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

Stingrays: 10-8-0 (.556), 85 GF, 71 GA, +14 Dif.
Ghostriders: 12-5-1 (.694), 97 GF, 70 GA, +27 Dif.
Stingrays
Top 5 Scorers
Ghostriders
Top 5 Scorers
Trent Plul 15-14-20-34
Jim Davis 18-15-16-31
James Mowat 11-10-9-19
Sukh Sandhu 18-4-11-15
Kyle Peters 12-7-6-13
Waseem Khalil 18-19-24-43
Meemo Dik 14-15-12-27
Ziad Badr 16-11-15-26
Casey White 17-11-14-25
Andrew Jamison 16-6-3-19

Just getting to the playoffs has been a mission accomplished for a Stingrays team that had so many failures over the last several seasons. Having said that, they just have way too much talent to be content with a first round loss. The problem is they have put themselves in an uncomfortable position now having to take on the first place Ghostriders. The Riders seemed unbeatable in the first part of the season but went through a rough stretch that saw them play some uninspired hockey. They eventually pulled things together again to win their final three games and take the division title. The Stingrays actually lost two of the last three but got some help as the Snipers faltered even worse. The Ghostriders won all three of the games between these two teams, but each was decided by a single goal including one in overtime.

After the Ghostriders, the Stingrays were the second highest scoring team in "B", averaging 4.7 goals per game. Their lineup seemed to get better as the season progressed, aided by some good mid season additions. At season's end the Rays had placed two players near the top of the scoring chart with Trent Plul and Jim Davis tallying totals of 34 and 31 points, respectively. Along with James Mowat (11-10-9-19), this line dominated the division from start to finish and will be a real key if the Stingrays hope to notch their first ever playoff series victory. One of the aforementioned late pick-ups that brought this team to another level was Kevin Morash. After a slow start, he found his game and managed to contribute 12 points in 7 games, even being utilized on the point of the Stingrays powerplay. Sukh Sandhu had a fine offensive season splitting time between forward and defense while big Kyle Peters also chipped in 13 points. Rookie standout Kristian Urstad impressed early, but was absent for much of the second half of the season. 

The Ghostriders were easily the highest scoring team in the division, and came within a few goals of eclipsing the century mark for the season. The team is pretty stacked up front with some guys who know how to put the ball in the net. Waseem Khalil has shown he can be both a goal scoring threat as well as an assist man. This year he led both categories to pick up his first NWBHL scoring title after finishing second a couple of times and third once. His quick release snap shot is as effective a tool as there is in the league today and it was a big part of his breaking the long standing powerplay goal record this year. The former Phantoms core of Ziad Badr, Meemo Dik and Andrew Jamison has brought so much to the Ghostriders this season. Dik finished with 27 points in 14 games, good for fourth in "B" scoring, while Badr finished just behind with 26. Temperament is always an issue for Ziad and he will have to control his emotions as the Riders need him on the floor, not in the box. Jamison notched 19 points from the blueline this season, which was tops among defenseman in the division. Veteran Ian Banks is one of the great scorers in league history, ranking sixth on the all-time goals list. Another potent weapon is Casey White (17-11-14-25), the fourth Ghostriders player to be in the top ten of scoring. It's an impressive top two lines for sure, and the Stingrays will undoubtedly have their hands full.  Edge: Ghostriders

Both of these teams are built to put the ball in the net, so neither has as good of a defensive track record as the two teams in the other "B" series. But having said that, they have both kept their opposition to an average of less than four goals per game which in the Arenex is quite respectable. Paul Cardillo missed the bulk of the stretch drive with work commitments over the Olympics, but he may be available to the team once again which would serve as a huge boost. Curtis Tarzwell was another late addition to the team but performed yeoman like work providing a solid utility player that is equally adept at forward or defense. The team had moved Kyle Peters back to defense for the last couple of games and if they chose to do so again, he along with Dave Burke give the team a pair of defenders with imposing size. Reg Sandover and Albano "Arb" Carreiro are also steady defenders.

The Ghostriders defense is lead by Andrew Jamison, who is equally good in his own end of the floor as he is quarterbacking their powerplay. Graham Skelton played a limited number of games this season, but was a large factor any time he was in the lineup. The good ball-handling of Steve Gill, one of the league`s most underrated defensemen, will also be of benefit. Players like Nick McNicol, Sat Ahluwalia, and Francis Singh provide the team with some stay-at-home types to balance their ball rushers. This category is pretty close to a saw-off, but I'll give the narrow edge to the Ghostriders based on the fact that they haven't had to move as many players around this year.  Edge: Ghostriders

The Stingrays have an interesting decision on their hands as they now have two capable goalies to work with. Rob Kahle has been quite effective since joining this team, and effectively ending the team's lengthy search for a netminder. He posted a 5-3 record with a 3.62 GAA and .843 save percentage. The other man in the tandem is Jay Albanese, who has the added motivation of revenge on his mind after he parted ways earlier in the season with this same Ghostriders team. His stats are reflective of his time spent with both teams (6-3, 3.68, .817). Early indications point to Kahle getting the opening game start, but it may well be a "You lose and you're out" scenario.

The departure of Albanese earlier in the season was ill timed as the Riders other goalie, Riz Abbas, went down with an injury days later. That did give the team a chance to assess their third stringer, Harman Heer, and more importantly give him a chance to get some game time under his belt if he is needed in an emergency situation in the playoffs. With that said, Riz is back and healthy, and ready to lead this team in their playoff drive. Riz had a successful season backstopping this team posting a 6-2-1 record with a 3.41 goals-against and a .841 save percentage. Riz is pretty close to the Stingrays goaltenders in calibre of play, but one has to think the Rays have the depth advantage in this match-up.  Edge: Stingrays

On paper the edge in this series goes to the Ghostriders, who are after all the top seed in this playoff season. However, the Stingrays seemed to add to their team and get better throughout the year, and even though they did have a couple of tough losses late in the year, it was clear that they were dominating the territorial play and shot clock on a regular basis. The Stingrays need James Mowat in the lineup for the whole playoff run as he completes their top line and allows Kevin Morash to provide depth on the second unit. With their full team in attendance, this Stingrays team could be pretty tough to beat. As for the Ghostriders, they bent but didn't break throughout the whole second half of the season. They managed to win the one goal games all year, and whenever they were pushed for first, they came up with the big win to maintain their spot. They have big name talent and put this team together with a championship on their minds. It's a shame someone will have to lose this series, and I do expect it to go to game three, but the winning intangibles the Riders seem to possess may give them the edge.  Edge: Ghostriders








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