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Playoff Previews - "B" Division
(4) Black Aces @ (1) Hitmen
|Black Aces: 6-9-3, 68 GF, 70 GA, -2 Dif.
16-1-1, 99 GF, 42 GA, +57 Dif.
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
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
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:
|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.