It’s time for the stretch run of Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play. This is the time of the year where teams begin to either build momentum for the playoffs or slip away and shift their attention toward next year.
There is one nonconference game on the schedule though, as Wisconsin-Eau-Claire will battle St. Olaf on Saturday night.
Last week, I wasn’t too bad with my picks. I went 6-4 and I now own a 37-32 record overall. Hopefully, I can add a few more wins to my total this week.
So without further delay, here are my picks for the week.
Friday-Saturday, Jan. 11-12
Gustavus vs. St. John’s
The Gusties and Johnnies will play a home-and-home this weekend, starting with Gustavus paying a visit to St. John’s on Friday night. Both teams have played well lately. Gustavus has scored 35 goals on the year and has given up 34, while St. John’s has tallied 36 goals and has allowed 34 goals. This is a series that could very well be decided by defense and which team can capitalize on power-play opportunities. I’m expecting the Gusties and Johnnies to split this series, with each team taking care of business at home. St. John’s 4-2, Gustavus 5-4
Concordia at Augsburg
Concordia will play a pair of conference games on the road this weekend and will try to keep its offensive attack on track. The Cobbers have racked up 45 goals this season, and Jordie Bancroft and Andrew Deters have led the way with six goals apiece. If they can strike early, it will make it tough for Augsburg to battle back. The Auggies have scored 31 goals this year and have given up 42. Concordia 5-2, 3-1
St. Thomas vs. Hamline
The Tommies are in first place in the conference and are playing against the last-place team in the conference this week. They have done a good job defensively, and have allowed only 28 goals on the season. They are also solid when it comes to penalty-kill situations, sitting at 81.6 percent on the season. Hamline has only managed 28 goals on the year and has yet to win a game. Playing St. Thomas probably isn’t the best way to end that victory drought. St. Thomas should cruise both nights. St. Thomas 6-2, 7-2
Bethel vs. St. Mary’s
The Royals and Cardinals will play a home-and-home, and for Bethel, this series is an opportunity for them to stay tied with the Tommies atop the conference standings. The Royals have dropped three consecutive games and will open the weekend on the road. They need to be able to grab the momentum early in this game, and the key is seeing players such as Garrett Windle and Mitch Hughes get on track early. Both players have tallied seven goals on the season. St. Mary’s has struggled lately as well, losing its last five games, and the Cardinals have scored only six goals during that streak. The Cardinals have shown they can be a very good offensive team though, having put up 45 goals on the year. But with both teams capable of getting on a roll offensively, the outcome hangs on which team steps it up on defense. Bethel has been a little better defensively this season, but in the end, this series will end up in a split. St. Mary’s 5-3, Bethel 4-2
Saturday, Jan. 12
Wisconsin Eau-Claire at St. Olaf
This is the lone nonconference match of the weekend, and St. Olaf is looking to end a two-game losing streak. The Oles are playing a team from Wisconsin for the third consecutive game, but this time they will be at home. The thing is, they need to step up defensively if they are going to come out on top. St. Olaf has given up 26 goals in its last six games, and will be up against a Blugolds team that has played well most of the season. Wis.-Eau-Claire beat St. John’s over the weekend and has been tough offensively. The Blugolds have also had a lot of success on the road, winning six of their eight games. Wis.-Eau-Claire 6-2