Well, we have reached the final weekend of the Division III hockey season, and four teams are still standing. Norwich and Oswego State will play in one national semifinal on Friday, and Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Utica will meet in the other. So it’s time for me to see how well I can do making picks for the weekend. No more delays. Here we go.
Friday. March 15
Norwich vs. Oswego
Both teams are in the Frozen Four for the fourth straight year, so experience in this setting isn’t going to be an issue for either team. Norwich is coming off a 4-0 win over Babson, and has five seniors on its roster. Travis Janke will be key to the success of the Cadets. He has 15 goals and 23 assists, and has more than 100 points in his career. Shane Gorman could be an X Factor, having scored four goals in the last five games. He has tallied eight goals on the season and has tallied 14 assists. For the Lakers, they will need Paul Rodrigues to step up big time. He has racked up 15 goals and 30 assists, while Luke Moodie has come through with 22 goals. Those two, along with Jon Whitelaw, have combined for 403 points in their careers. This is a match-up where I think the team that is the most efficient on offense gets the job done. Both teams have strong goalies as well — Chris Czarnota for Norwich and Andrew Hare for Oswego State — but the team that makes the most of its opportunities will win. I’m giving the edge to the Cadets. Norwich 5-4
Wisconsin-Eau Claire vs. Utica
The Blugolds are playing well, and punched their ticket to the national semifinals with an impressive 3-1 win over St. Norbert, the defending national champion. Winning a game like that can give a team a world of confidence. Brandon Stephenson will no doubt be a key to success for Eau Claire. The senior goalie has tallied 732 saves and has allowed only 55 goals this season. If he can continue to play at the level he has during this tournament, allowing only three goals, the Blugolds are going to be poised for a trip to the title game. Jordan Singer will be instrumental in success on offense, as he comes in with 20 goals. Utica has been tested time and again, and played one of the toughest schedules in the country this year. That experience can only do the Pioneers good at this point. The Pioneers have been sharp offensively, putting up 121 goals on the year, which is the highest total in program history. Not only does Utica have a dangerous offense, but it is tremendous on defense. The Pioneers have goalie Nick Therrien in their corner, and he has a save percentage of .924. If he can match the effort the Utica offense is expected to give, the Pioneers could be in a position for the win. Utica has been tough when it scores first, and a strong start could be enough to get them on track for a victory, but my money is on the Blugolds, although it would not surprise me if Utica won this game. Wis.-Eau Claire 4-3
Saturday, March 16
Wis.-Eau Claire vs. Norwich
Although it doesn’t matter which two teams reach the final, as all four are worthy of a spot in the championship game, Wis.-Eau Claire has put together an impressive run, and the Blugolds are my pick to win the national championship.