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Playoff Previews - "B" Division

"B" Div. Finals: (4) Ghostriders @ (2) Mercenaries

Mercenaries Stats

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

Record vs Ghostriders:
2-1-0, 17 GF, 9 GA, +8

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

Ghostriders Stats

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

Record vs Mercenaries:
1-2-0, 9 GF, 17 GA, -8

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 took dramatically different paths to the postseason. The Ghostriders actually entered the playoffs on a significant skid, dropping 5 of their last 6 contests, including a pair of lopsided losses to the Mercenaries. However, they seemed to pull things together in the first round against the Panthers, and won a pair of close but high scoring games. The Mercenaries, on the other hand, were rolling along and had actually won 5 of their last 6 games before sweeping the Whalers away with little trouble. Both games saw them getting off to a fast start with an early 3-0 lead which allowed them to relax and play their game. As previously mentioned, the Merc's dispatched the Riders a couple of times down the stretch, with lopsided scores of 9-1 and 5-1. The Ghostriders did manage to post an early victory in the season series in November by a 7-3 score. 
Team Offense
     (Editor's note: This Mercenaries write-up is a brief summary emphasizing their first round action. To see their original team pre-playoff scouting report click here). The Mercenaries scored early and often in their opening round series against the Whalers. They notched 7 goals in each game, picking right up where they left as the most potent offensive attack in the "B" division this year with 80 goals scored. The Merc's semifinal series scoring breakdown shows their true depth as they have no less than 7 players that scored at least three points. The biggest surprise for the club so far has to be Dallas Hoffman who finds himself in the team scoring lead with 2 goals and 3 assists. He is an under-rated hard worker that goes to the net well and can definitely contribute to the offense. With four points each, Myles Scott and Sean Magee trail closely behind. Not surprisingly, all four of Magee's points are helpers, as he remains one of the league's most respected set-up men. Aiden Trerise provided the game one heroics with the hat-trick while Kevin Geddert also contributed three goals in the series. Karson Levack played minimally in the series, playing only the second half of the first game, though he did notch a pair of assists. Look for Karson to be a key factor in this final series for sure. David Prestage is another horse for the team that will really drive the offense. He contributed three assists in the opening round. 

     (Editor's note: This Ghostriders write-up is a brief summary emphasizing their first round action. To see their original team pre-playoff scouting report click here). The Ghostriders really racked up the goals in the first round against the Panthers, tallying an impressive 14 in just two contests. However, the majority of that offensive thrust came from just a few key players. Ian Banks returned to the form of the goal scoring monster he was earlier in his career, as he torched the Panthers for an astounding 7 goals in the series! His 5 goal game 2, including multiple scores in the dying minutes of the game to draw his club back from a deficit, will go down as one of the Ndub's all-time greatest playoff performances. Aside from Ian, the Riders got their offense from the dynamic duo that has been lighting it up all season long, Waseem Khalil and Jason Makowski. Waseem collected 3-2-5 while Jason added a goal and four assists. Along with Ian, those three collected 18 scoring points for the team, compared to a combined 13 for the rest of the club. They'll definitely need some offensive input from other sources, as they'll be facing a Mercenaries team that has good offensive depth throughout the lineup. Ziad Badr, Haseeb Mohammad, and Taz Dhillon did chip in a few points to the cause, but look for them to step up and play a bigger part in this championship series. 
Team Defense
   Craig Houle was surprisingly quiet, at least on the offensive side of the ledger vs the Whalers, but his ball control abilities remain a key component of the Mercenaries attack. As mentioned previously, Karson Levack didn't get to play much in the opening series, but was a difference maker in the one period he did attend. He's a difference maker on the team in a tandem with David Prestage, who led all Mercenaries D in scoring in round one with three points. The club also got goals from Mark Trendell-Jensen and Jamil Jeraj, showing there are other offensive sources of offense from the D. However, the team will have to continue to focus on their own end when the big players are out for the Ghostriders. The Mercs' were able to contain them pretty well in their last two meetings with the Riders, holding the team to a single tally in each contest.

    It's interesting to note that the Ghostriders actually surrendered fewer shots than the Mercenaries over the two games of the first round. Having said that, there is something to be said for quality of chances as well. It has been mentioned on multiple occasions that the Riders like to play a wide open style of game with little emphasis on the defensive end. That is even more true with this particular iteration of the club. The 26 total goals in their first round series is a staggering amount even for regular season games in the Arenex, let alone playoff contests. Onkar Bhandher continued his strong offensive season with a pair of assists in Round 1, and of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention Francis Singh's "Golden Goal" to win the series in overtime! Francis is a solid two-way defender that rarely gets his due in the league, so it was nice to see him finally get rewarded for his contributions. 
    Josh Cabrita was outstanding in the semis vs the Whalers, winning both games while stopping 50 of 56 shots fired his way, for a solid .893 Save Percentage. The second game of that series saw Josh earn the game's First Star, as the Mercenaries were actually under significant pressure from the Whalers for large portions of the game, despite the lopsided score in the Mercenaries' favour. The team also still has veteran Eddy Bordignon in reserve, should they need to call on him, but look for Cabrita to be handed the keys the rest of the way. 

    Riz Abbas got the call for both playoff games in the semis and collected a pair of wins in the process. In fact, the opening win of the series was Riz's first career NWBHL playoff win, after eight previous losses. Despite giving up some late goals to make his numbers look worse in Game 1, Riz was actually quite solid for the bulk of that contest, and was in contention for a Game Star until the late going. He struggled more in the second game and was fortunate to be the recipient of some strong run support in the 8-7 overtime victory. Derek Smith is still a possibility to play in this final, though that is highly dependant on his availability. There is no question, however, that Derek would provide the team a bit of a boost in a key area.
Overall Outlook
     The Ghostriders were able to beat the Panthers by drawing them into a wild shootout in both games, with a total of 26 goals scored in just two games. That definitely pulled the Panthers out of their comfort zone, but it should be noted that the Mercenaries are much more capable of playing a run-and-gun style. The Mercenaries also have more offensive depth, with the Ghostriders getting a large portion of their production from a few key sources. The test will be for the Mercenaries to shut down those sources and conversely, for the Ghostriders to get increased offense from the rest of their lineup. The goaltending is also a key match-up to keep an eye on, and depending on who shows up, this could be a solid advantage for the Mercenaries. Though the Ghostriders pulled off an impressive upset in the semis, look for them to have their hands full in this one with a Mercenaries team that thinks their time is now. Series Prediction: Mercenaries in two

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