third in "B" division scoring with 17-18-14-32. It's the second straight full Fall campaign that has seen him at a better than a goal-per-game pace, and the 32 points is a new career best. The lanky, talented Kevin Geddert came second on the team in both goals (12) and points (19). He uses his reach to full advantage when making moves out on the floor. There's a bit of a drop-off in goal production after those two, but a player that can be expected to snipe some key goals in this series is Riley McQuillan. He has one of the game's premier shot releases and is always in good scoring position out in the high slot. He turned set-up man this year with a career high 12 assists, tied for second on the team. Another great passer, Sean Magee, is one of a bevy of veterans on a team that seamlessly merges young talent with experienced league vets. Possibly the biggest strength for the Mercenaries comes from their offensively explosive defensive corps. They have three premier talents that can carry the ball in all situations and work the powerplay, led by another one of their experienced vets in Craig Houle. He's collected more than 400 points in the league and definitely knows how to win. The dynamic duo of Karson Levack and David Prestage are also a couple of players to keep your eye on. They were each better than a point a game this season. Levack is one of the best players in the league at dashing out of the zone in full control, and he can go end-to-end with ease. He also likes to fire the ball on net from deep within his zone whenever the opportunity presents itself. Prestage is one of the team's most versatile players, moving back and forth between forward and defense to fill the team needs. He finished fifth in team scoring with totals of 12-7-6-13.

     This Whalers team is stocked with young and fast forwards. Shaquille Gehlen has led this team in scoring both of the seasons they've been in the league. He collected 25 points in 16 games, good for fourth spot in "B". A ferocious forechecker, Shaquille is great at stripping opposition players to create scoring chances. Unlike the Spring season when he was frequently the only serious scoring threat on the club, the Whalers have multiple talented players to pitch in on the offense. Big Aiden Mottus racked up points at a good clip this season and will be a strong candidate for top rookie honours. He finished second on the team with 23 points, in just 12 games played. Trevor Heselton was another big pick-up for the club, showing off his offensive capabilities from his first game, a four point debut. One of the only league veterans on the team, Jag Sidhu has been around the NWBHL for a decade with a few different teams. He is a nifty stickhandler and uses his agility to his advantage in tight spaces. Like the Warhawks, a key component of the team's blueline is out of the picture at the moment due to injury. Harp Khakh is on the sidelines for this series, and his loss will be felt as he was a tremendous producer from the back end, and able to really control the flow of the game. The team does have Vic Rai on the back end to unleash his bomb of a shot. He takes it with stunning frequency, and when it's on the net it's a dangerous weapon. 
Team Defense
    As mentioned previously, the Mercenaries have three terrifically talented ball moving defensemen in Craig Houle, Karson Levack and David Prestage. Any time you have that kind of foundation to build a team from, you'll be in good shape in your own zone. Long time Barons player Jeff Hall also finds himself on the back line for the Merc's. He has converted to a full time d-man these days after years spent as one of the league's highest scoring forwards. He still possesses a fantastic quick release snap shot that often catches goalies off guard. The team also has some classic stay-at-home types including veteran Dan Ko, Mark Trendell-Jensen, and Jamil Jeraj. Ko is fourth all-time among the NWBHL's games played leaders (421), yet third on the team in that category behind the Molatore brothers, George (494) and Dan (486). Now that's experience!

    The loss of Harp Khakh really hurts the team's ball possession game. The introduction of Khakh to the team was one of the events that really propelled them from being a struggling team last year to a contender this year. Others will have to step up in his absence. Vic Rai will be counted on to carry a lot of minutes for the Whalers now and so will Ravi Bhangoo. Ravi is a very skilled rushing defenseman with the ability to slip through defenders for a chance on goal. Without Harp, his role on the blueline as a ball control specialist is all the more important. Alex Bosa is another solid two-way defenseman for the club. Though he didn't play that many games this season, he is a valuable defender with a great reach to break up plays and a good shot. Arbind Bhangoo is another talented young defenseman in the fold.
The vast majority of the Whalers roster is made up of players born in the 90's. Now consider that they also have a player born in the 1950's. Let that thought sink in for a moment. Yes, Terry Wong has been around for a while. Though he doesn't have the foot speed he used to, he still plays the same abrasive game with an impressive combative level. 
    It was a bit of a goalie carousel for the Mercenaries this year with five different guys seeing time in the crease. Josh Cabrita played more than half of the games for the team going 6-4. His numbers were in line with what much of the league posted this year (4.39 GAA, .830 Save %). He is a real competitor out on the floor and will dive post to post to make a save even in warmup. Eddy Bordignon played four games for the team earlier in the year, posting a 1-2-1 record with a solid 3.90 GAA and 8.40 Save %. The team got a couple of games from Mark Cayer, but he has since moved on to join the Giants, and will not be available again for the Mercenaries this playoff run.

Jayme Manhas has been not just the team GM, but also the main backstopper for this franchise, putting up a 6-7 record in 2015/16. He posted a 4.52 Goals Against Average with an .813 Save Percentage. Though one of the smaller goaltenders in the league, he has quick reflexes including a good glove hand. He did miss the last few games of the season while out of town, but he is now back and ready for some playoff action! Backup Cody Campbell put up some outstanding numbers (3-0, 1.67 GAA, .926 Save %), winning all three of his starts, but those stats may be a bit deceptive as two of those starts came against the offensively challenged Saints, with the other coming against the other non-playoff team, the Rage. Nevertheless, he is a solid goaltender that would love to show what he could do in a big game against some potent shooters.
Overall Outlook
     This looks to be another series featuring evenly matched teams. However I think the slight edge has to go to the Mercenaries based on both depth and experience. However, the Whalers can win this if they push the pace and have their scorers doing their thing. Like all playoff series, goaltending will also be a huge factor. Neither team really stood out on their special teams this season, so perhaps this series might see one of these clubs finally break out. I have a feeling this series is heading to a deciding game, with the Mercenaries coming out on top, possibly in overtime. Series Prediction: Mercenaries in three

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