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College Hockey:
ECAC East picks: Jan. 4

It was another bad week, even with the limited schedule, for my picks as I closed the year with an 0-2-0 (.000) record. The season still looks good at 24-9-4 (.703), but I will need to stop the bleeding from the end of the year to keep my winning percentage over the 70 percent threshold.

There are nonconference match-ups and a couple of great tournaments happening this weekend, so get out if you can to see some inspired hockey. Here are this week’s picks, including some bonus selections for next Tuesday’s nonconference slate of games.

Friday, Jan. 4

Connecticut College at Norwich
If you are having trouble killing penalties and scoring goals, then lining up against the Cadets is hardly the match-up you dream about. The Cadets take pride in hosting this tournament, now known as the Northfield Bank Tournament, so don’t expect them to go easy on the opponent. The Cadets like collecting hardware, and this is step one to capturing their own tournament. Norwich 5-0

Plattsburgh at Skidmore
The loss in the Cardinal Classic final to Amherst will motivate Bob Emery’s team for two challenging road games against ECAC East opponents. They play on a big sheet at Skidmore, but that isn’t going to impact Plattsburgh’s style of play or the outcome. No one is thinking about Saturday night in this one. It’s all on the ice on Friday night in the Cardinals favor. Plattsburgh 5-2

SUNY-Potsdam at Castleton
The Spartans are still looking for “it.” This weekend’s nonconference match-ups give Castleton another couple of games against strong competition before league play resumes next weekend. Plattsburgh looms on Saturday, but I don’t think Alex Todd’s troops are looking past anyone right now. A win would create momentum for Saturday, and that is exactly what the Spartans earn. Castleton 4-2

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Wentworth at Massachusetts-Boston
The Beacons are looking for a second tournament title this season, and have always found their own tournament a most challenging one to win. The opening round game with cross-town rival Wentworth will not be an easy one by any stretch of coach Peter Belisle’s imagination. This one could go overtime, or maybe even tournament-style shootout. If bonus hockey is involved, I like the Beacons’ chances to play for the Codfish Bowl on Sunday. Massachusetts-Boston 4-3

Southern Maine at Salem State
This is an old rivalry from ECAC East days when Salem State played in the conference, and one the two longtime coaches have maintained, as they were former travel partners together in the interlocking schedule with NESCAC. No one should underestimate the talent in the MASCAC conference, and this one will be a close game, as they all have traditionally been in the past. Home team usually wins these things, so this one goes to the Vikings. Salem State 4-3

St. Anselm at Buffalo State
Talk about your long bus trips. No tournament this year for the Hawks, but they do play two challenging SUNYAC foes on the weekend to get ready for league play next weekend. This one could come down to a goaltending duel between misters Carr and Dries for both teams. Don’t expect a lot of goals in this game. St. Anselm 2-1

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Skidmore at Western New England
The Golden Bears have been very good in the conference, and not so good out of it. At 1-5 in nonconference games, Western New England isn’t adding an easy win on the schedule with Skidmore. The key for the Thoroughbreds will be special teams, as WNEU takes their fair share of penalties and gives up their fair share of power-play goals. That could be enough of a difference for a road win for Skidmore. Skidmore 5-3

Castleton at Plymouth State
It’s all about being green in this battle, and the host Panthers would certainly like to add a quality win to their resume, as they keep knocking on the door of national recognition after last year’s NCAA tournament appearance. Castleton won the consolation game against Plymouth State in the Oswego tournament on New Year’s Eve by a score of 4-3. The home team would like to even that score, but the Spartans have other ideas. Castleton 4-3

New England College at Salem State
Ten road games in a row! That is the string of games the Pilgrims are on right now, which included two at Cortland to close out the first half schedule and two in Western New York against Fredonia and Buffalo State to open the second half. The bus trip is shorter for this one, but I am not sure the competition is any easier for Tom Carroll’s team, which really could use a couple of wins to get on track before playing their next four league games away from home. Need to get the goals per game average above three to have a chance. New England College 4-2

It is fun to see some old rivalries from leagues of days past, as well as new rivalries emerging from new nonconference battles which are renewing every year. This week sees the opportunity to shake off the holiday rust and get back in hockey mode before games with points show up on the schedule next week. They all count and they all mean something — drop the puck.

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