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Playoff Previews - "B" Division
(3) Cougars @ (2) Ghostriders

Cougars: 8-9-1 (.472), 60 GF, 75 GA, -15 Dif.
Ghostriders: 10-6-2 (.611), 75 GF, 62 GA, +13 Dif.
Cougars
Top 5 Scorers
Ghostriders
Top 5 Scorers
Kevin Uppal 16-12-11-23
Bernie Lal 14-12-5-17
Amolak Gill 15-7-7-14
Amrit Virk 10-5-9-14
Pawan Bains 16-6-7-13
Waseem Khalil 18-10-17-27
Blake Creamer 18-14-12-26
Ian Banks 14-14-11-25
Nick McNicol 18-5-12-17
Casey White 18-4-10-14

This should be an interesting playoff series, based not only on the fact that these teams are closely matched (which is to be expected in a 2 vs 3 match-up), but also the fact that they have a genuine dislike for each other. The Cougars were up and down throughout the year while the Ghostriders started the season in a deep 0-3-2 hole before going on a tear that saw them go 9-1 to clinch the second seed. The season series was a draw with each team winning a pair of games. Playoffs have not been kind to the Riders who have made the postseason on three occasions, but have yet to win a game. The Cougars, on the other hand, do have a playoff series victory in their pocket (sweeping the Executioners in 08/09), but had only made the playoffs that one year, until this current season.

Other than the Stingrays, the Ghostriders were the only team to average better than four goals per game in the "B" division. This team has several players that can score, but three in particular fought it out for the club points lead this season. Waseem Khalil came on strong after a slow start, (which many Ghostriders had) to finish in his customary top three position in league scoring, with numbers of 18-10-17-27. Just behind him with 26 points, is the always improving Blake Creamer, who posted career highs in all offensive categories, including tying teammate Ian Banks with a team best 14 goals. Banks, the sixth highest goal scorer in league history, recently hit the 250 goal mark for his impressive career. After the top three, it becomes scoring by committee with several players that chip in a regular basis. Casey White has a tenacious style with a heavy slapshot that can beat a goalie from well out. The team also has a good collection of offensive defensemen headed up by Larry Mey, but Nick McNicol was a consistent threat all year and finished with a solid 17 points and some big goals for the team.

The Cougars were led on offense by Kevin Uppal who had a team best 23 points. He is one of the game's best one-on-one players and can turn defensemen inside out in a heartbeat. He formed a nice one-two goal scoring punch with the diminutive Bernie Lal, as the two tied with 12 goals each. Bernie likes to find openings by sneaking past unsuspecting defensemen, and is never shy about putting a shot on goal. Big Amolak Gill had a fine offensive season for the Cougars picking up 7 goals and 7 assists to tie for third on the club in scoring. The other player with 14 points is Amrit Virk, who has now become one of the real veteran leaders on this team. Amrit is always a dangerous offensive weapon and would have been much higher on the top scorers chart had he not been held to 10 games played. The other big threat the Riders will have to contend with is Jaz Mahal, the Cougar's towering defenseman that can beat you with his hard shot or great passing ability. He will be the man their powerplay runs through, without a doubt. Edge: Ghostriders

The Riders management deserves a lot of credit for the team's turnaround after the first five games that saw them still winless. They went out and acquired a few key pieces that significantly improved their defensive game. Larry Mey was brought in with Tony Insua. Tony is a solid two-way forward that really ups the teams energy level, while Larry is a monster on the back end, using great strength and stamina along with a wicked release from the back end to supplement the offense. Former Executioner Steve Gill was brought in for his third stint with the Riders and immediately showed his poise and ball handling abilities out on the floor, giving the team another offensive defenseman. The team has also received another boost as Jim White, injured early in the season, recovered just in time to qualify for playoffs. White was one of the team's best performing players prior to his injury, and his return is almost like a bonus acquisition after all the time he missed. The Ghostriders allowed just over 24 shots on net per game, tied with the Barons for the second best total in the entire league after the Stingrays,  so they are confident the can get the job done in their own end. 

The Cougars finished around the middle of pack in terms of goals against but gave up a fair amount of shots on goal this year (around 28.3 per game). However, their best defender, Jaz Mahal, was only in the lineup sporadically this season. That is likely to change in the playoffs were he will be counted on to eat big minutes. Matt Lynch had a solid year after coming over from the Sharks, and has been a regular producer offensively for the team. Sat Ahluwalia, who actually spent last year as a member of the Ghostriders also had a solid year picking up 11 points in 12 games from the Cougars blueline. The diminutive, but physical Spinder Gosal, and the slick ball handling Gurinder Dhillon have also been fixtures for the team this year. Aman Dhillon and Amolak Gill are two solid defensive forwards that the team has, but it will likely need to be a team effort from the entire forward corps in this series if they are to be successful.  Edge: Ghostriders

It's yet another intriguing goalie contest in this series. The Cougars have made it known it's Jas Basra or bust in this series, as they had six other keepers play games for them this season, but eventually released from their roster the only other man to earn playoff qualification at that position. Having said that, Basra is wiling and more than capable of carrying the load for this Cougars team. When he was in the lineup, their record was 6-3-1. When someone else was in the crease, the team record dropped to 2-6. That would probably be enough said, but just in case you still had some doubts, note that Jas had a solid .870 save % and a decent average at 3.76 in front of a team that gives up a fair amount of quality chances. Though his time in the NWBHL has been limited, he has long been regarded as one of the best keepers in many other ball hockey leagues.

The goaltending situation with the Ghostriders has never been better. The team signed Derek Smith part way through the season (it's actually his second time with the club, counting a 4 game stint in 08/09), with the results to come immediately. The team went on a roll with Derek finishing the season with some outstanding numbers. His 2.97 GAA stands third in the division behind the two Stingrays goalies, as does his .881 Save percentage. He also has an impressive 6-2 record on the year. The other man in the equation is long time Riders goalie Riz Abbas, who showed he was still in the picture with a 1-0 shutout win over the Stingrays in a crucial game down the stretch. Though you can expect Derek to be the playoff starter, the team feels they have a capable replacement should he falter, or be unavailable for other reasons.  Edge: None

Though there is little to choose between these two clubs, the Ghostriders seem to have an  ever so slight edge on paper in many categories. As we know, when it comes to playoff hockey, you can take the season stats and throw them out the window. Both of these teams played much of the campaign without their full playoff rosters, which will undoubtedly be on display in this series and the team that digs down deeper will get the wins. History says the Ghostriders have trouble in the playoffs, but this year they have brought in some good experience to change up the chemistry.     Edge: Ghostriders








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