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Season Preview - "B" Division

VANCITY GHOSTRIDERS

    The Ghostriders return to NWBHL action after skipping the last couple of seasons. Their last appearance was the Spring 2012 season that saw them beat the Outlaws in overtime to capture the championship. They regain entry to "B" this season with the agreement in place that they serve their "A" season in the Spring. With that all said, they would love to win another "B" div crown before moving up and they look like they may have just the squad to do so. They have a great signing in net as former Ndub standout Vince Mudaliar returns to the fold. He is not just a great ball stopper, but a good ball mover as well, frequently putting the ball back into play to catch the opponents sleeping. The Riders also have Derek Smith signed and he has shown what he can do for the team as he has already backstopped them to a league title. Up front, the team returns the dangerous duo of Ziad Badr and Meemo Dik. They are as shifty as anyone in the division, and will be expected to be big point producers for the team, though Ziad's temperament is always an issue. Waseem Khalil is off to another fine start with a team leading 8 points so far. Former Wolverines player Gagan Dhillon has also been impressive early in the season, showing off his speed and quick shot. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention Amolak Gill, who comes off his best season, having collected the scoring title and MVP awards in the "B" division. Long-time Ghostrider, Casey White, will likely see some time back up at forward this year. He showed off his abilities last week in a win over the Rays, picking up the Hat-Trick and showing that he is still a driving force for this team. The defense also looks to be in great shape as the team has numerous hard shooting, mobile defensemen such as Kais Naibkhil, Kavi Padda, Andrew Jamison, and Bhal Randhawa. Though the competition in the div looks deep and stocked with talent this year, many people are still calling the Ghostriders the division frontrunners. With the team already off to an impressive 3-1 start, including wins over some pretty strong teams, that looks to be the case. Predicted Finish: 1st
 
Last 2 Regular Season Records Last 2 Playoffs
 Spring 2013: NA  NA
 2012/13: NA  NA

LANGLEY BARONS

   After a rough year in "A" in 2012/13, the Barons skipped the Spring season and now enter the "B" div with something of a stripped down roster. There is still enough big name talent on this club to make them one of the division favourites, but the first couple of weeks have shown that this certainly won't be a free ride for the Barons. The team's most dangerous goal scoring threat on forward is Rod Wardell. He still possesses one of the game's great power shots, and he is already off to a monster start with 10 points in three games including a late game-winner against the Wolverines and a HT vs the Spartans. His long-time running mates, Kerry Nikolai and Jeff Hall, are also still dangerous offensively. Hall hasn't played since the 2011 season and is trying to work his way back into things after serious injury concerns almost ended his career. He is is off to a positive start and sniped a pair of tallies this past week against the Spartans. Kerry, as he often does, plays set-up man for Rod's finishing, and is also off to a productive start. The always underrated Dan Molatore will factor into the Barons offense heavily, as will Sean Magee, who is noted for being one of the league's premier passers. The team also picked up a couple of youngsters (Erik Labreque and Curtis Carney) to offset their ageing core and lend some youthful enthusiasm to the club. On defense, Dave Penland will do much of the work on the point of the Barons powerplay. He has a hard and accurate point shot, as well as terrific mobility. Ed Silva provides his steady defensive presence to calm down the back end, and Spinder Gosal, who is never afraid to mix things up, will provide a little grit for the team, as well. Former Thrashers netminder Eddy Bordignon has gotten two of the three starts so far and has looked fantastic, winning both and putting up an astounding .960 save percentage. Jason Kumar had the other start, and though he will likely be on forward for the bulk of the season (joining his brother Joey, who was added to the lineup last game), he gives the team a decent second option in net, when required. Predicted Finish: 2nd
 
Last 2 Regular Season Records Last 2 Playoffs
 Spring 2013: NA  NA
 2012/13: 1-15-2, 52 GF, 100 GA, +48 ("A"- 2nd)  Did Not Qualify

WEST COAST WOLVERINES

   The Wolverines had a rough start to the season, to say the least. A combination of tough match-ups and some early undisciplined play landed them in a hole, with losses in each of their first three contests. However, even through that difficult stretch, it was clear that they had a pretty impressive looking roster that closely resembled the team that just made the finals in the Spring season. The breakout finally happened in their fourth game (unfortunately for the Rage), as the Wolverines hammered them by a somewhat shocking 9-1 score. The team may not have the marquee names up front like some of the other teams, so they will have to spread around the offense a bit. Jovin Gill is always a force who can score or set a teammate up. He is also fairly strong on the ball despite his diminutive frame. Gurjeev Purewal is off to a good start with a team best five points and he has brought his brother, Gurtej, on board this year. Two Wolverines mainstays, Amrit Shergill and Dogar Gill will be key components to this team's success once again. They found their game in this last outing and should be ready to roll through the rest of the campaign. The talented Amar Cheema will also be an important contributer to the offense. When they are all in the lineup, the Wolverines' defensive corps is probably the most impressive in the division. Gugan Gill comes off a "B" top defenseman season, and yet he wasn't even the highest scoring d-man on the team last year. That honour goes to Robin Ponach who led that category in the Spring with 16 points in 9 games. Add to that the other hard shooting defenseman on this team in Harminder Rai, Justin Saroya and Alan Cheema, and then consider that they can all get up the floor in a heartbeat to join the rush, and you certainly have a highly capable group. Gopal Jaswal really found his game in goal for the team during the stretch run and into the playoffs last season, and he was a big reason the team almost came away with the title. They need him to keep up that high level of play for the full season. The teams' other goalie, Jag Chahal, has struggled a bit with his play since entering the league, but he will get some starts this year and needs to prove that he can be a solid second option for the club. The team still has some ground to make up but the season is long and the Wolverines will certainly be making plenty of noise in the standings over the coming months. Predicted Finish: 3rd
 
