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Playoff Previews - "A" Division
(3) Sharks @ (2) Barons

Sharks: 8-4, 66 GF, 47 GA, +19 Dif.
Barons: 8-4, 74 GF, 37 GA, +37 Dif.
Sharks
Top 5 Scorers
Barons
Top 5 Scorers
Jeff Heer 8-8-10-18
Vish Singh 6-5-10-15
Bobby Grewal 5-4-11-15
Roy Cabrita 6-3-12-15
Ron Sandhu 6-4-10-14
Stan McClellan 12-16-22-38
Dan Molatore 12-8-21-29
Brenden Ham 12-7-10-17
Lloyd Weir 11-6-11-17
Craig Houle 9-2-12-14

The Sharks entered this season as one of the favourites on the strength of a number of pickups from the vaunted Surrey Thrashers team. As it turned out, injuries and scheduling conflicts played havoc with the team all year, but when the top lineup was together (such as the last game of the season, to secure a playoff berth) it was dominant. The Barons always put together strong teams, which is why it was such a surprise when they started the season with an 0-4 record. Well, a couple months later the Barons have reeled off an 8 game winning streak and clinched the higher seed on the strength of an 11-3 drubbing laid on these very Sharks on one of their decimated lineup nights. This a rematch of an exciting first round series of last year that the Barons swept despite both games being nail-biters.

This is a match-up of two explosive teams. The Barons have long been known for their high octane offense and this year was no exception. The team scored 74 goals for an average of over 6 per game. Only the Executioners scored more in the entire NWBHL. Stan McClellan secured yet another scoring title, but a couple of things that may surprise some people are the fact that he led the division in assists, and managed to do it all without taking a single penalty minute. This was possibly Stan's most well rounded season to date. In second place in the scoring race is the consistently under appreciated Dan Molatore. This guy has put up big numbers for years and is one of the hardest workers on the floor. Craig Houle is the main quarterback from the point from the Barons and will be a key figure once again. His mobility and shot make him a constant threat. There are a several other big scorers on this team including the slot machine known as Rod "The Cannon" Wardell, and rookie sensation Brenden Ham, who finished as the top "A" division freshman scorer. It bears mentioning who did not qualify as there are some Barons mainstays that didn't hit the qualification mark. Ray Diesel, Jeff Hall and Kerry Nikolai will all be absent from this years playoffs and will be sorely missed by their team. 

The only thing that kept the Sharks from the top of the scoring charts was the fact that a number of players logged the minimum amount of games to enter the playoffs, a fact that almost cost the team a playoff entry in the extremely tight "A" division. The incomparable Jeff Heer led the team in points with an impressive 18 in just 8 games and as a defensemen, no less. Brevil Robinson, in seasons past was the only real offensive threat the team had. This season he managed to get into just 5 games and should be well rested for this playoff drive. Bobby Grewal has put up monster numbers for this team since his addition at the midway point working well with Sanjeev "Peever" Haer who is on his way back to health after an injury plagued season. The Sharks also feature a couple of premier swing men that can play either forward or defense in Roy Cabrita and Ron Sandhu. Keep an eye on the rookie match-up as the talented Brandon Hudson of the Sharks goes against the aforementioned Brenden Ham of the Barons. A big loss to the team was the broken collarbone of Vish Singh in a recent world championship game, but look for linemate Shaun Kalkat to pick up the scoring slack. The Sharks powerplay hit on an impressive 38.5 percent efficiency this season but neither of these teams take many penalties so special teams may not be a huge factor. Edge: Sharks

Jeff Heer does more than just put up points. He is a master at controlling the play in his own zone and his incredible reach allow him to knock balls of opposition sticks in any position. The Sharks also have some defense-first defenders that will keep an eye on things when Heer takes off on his trademark rush. Greg Hoy has been a force in his own zone for years and Vaz Dhillon is one of those players that doesn't get much notice but plays a smart, controlled game. Matt Lynch has transitioned back to defense after a couple of solid years up front and hasn't looked out of place.
 
Like with the Sharks, the Barons have a main offensive weapon that you can trust in his own zone in Craig Houle. The team also has a wealth of good veteran stay-at-home defenders in Dan Ko, Ed Silva, and Scott Rickards. They will be missing some of their top defensive forwards as Jeff Hall didn't qualify, and two men that are consistent winners of the "Best Defensive Forward" award, Ray Diesel and Graeme Spence only played one game each this season. Edge: Barons

As was the case last year with this series, the jury is out as to who the goaltenders will be. Both teams have a pair of highly qualified tenders at their disposal. Bill Lundholm was granted the Number 1 status on the Sharks as Justin Faykosh plays out of the net and can contribute on the offensive side as well. Lundholm's numbers were inflated by some games when the team in front of him was particularly short, but in general he has had a resurgence after a shaky season in 08/09.

The Barons goaltending may be even more up in the air as the usual main man between the pipes Dean Salsnek missed most of the season. He appears to be back and ready to go but Tony Ferreira had an amazing run in his absence going 5-1 with a 1.65 average and a .923 save percentage. Incredible numbers all around. Picking goalies in this series might have more to do with who is available come game day. Edge: Draw

On paper the Sharks lineup is tough to beat. Too often this year that hasn't been the team that actually showed up to games but the thinking is that they should get most of the team out for the playoff run. This is definitely the year the team is serious about winning it all after building the franchise up from nothing over the past few years. Standing in their way is a tough Barons team. Although they have had a rough go finishing the deal, they always seem to get to the final and did so last season by eliminating this same Sharks team. The difference now is the Sharks have made some shrewd player moves and have the lineup and motivation to win this time around. Edge: Sharks








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