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Playoff Previews - "B" Division
(4) Black Aces @ (1) Hitmen

Black Aces: 6-9-3, 68 GF, 70 GA, -2 Dif.
Hitmen: 16-1-1, 99 GF, 42 GA, +57 Dif.
Black Aces
Top 5 Scorers
Top 5 Scorers
Paul Bennett 17-14-8-22
Travis Mitchell 17-7-8-15
Mike Wood 18-5-10-15
Jagpreet Ghuman 11-5-9-14
Dale Sinclair 14-3-9-12
Sandeep Khangura 18-31-15-46
Ben Saggu 16-19-17-36
Shane Khan 18-9-15-24
Amit Ghuman18-8-15-23
Bronson Cooper 12-5-14-19

There was just no stopping the Hitmen this season. They won 16 of their 18 games and they dwarfed the competition in both the Goals For and Goals Against categories. The ability of GM Amit Ghuman to keep the team focused throughout the season, even with no teams in sight in the standings, was impressive (if not unfortunate). In all departments, this will be the team to beat in the "B" division. The Black Aces took the opposite route to the playoffs, just squeaking in and needing a great amount of help from other teams to do so, at that. Ironically, the team reached the playoffs last year on a similar type of miracle finish. Whatever works, I guess. In spite of losing all four games to them this year, the Aces were one of the few teams to actually play the Hitmen tough, though the scores got progressively more lopsided as the season series went on. The scores in order were 5-4, 6-4, 7-4, and finally 6-0. The Aces might be long shots in this series, but there is definitely room for some optimism in their locker room.

The incredible season of Sandeep "Sippy" Khangura has been well documented this year, and for good reason. At the midseason mark he was averaging a hat-trick per game. Though he cooled off just a bit, his 31 goals led the division by a mile. In fact, the next highest total was teammate Ben Saggu with 19, and the next highest total after that was 14. He can do it with the shot, or go through your whole team. Either way he gets it done. As previously mentioned, Ben Saggu also had an excellent season finishing with 36 points. There are a host of dangerous scorers on this Hitmen team as one would expect with any team that went 16-1-1. Bronson Cooper played set-up man to Khangura, while Shane Khan posted another typically solid season. Some of the team's most dangerous players are actually defensemen. Qasim Bajwa is a powerplay specialist that can make that perfect feed for the goal (He led the entire NWBHL with 9 PP assists), and Jag Sidhu who is one of the best ball control d-men in the league and has a hard shot to boot.

The Black Aces are a team that is offensively challenged, to some extent. Paul Bennett has had a tremendous campaign for the team and has twice the amount of goals of anyone else on the team. It doesn't take a genius to figure out who to try to shut down on the Aces. Mike Wood has made the move up to forward this year for the team and has been one of their more dependable scorers, as well as providing the team with loads of grit and determination. Travis Mitchell has not gotten much press this year but he has been consistently good and places second on the team with both goals and points (7 G, 15 Pts). Dennis Hintz didn't play a full season but has one of the most feared shots in the league and will be an important playoff performer for the team. Other than Bennett, the main strength of the Black Aces offense comes from their many offensive defenseman. Jeremy Skinner is a great ball carrier, while Dale Sinclair and Trent Nellis like to blast away from the point with hard accurate shots. Edge: Hitmen

This is a much closer category than the numbers would suggest. Yes, the Hitmen were a good 30 goals ahead of the Black Aces on Goals Against, but that has to do a lot with the Hitmen's offensive ball possession game and goaltending as much as the team defense. Raj Sangha is one of the league's most physical defensemen, but he can get himself into trouble with the penalties for being over aggressive. Phav Johal is a noted two-way forward and penalty killer. Sippy, while better known for his scoring exploits, is an effective back-checker that never gives up pestering the opposition when they have the ball.

The Black Aces have been a solid defensive team for quite a while, and they have to be to make up for some shortcomings at the other end. Dale Sinclair and Colin Ross are a defensive pair that have a great deal of experinece playing together as they have done so on many other teams. Trent Nellis is one of the strongest players in the league, and if you have to battle him for the ball, the odds are you're going to lose. Jagpreet Ghuman is an excellent face-off man who is very reliable defensively. Aman Dhillon joins Jagpreet as another highly rated defensive forward on loan from the Entourage team that won the title in 07-08. Edge: Draw

This series features another fine match-up of quality keepers. The Hitmen have one of the strongest tandems in league history with Jason Atwal and Rawlin Hawkins between the pipes. Atwal already has an NWBHL title to his credit as he backstopped the Entourage to the aforementioned championship and has posted back-to-back seasons of 2.67 and 2.68 GAA's. The other man in the equation is Rawlin "Puckey" Hawkins who recently celebrated his 100th career win, a league record. His numbers this season are fairly astounding: 9-1 with a goals-against of an 1.89 and a save % of .899, a great set of stats for the NHL, let alone the Arenex. His postseason exploits are even more impressive as he has claimed the league championship 7 times.

Corey Albino has not had the season he had last year when he picked up top goaltender and finished second in the race for "B" MVP, but he has still had a decent season and trails only the two Hitmen goalies in save percentage (.861). He has long been the go-to guy for the Black Aces and must steal a game or two in the series if the Aces are to advance past the vaunted Surrey Hitmen. Edge: Hitmen

This series looks like a mismatch, and that has less to do with the Black Aces than it does the Hitmen. They have been dominant in all facets of the game this season as their record indicates. The Black Aces will have their chances in the series however, as the Hitmen, like all teams, do have their lapses. They are quick to point out that they were in a number of close games this season that could have gone either way, but it is the good teams that pull those out more often than not. Edge: Hitmen

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