Last 2 Regular Season Records Last 2 Playoffs
 Spring 2013: 5-6-1, 53 GF, 55 GA, -2 (2nd)  Lost in Final to Spartans
 2012/13: 7-8-3, 81 GF, 76 GF, +5 (3rd)  Lost in Semifinal to Jaguars 

SOUTH FRASER STINGRAYS

   The Stingrays have been a positive surprise this season. There are lots of new faces in the lineup, the team lost its star goaltender, and the lineups have been somewhat sparse, as was the case much of the last couple of seasons. However, through all of that, the Rays managed to win their first two games and had the game tied in the second period against a potent Ghostriders team in their last game, before running out of steam. After an outstanding 12/13 season that him win the division scoring title, MVP, and set a league record by scoring exactly half of his entire team's goals, Bernie Lal had a somewhat quiet Spring season with 9 points in 7 games. He seems to be returning to form with four goals already, as well as having numerous other scoring opportunities that were thwarted. As goes Bernie, so go the Stingrays, but he has not been the lone offensive catalyst ever since Justin Olgui joined the club. Olgui currently leads the team with 6 points in 4 games and has really shown his ability to dictate the pace of the game. The big score for the Rays this season was the acquisition of Raman Rai. He is a supremely talented player that didn't look out of place in "A" last year in a short stint with the Executioners. If the club can get him out regularly, he will definitely be a game breaker for them. Other new additions to the team that have made some impact already are Uttam Khangura and Prakash Arora, each of which have managed multi point efforts in the early going. Speedster Taylor Dean also returns to the club after missing the Spring and he should help the team's forecheck game. The defense features the ageless Terry Wong, as well as Jas Johal and newcomer Gerald Kooiman. Team GM Sukh Sandhu has moved back to defense and is off to a strong start with 4 helpers already. The powerplay, which struggled the last few seasons for the team, has been on fire to this point, collecting a division best 6 goals so far with a 42.9% efficiency rating. The team lost a premier goaltender in Steve Carruthers to the Jaguars this year, which is notable because he really carried much of the load for the Stingrays the last season and a half as they were often outshoot badly. The good news is that Bob Dhaliwal has stepped in and done a fantastic job for the team through three games and finds himself in the upper echelon of goaltending stats at the moment. Though he has only seen spot duty for years with different teams throughout the league, this is his first real starting job in the NWBHL and he seems keen on showing he can get the job done. Though the lineups for the Rays have been on the low end this season, the good news is that there have been enough different faces show up to make a decent team out of...if the majority of them can actually come out at the same time. This team could go either way, but it seems like there's enough talent here for them to be a threat most nights. Predicted Finish: 4th
 
Last 2 Regular Season Records Last 2 Playoffs
 Spring 2013: 5-7-0, 46 GF, 61 GA, -15 (3rd)  Lost in Semifinal to Wolverines
 2012/13: 4-13-1, 56 GF, 95 GF, -39 (7th)  Did Not Qualify

BURNABY RAGE

   The Rage have added numerous free agents to the lineup this year in a bid to make a real run at things. Reigning "B" Playoff MVP, Jim Davis, who often plays with the Rage during the fall, has returned once again, and this time he has brought with him the speedy Mike Kowalczyk with him from the Spartans. Had Mike played more games during the spring he could have easily taken the division MVP award. The team hopes to be able to get him out to more games, but he will likely just be part time again this season. Ian Banks, one of the league's all-time pure snipers, also joins the Rage this year, and he too will likely be looking at the qualification minimum for games. Another big signing is Lloyd Weir. The former Barons and Rays player is a noted scoring threat and will really add to the offensive depth of the Rage. One of the returning threats for the Rage is the consummate goal scorer Fab Carella, though he will likely only be playing the first couple months before he heads out of town for an extended period. The team also reportedly has Ray Diesel signed, so look for him to make his debut in a couple weeks after an injury layoff. Steve Dhillon and Floyd Jewell provide a couple of big bodies that are good in front of the net. Floyd has also found himself on defense at times, which enables him to get off his big shot, but he must be able to get it on the net more consistently for it to be an effective weapon. Guy Hawkins, a true defensive workhorse, is another solid Rage addition this year. The team also had Graham Tizzard out for its first game, and if he manages to play the bulk of the schedule, that could be a big boon to the team. He will be doing much of the ball carrying from the back end along with Daniel Fraser, who has impressive mobility for a big man. The team was hoping to avoid its usual slow start but at 0-2, things haven't worked out that way. The last loss, 9-1 to the Wolverines, was particularly painful, but this team is much better than they have shown so far. Depending on who shows up, and for how many games, this team could either be a strong contender, or it could suffer another long, difficult season. Predicted Finish: 5th
 
