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The Riz Report
Week 5

Time to tend to the bruises from last week and get onto Week 5 of the Riz Report. We are now a month into the season and some teams are finding their stride while others are still sputtering out of the starting gate. At this point I would have thought that the teams would have a little more separation between themselves but the races are tight. The spots are jam packed at the top (and bottom) of the A Division while the B Division is looking log jammed in the middle, but not with the teams you would expect.

One of those are in our first preview.

A/B Crossover

The Jaguars are coming off of a win last week against a B Division team and it was just what the Dr. ordered. Although the game was far closer than expected, Steve Carruthers played great in goal and Danny Vero had a ferocious game, scoring 2 goals, for 5 points on the night. Scoring was spread throughout the roster, although the roster was quite thin for the night. That is not a surprise as the Jaguars were sure they were going to sail past the Mercs.

The Ghostriders, on the other hand, are limping into this week, licking their wounds after a surprising loss to the Chiefs. I say the loss was surprising given the history of the two teams, but if you watched the game you would have seen an obvious picture unfold. Once again the Ghostriders dressed a patchwork of players and were not at “full bench strength” and it showed. Weird bounces did not help at all, and I admit the ball was bouncing off of me in ways that I would not have imagined. Jora Dhami had an impressive night after showcasing his slapshot, but it was too little, too late for the Ghostriders on all fronts.

This week turns out to be a fortuitous one for the Jaguars as they will face their second B Division team in as many weeks. The Jaguars are a formidable team and will give the Ghostriders more than they can handle. The Ghostriders have a chance to compete in this game, but only if their regulars show up and they play a solid defensive game. Goaltending will have to be spot-on if they wish to compete against the likes of Daniel and Co.

B Division

The Rage were shown their walking papers last week vs. the Crooks. A meager 14 shots on goal will do little to boost the offence but hey, you can’t blame them right? The Crooks showed they indeed are an A Division team. Floyd, Amolak and Jonathan are a tremendous line, by the way. I challenge the NWBHL faithful to help come up with a name for the line. My submission: Yueh-Gi-Flo!

The Warhawks are scary good. This team is showing us the way a team should be built. After years of playing together, learning and growing, when the time was right the Warhawks added key players to the roster and voila! They made themselves a team that can do more than hold their own with the A Division boys. A little more experience on their side and the Warhawks would have won the game last week. Ami Gill played stellar in net for the Warhawks, and they have two solid goalies and an impressive defensive game.

This is the NWBHL Game of the Week! You may be a little confused here. In the past I have called NWBHL Games of the Week, B Division Games of the Week and A Division Games of the Weeks (which has not been assigned yet) and I think it is a little confusing. So going forward I will limit my “NWBHL GAME OF THE WEEK” to one game although there may be weeks where co-games are announced.

With that being said, yes this is the NWBHL Game of the Week! As the wheat and chaff are separating, the Rage and Warhawks are slowly rising to the top of the B Division depth chart and this week’s 4 point game will be a huge one in determining the top spot in the Division. With a game in hand, a win for the Warhawks puts them in a tie for the top spot with the Rage and still gives them a game to make up. The Rage, on the other hand, could win and take a rather commanding 8 point lead into the weeks ahead. With “head-to-head” being the second tie breaker, this game has the opportunity to help one of these teams get comfortably in the driver’s seat of the B Division.

A/B Crossover

Another crossover game sees the Thrashers and Devils face off in a battle of Surrey teams. The Thrashers are thus far the class of the NWBHL, with a still-perfect 3-0 record. On top of that, or should I say, this perfect record is mainly because of the fact that the Thrashers are the strongest offensive team in the league, averaging 6 goals per game. With a line-up of prolific scorers, it’s refreshing to see Roy Cabrita leading the charge for the Thrashers with 8 points; 1 ahead of both Ravind and Fish who are alright in their own right…On the back end, Twin Towers Jay Dove and Jeff Heer are a formidable challenge for opponents. A well-rested Thrashers lineup will be hungry for a feast this week.

The Devils are sitting with a very respectable 2-2 record so far, but are coming off an uninspiring 2-0 shutout loss against the Panthers last week (editor's note: It's worth noting that this was anyone's game, and was ultimately decided by a strange bounce in the dying minutes, and also included an empty netter). The Devils have to play a defensive-first game against the Thrashers or risk being blown out of the water. Gurmukh is looking more comfortable between the pipes and will be heavily relied upon to ensure a competitive game this week.

Although I don’t think this game is going to be a cake walk, I do believe the Thrashers will run the gamut. If the score gets too out of hand, I am sure that the classy Thrashers will ease up on the gas pedal.

A/B Crossover

Coming off a crossover game last week, the Crooks face a victorious Panthers team which is looking pretty impressive out of the gate this year. The Panthers have played some exciting games thus far, and are looking deserving of their spot in the B Division; tied with the Warhawks for second place. Scott Wilshire and Justin Kooner are still playing well, picking up a point each in the last game. Defensively the Panthers are very impressive still, and Dave Sherwin is slowly climbing the goalie stats ladder.

The Crooks are also coming off a winning weekend and will be poised to extend their winning streak to 4 games against a game B Division team. The scoring is still spread out throughout the lineup, and they sure are scoring them in bunches. This will give the Panthers some fits, I reckon. Defensively the Crooks are as good as any team in the league, so it will be difficult for the Panthers to pot many goals.

As it seems like the case for all crossover games, the key for a B Team victory is for the Panthers to play a tight team-defense game. They showed they can do that last week. The Crooks on the other hand, simply have to do exactly what they have been doing so far. Wave after wave of offensive attacks are breaking down team's barriers, and the Crooks are winning because of it. Of course it is difficult to be scored against when the other team doesn’t get to play with the ball.

B Division

Fresh off their first win last week, the Chiefs have a great opportunity to get on a winning streak this week vs. the winless Mercenaries. The Chiefs proved they are not to be overlooked in the B Division, stealing a win last week by the skin of their teeth. The key to the Chiefs offence is in their defence. Their top four scorers are on the back end and they love to tee it up and crash the net. It sounds like a simple enough game plan, but when executed properly it is a very good recipe for success in the NWBHL.

This is the most winnable game for the Mercenaries so far in this young season. The Mercenaries have played some good hockey this year but have come up short often due to factors out of their control, such as hot goaltending or bad bounces. If they keep playing the way they are they will be due for a win or two down the road.

I envision this game being a barn burner, to say the least. It should be the most entertaining of the week and I would venture to guess a lot of goals will be scored. I don’t know about you guys, but I think after this week there will be no winless teams in the NWBHL.

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