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The Riz Report
Week 14

The final week of games for the year 2014 in the NWBHL is upon us. Before people start to cozy up by the fire under the mistletoe, on Saturday evening 10 teams have their fate in their hands as everyone begins to prepare for the final stretch run towards the playoffs. My egg nog tastes a bit sour already and so it will for half of the teams vying for a “W” this week. Of the 5 games slated this weekend, 3 of them could easily be considered as the “NWBHL Game of the Week”

A Division

A great thing about the A Division this season is that it is a tight race for all 4 spots. Fourth spot in the Division not withstanding, of course. The Giants have been on a tear of late, stalled only by the play of the Jaguars whom they cannot seem to beat this year. The Giants are still in the Division basement, but have done a masterful job of pulling back with the pack. Speaking of masterful jobs, the Giants are scoring in bunches lead and the league in goals for. This is thanks to the efforts of Simiran Bhatti and Harp Kalkat, assisted by #19, Justin Matai, the team quarterback. Jas Basra has come in and solidified the goaltending situation for the Giants and I expect a different team in the new year opposed to the slow starters that limped out of the gate.

After sitting atop the A Division standings for the majority of the season, the Thrashers must be in a foul mood watching the Jaguars sitting in their spot, with a 3 point cushion to boot. Lucky for the Thrashers they have a game in hand. The Thrashers looked solid vs. the Crooks a few weeks back and less than vs. the Jaguars earlier. The addition of Ben Saggu will help going forward, but this bread is buttered by Jay Dove and Roy Cabrita, the latter of whom is making a great play for A Division MVP. Notice I didn’t mention Dave Fisher? I am sure that he will have a lot to say before the season is over.

This game will pit two offensively gifted teams against one another in a battle where the Thrashers will do their darndest to try to open the gap between themselves and the 4th spot in the Division and a spot out of the playoffs. The Thrashers will have to keep the offensive juggernaut Giants at bay though if they are to win, and I don’t know how easy a task that will be. Could we be looking at another OT game for the Thrashers? I don’t know, neither team is playing the Crooks this week.

A Division

The Crooks are in a bit of a slide of late which has seen them slip to 3rd in the A Division and only 1 point ahead of the last place Giants. They have to get off the schnied fast or else risk being the odd team out come playoff time. In their past 4 games vs. their contemporaries the Crooks are 0-3-1 with two OT games sprinkled in the mix, and an ugly loss to the Giants. The key to this team is still a balanced scoring attack and Jason Sidhu who is still their MVP. Seeing that this is the first season the Crooks are in the A Division, I would have to say that they are holding their own quite nicely. But the Fall/Winter season is a long one and the Crooks have to ensure they have enough gas in the tank to see out the entire 18 game schedule. Something tells me the race for a playoff spot in the A Division will go down to the very last week of the season.

The Jaguars are closing in on 2014 as the class of the A Division thus far. They are amongst the leaders in goals for and against and are undefeated vs. A Division opponents in their last four games and undefeated in their last 9 including the crossover games! It’s no wonder they are leading the league. Their scoring is well spread throughout their lineup and Brendan Ham is having a monster season. I think I mentioned that a few weeks ago also, and he just keeps proving it game in and game out. But the nicest story in my books is the play of Mont Saran. He is having a career year, and is poised to better all his offensive numbers this season.

This game should be a tight checking and high scoring affair. Similar to the previous A Division game this week, the ramifications of this one will be great on the standings race. The Jaguars are looking to pull away from the pack and sit on a (at least) three point cushion going into the break, and the Crooks are in a must-win situation (of sorts). They need the two points to ensure they are not sitting in the basement come Christmas time.

B Division

The Surrey Devils are coming off a surprising win vs. the Rage last week and will need to put up a similar effort vs. the Panthers if they hope to close out 2014 on a winning note. Led by Puneet and Jarnail Sandhu, and Aman Gill, this team is winning despite giving up the second most goals in the league. The Devils are sitting in the last playoff spot in the B Division thanks to a 3 game winning streak vs. B Division opponents, but it should be noted that two of those games were vs. the Mercenaries and Chiefs. But you cannot take away the impressive win vs. the Rage. The Devils schedule will be a little tougher from here on, so a win vs. the Panthers would do wonders for their playoff future.

The Panthers keep surprising me with their solid play. They are a rugged team who don’t mind grinding it out. As a matter of fact, that is the key to being successful in the NWBHL. With such a small surface to play on, if you can take away room for the opposition to play in, you give yourself a chance to win. And winning is what the Panthers have been doing lately. In their past 4 games vs. their B Division counterparts the Panthers have gone 3-0-1 including an impressive win of their own vs. the Rage. Led by a litany of scorers who seem to score at the most opportune moments, these cardiac kids are grinding out wins in impressive fashion. I don’t see any reason this team will slow down in the New Year.

This game has a lot of implications in the B Division standings. A win for the Devils pulls them further away from the 5th place Ghostriders, but it’s the Panthers who could use the 2 points to keep in striking distance of the first place Warhawks. I don’t know who will win this game but I think that either of these teams have a solid chance and both are on very impressive rolls.

B Division

If there was ever at time a team needed a respite from their current play, it’s right now for the Rage. After being the standings leader in the B Division for most all of the season thus far, the Rage have seen themselves slip from top spot to third place thanks to their current 3 game B Division and 5 game (including crossovers) losing streak. During this time the Rage lost to the Warhawks, and surprisingly to the Devils, and Panthers. Floyd is still the “Jewel” of the team and leads the B Division in scoring with some impressive numbers (12-12-9-21), and Amolak Gill and Dave Snyder are chipping in, but the Rage need more secondary scoring to ensure victories and they are not getting that yet.

On the flip side, if there was ever a time for the Mercenaries to post their second win of the season, then this would be the game in which to do it. In order to catch the slumping Rage off guard, the Mercenaries will have to find some scoring. Up to this point the Mercenaries have been riding the hot streaks of David Prestage and Myles Scott, but these two cannot do it all themselves as evident by the Mercenaries dismal 1-11 record. The Mercenaries are still trying to flush out there roster and still need to solidify the goaltending position and need to bring in some offensive support. Here’s to hoping the Mercenaries GM makes some calls during the holiday break.

If history has something to say then I would assume that the Rage will win narrowly, but judging from their play of late this is one game that may be up for grabs.

B Division

A game similar to the previous one this week, the top seeded B Division team, the Warhawks will be looking to go into the holiday break riding a 7 game winning streak against B Division opponents. Apart from the Jaguars and Giants, the Warhawks are probably the hottest team in the league and have started to click now and look like they are running a pretty tight ship. Scoring by committee, this team poses a defense first philosophy that sees their defenseman do whatever they can to ensure the ball stays out of their net. Shot blocking is a rarity in ball hockey, but VERY important and the Warhawks defensive corps is none to shy about putting their bodies on the line for the “W”. Oh, and then you have to shoot on Shane Ram who is having a stellar season thus far.

The Chiefs are in the same boat as the Mercenaries this season except that they have already dipped in the free agent pool and started to fill out their roster. The signing of Bernie Lal has already started to pay dividends as he has scored 4 goals already in only 2 games. His presence alone bolsters the Chiefs offence, and changes the complexity of their front line. Add in fellow Stingray alumnus Sukh Sandhu on the back end and the team is starting to look like it will win a game or 2 in the New Year.

Although I like the changes the Chiefs are making to their roster they are still a number of players away from being able to contend against the hot hand of the Warhawks.

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