Last 2 Regular Season Records Last 2 Playoffs
 Spring 2013: 4-8-0, 49 GF, 55 GA, -6, (5th)  Did Not Qualify
 2012/13: 6-9-3, 53 GF, 57 GA, -4, (4th)  Lost in Semifinal to Crooks

RICHMOND WARHAWKS

   The Warhawks have perhaps been the biggest surprise in the Ndub this year, winning two of their first three games, and leading the other 3-1 at one point before a catastrophic second period collapse. The top line for the team has been unstoppable so far. Sunny Basi has collected 4 goals and 5 assists in just 3 games (good for second in the league behind Rod Wardell), which has garnered him some very early MVP talk. Just behind him, Ami Gill has numbers of 2-5-7. The third member of the line, Manu Gill, has also scored in each game this season. It will be interesting to see if these guys can keep it up, but for now they hold the title as the most productive line in the league. The Warhawks have added a pair of quality rookies to the roster to help run the second line. Marquez Ng and Mick Lui are small, but fast and talented. They are sort of like a pair of Paul Kariyas flying around out there! The team also made a good acquisition with the signing of long time Executioner, Muni Dutta, who puts his strength to good use as he plays a real power game, particularly in the corners. Kevin Booth is the main offensive weapon on the blueline for the team with a good shot and the ability to carry the ball up the floor. Cyril Duncan and Paul Heer are also steadying influences on the back end, and word is that big Deepak Takhar will also be rejoining the Warhawks after a year away. In goal the team is set, as Cliff Stayner has been one of the league's hottest goalies to start the year. He has already earned a 1st and 2nd star which puts him the early lead for the division 3 Star Cup. He plays every game for the club and they always know that when he's back there, the team will have a chance to win. Now here's the rub; the Warhawks have been playing with only two lines, and though they have been successful to this point, that method of operation is typically only successful with the more talented "A" div teams. On paper, this team isn't even on the top end of the skill spectrum in the "B" division, and playing these tough teams that roll three lines will sooner or later catch up to the Hawks. In short, this magical start the team is on will likely come to an end and the team will have a battle on their hands to make the playoffs in an ultra-competitive division this year. Predicted Finish: 6th
 
Last 2 Regular Season Records Last 2 Playoffs
 Spring 2013: 4-7-1, 41 GF, 54 GA, -13 (4th)  Lost in Semifinal to Spartans
 2012/13: 5-11-2, 46 GF, 86 GF, -40 (5th)  Did Not Qualify

SURREY SPARTANS

   After finally breaking out during the Spring season for not just the team's first playoff appearance, but an actual league championship, the Spartans have something of a rebuild on their hands. The team has lost many of its top forwards from last season with that list including Amolak Gill, Graeme Spence, Jim Davis, Sean Magee, Mike Kowalczyk, Steve Bourne, and Dave Kreeft. That has left the team with quite a hole to fill up front. Curiously, the team has ended up with an abundance of defensemen, many of which will be converted to forward this season. The biggest addition the Spartans have made is the signing of Jim White, who has had an immediate impact with the club with 5 points in his first 3 games including an opening night hat-trick to lead the team to victory. Myles Scott is also off to a great start with 5 points, and his absence was felt in the team's disappointing 6-0 loss to the Barons in their last outing. The always feisty Brad Gunsten has returned to the club after skipping the spring season and will be looked upon as an important contributor to the offense. Though he has yet to make an appearance, former Stingray Kyle Peters is reportedly attached to the team as well and could be of use with his fine finishing skills. The back end for the Spartans is well stocked with career defensemen all over the place. Chuck Emery and Dale Sinclair will likely do much of the work on the point of the PP. Veteran defenders like Dan Ko, Vince Aiello, and Gord Harada will be looked upon to take care of the defensive side of things. The team has its biggest key piece still in place, and that's in the most important area, the Spartan's goal crease. Jason Atwal lived up to the hype last year and was a main reason the team went from a non-playoff club to a champion. He will have to carry a sizeable load again this year, with the loss of scoring depth the team has suffered. If this team manages to consistently score by committee, they will have an opportunity to be a playoff contender, but at this point I think the team has to be considered a bit of a long shot. Predicted Finish: 7th
 
Last 2 Regular Season Records Last 2 Playoffs
 Spring 2013: 7-5-0, 53 GF, 51 GA, +2 (1st)  Won Championship
 2012/13: 5-11-2, 53 GF, 78 GA, -25 (6th)  Did Not Qualify







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