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Playoff Previews - "B" Division
(4) Bandits @ (1) Stingrays

Bandits: 7-9-2 (.444), 71 GF, 76 GA, -5 Dif.
Stingrays: 15-3-0 (.833), 88 GF, 39 GA, +49 Dif.
Bandits
Top 5 Scorers
Stingrays
Top 5 Scorers
Caleb Chiu 15-8-15-23
Fab Carella 16-17-5-22
Jeff Massullo 13-2-16-18
Brevil Robinson 12-9-7-16
Troy Knowlan 8-11-3-14
Jeremy Skinner 18-17-22-39
Trent Plul 18-13-18-31
Jim Davis 17-9-12-21
Sunny Sahota 13-9-8-17
Kevin Morash 14-5-9-14

Of all the playoff series in the NWBHL this year, this one has the biggest point spread between the two teams at fourteen points. On paper it seems like a mismatch, but keep in mind one of the Stingrays three losses this year was to the Bandits. Also one of the Rays three wins versus the Bandits this year was that playoff-like 1-0 game that could have easily gone either way. Many people I've talked to say the Bandits are a good match-up for the Stingrays, but I think they will have troubles countering the Rays' depth.

There are some good veteran scorers on this Bandits team with a couple of young guns mixed in as well. Rookie Troy Knowlan joined the team mid way through the season and added an immediate element of speed and offense to the club. He has netted 11 goals in just 8 games to put him second on the club in that category. The shifty Alvin Bajwa is another young Bandits player that ups the team's speed and overall scoring depth. However, it's the veterans on this team that will have to continue to lead and you need look no further than the storied career of Brevil Robinson if you want results. He has been the best player on some weaker teams over the past few NWBHL seasons, in stark contrast to the powerhouse Falcons team he has played on for years in the NWPR league. His numbers are slightly down this season, but he always remains the gamebreaker and can turn on the jets on offense or beat you with his big shot. Fab Carella is the other serious goal scoring threat on the team. He lead the team with 17 goals, far and away the best total on the club, and tied for the division lead. Caleb Chiu, however, was the high point man for the Bandits, racking up impressive totals of 15-8-15-23. Of course no talk of a Mario Bolognese lead team would be complete without mention of Jeff Massullo, who not only takes care of his own end, but has long been a significant contributor on offense, finishing with 18 points from the blueline to lead all "B" division defensemen.

The Stingrays led the "B" Division in goals with 88, nearly a goal better than the Bandits per game. Their top end scorers are phenomenal, starting with this year's scoring title winner, Jeremy Skinner. He led the division with 39 points, well ahead of the next closest player, teammate Trent Plul, with 31. Skinner, who works to the maximum on every shift and isn't afraid to go to the dirty areas of the floor, also tied for the div lead in goals with current opponent, Fab Carella at 17. As mentioned previously, Trent Plul finished second in league scoring, using his trademark "cut into the slot and flick the ball top corner" goal that gives opposing goalies fits. The ageless Jim Davis is another of the big weapons on this team, and possesses one of the league's better one timers. The team gets offense from the back end primarily from the hard shooting Kevin Morash, who notched a point-a-game this season. It's also the offensive depth that puts this team ahead of other teams playing "B" at the moment. Rookies Sunny Sahota and Tariq Teja both had impressive debuts with Sunny notching 17 points in 13 games while stickhandling wizardry of Teja had 9 in 8. The always handy Curtis Tarzwell also chips in regularly and fills any role the team asks him to play. The Bandits will also have to stay out of the box as the Stingrays have a lethal powerplay, which clicked at an impressive 43.5 % conversion rate this year, far and away the best in the division.  Edge: Stingrays

The Bandits defensive corps can be said to have experience. In fact, this group has played more combined seasons in the league than any other defensive group on any team in league history. Their total now stands at 111 combined seasons of experience in the NWBHL alone. As mentioned previously, Jeff Massullo is not just an offensive threat, but frequently mentioned in talks of the league's award for best defensive defenseman. He has good size and strength and is not afraid to lay out and make a diving sweep check. Two other veteran Bandits rearguards, Greg Hoy and Bob Haddon, rely more on their great positional instincts and Darren Palmieri, while a recent convert to defense, has made a smooth transition to the position. The team also has some good defensive forwards at their disposal in Caleb Chiu, who is often cited for his defensive prowess, and Steve Dhillon, a big, strong two-way centerman.

Although Kevin Morash is the main offensive weapon from the back end for the Rays, this team has a great collection of capable defensemen. Trent Nellis continues to be one of the most feared rearguards in the game. He is incredibly strong and nasty enough to dissuade anyone from spending time in front of the Stingrays' crease. Dustin Rind is a very mobile defenseman that likes to rush the ball up the floor, but can get back in a flash if caught on a pinch. The veteran duo of Dave Burke and Paul Cardillo are also very sound positionally and don't get beat very often. The team in general plays an aggressive, ball pursuit style that keeps the opposition off balance, and limits their time to make plays. Though the team proved they could score, it's their defensive track record that is most impressive this season. The 39 goals allowed is the second lowest total in NWBHL history for an 18 game season behind only the 38 posted by the Burnaby Rage in 05/06.  Edge: Stingrays

This is definitely an intriguing goaltending match-up. Bill Lundholm had a slow start to the season for the Bandits as he had to shake off the rust he picked up during an extended injury layoff this summer, but he has regained his form and become one of the league's hottest goaltenders in the second half of the season. Though his numbers might not jump off the page at you (7-8-2, 3.89 GAA, .870 SV %), one has to keep in mind that he was named a game star in six out of seven games in one stretch. Teams were able to get to him in the last couple games, however, as the Spartans and Stingrays did manage to fire in 13 goals over his last couple of starts. 

The Stingrays feature one of the best goaltending tandems in the league today with Cristian Campeanu and Rob Kahle. The team has so much faith in both of these goalies, in fact, that they have been on a strict goaltender rotation, playing every other game. The team's record speaks for itself, but here are some goaltending numbers for you to peruse if you are still not convinced; Rob Kahle is 7-2 with a GAA of 2.56 (unreal numbers for the Arenex) and a save % of .884 which is behind only the "A" div's Tony Ferreira and teammate Campeanu. Cristian's numbers are even more staggering. He features a goals-against of just 1.67 and a save % of .933. Those are numbers that would win a Vezina award in the NHL, but the fact remains that we are playing in a small facility known for it's high scores. As good as Bill Lundholm has been for the Bandits in the second half, you have to give the category edge to the Stingrays on this one.  Edge: Stingrays

Though the Bandits are a strong team, and they have a goaltender that is more than capable of stealing a game for them, they will likely find the Stingrays depth in all positions and facets of the game (their special teams are lethal), to be too much to overcome. After all, the Rays won 15 of 18 games this year for a reason. A three game series isn't out of the question by any means, but I'm going to call this as a Stingrays sweep.  Edge: Stingrays








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