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College Hockey:
Writers go head to head this weekend

And away we go on Black Friday with our Division III predictions for this weekend.

With many conference crossover games, it’ll be interesting to see how our columnists fare against one another with these picks. A little internal competition? You bet!

Off and running…

ECAC East – Tim Costello

A 2-1-2 (.600) weekend brings the season overall record to 10-3-2 (.733) and a weekend upcoming that poses some serious challenges for accuracy with Thanksgiving tournaments and interesting nonconference battles.

Here are the picks:

Friday, Nov. 29

Middlebury vs. Norwich

The Primelink always is among the best in Thanksgiving hockey and when these two Vermont rivals get together, the action and intensity are palpable. Neither team has an ‘L’ on their record yet this season, but one team gains their first in what some may call an upset. Not a low-scoring affair, which helps the Panthers. Middlebury 5-4.

Saturday, Nov. 30

Johnson and Wales vs. Massachusetts-Boston

The first round of the PAL/Stovepipe Tournament may just be the tonic the Beacons need to jumpstart their potent offense. This was the first piece of hardware won last year by the Beacons and coach Peter Belisle would very much like to repeat as champions. Need to focus and take care of business in the first round and do just that. Massachusetts-Boston 6-2.

University of New England vs. Southern New Hampshire

The other half of the PAL/Stovepipe preliminary round finds the host meeting a burgeoning ECAC East rival seen before in this tournament. UNE has shown some early success this season and will make the final an all-ECAC East affair with a closely-contested victory. UNE 4-2.

Tufts vs. Castleton

The Rutland Herald Invitational won’t be taken lightly by the host school that is looking to rebound after a challenging weekend with two of the best teams in conference play. Tufts has played several games on the verge of a timely play or goal to win, so Castleton will need to play hard for the full 60 minutes. This one may need an extra five minutes, but the home team prevails. Castleton 4-3.

Fitchburg State vs. Skidmore

The Thoroughbreds again host their own invitational event with the opening round game against Dean Fuller’s Falcons from the MASCAC conference. The big sheet should help the home team and enable Skidmore to play for the coveted trophy on Sunday. Skidmore 5-2.

Playing for hardware always provides some additional motivation – drop the puck!

ECAC Northeast – Nathan Fournier

Saturday, Nov. 30

Salve Regina at Trinity

Salve Regina starts a stretch of nonconference games with Trinity. It could be an offensive showdown with the Seahawks averaging over four goals a game and the Bantams averaging 3.50 goals a game. The game could come down to special teams with Salve Regina’s power play converting once in every four chances and Trinity’s penalty kill at 76 percent. I will take Trinity in a 5-4 shootout.

Wentworth at Wesleyan

I think Wentworth is glad to reach some nonconference games with a slow start in conference. Offense has been the issue with them with three games of scoring just one goal in their first eight games. They did win a 1-0 game, however. Wesleyan on the other hand are 2-2 so far, but have scored five goals in all four games. If the goal-scorers are still hot, I will take Wesleyan in this contest.

Suffolk vs. Bowdoin in Waterville, Me.

Suffolk has had a good season so far, but I think Bowdoin has too much skill and depth to lose this contest. While this game will be going in officially as a neutral site game in the record books, the Rams are 0-2-1 in away games this season. They are also have been frontrunners this season going 2-0-0 when leading after one period. When they are trailing after one period they are 1-2-1. Bowdoin comes away with a 4-2 victory.

Johnson and Wales vs. UMass-Boston in Hookset, N.H.

This will be Johnson and Wales’ second nonconference game of the season. Both offenses have shown they can score so far this season. I like Johnson and Wales as they have been able to contain the opponent’s offense. I think their goals-against will rise a little after this game as they win the game 6-4. The winner will face the winner of the UNE/Southern New Hampshire contest.

Becker vs. Assumption in Worcester, Mass.

This game should be a defensive game with both teams just barely scoring two goals a game. Becker has been struggling on the penalty kill, only stopping the opponent’s power play 69 percent of the time. Assumption has only scored four goals on the power play in six games, so something will have to give. I will take Becker in a 3-2 game. The winner will face the winner of Worcester State/Nichols.

Nichols at Worcester State

If there’s any team in the nation that’s excited for a nonconference game, it’s Worcester State. They won their first three games of the year in nonconference play and haven’t won a game since then in conference play. Careful for what you wish for because Nichols has been solid so far in every aspect of the game. I expect that to continue with a 5-1 victory. The winner faces the winner of Becker/Assumption. I believe both teams will come away with a win against whoever they face on Sunday.

Sunday, Dec. 1

Wentworth at Trinity

I think Wentworth will be able to get it together for Trinity. They are coming out of their rut and if they can get the goaltending, they can skate with Trinity. I will take Wentworth in a 4-2 victory.

Salve Regina at Wesleyan

First one to 10? I wouldn’t surprised if that did happen with these two offenses. Going in, Salve Regina needs to keep pressure on the gas pedal because Trinity has lost an 8-5 shootout to Hamilton. The Seahawks, on the other hand, haven’t won a game away from the friendly confines of Portsmouth Abbey. I will take Salve Regina 7-5.

Suffolk vs. Colby in Brunswick, Me.

It will be a tough weekend for Suffolk as they will be facing a young, but hungry Colby squad. I think it will be a close game. If Sulfolk can jump on Colby early, I like their chances. I will take Suffolk in a 2-1 game.

Wednesday, Dec. 4

Southern New Hew Hampshire at Nichols

The Bison will face their first of two Division II schools as they welcome Southern New Hampshire to town. This could be a trap game for them and may give Alex Larson a rest and give Patrik Salkind another chance in net. I will take Nichols in a 5-3 game.

ECAC West – Dan Hickling

Saturday, Nov. 30

No. 8 Utica (6-1-1) @ Connecticut College (0-4-0) – Utica 7, CC 2

Utica has a penchant for winning the close ones. No such heroics will be needed in this one.

Sunday, Dec. 1

Nazareth (1-6-1) @ U.S. Under-18 Team – Nazareth 3 U-18s 2

Nazareth is much better than its record shows and may rise to the challenge of beating a strong national squad.

MASCAC – Nathan Fournier

Saturday, Nov. 30

Massachusetts-Dartmouth at Colby

This is a very intriguing matchup with UMass-Darmouth supposed to be one of the contenders in MASCAC and Colby a team that can play with big dogs. If the Corsairs can figure out their special teams, it could a long day for the Mules. I will take UMass-Dartmouth in a 6-3 contest, pulling away in the third period.

Fitchburg State at Skidmore

The Thoroughbreds have depth and multiple lines that can score. They like to get a lot of shots on goal in the first period. The Falcons are getting it done with their young players as their top five scorers are either a freshman or sophomore. I think Fitchburg State will go into New York and surprise Skidmore 5-4.

Nichols at Worcester State

If there’s any team in the nation that’s excited for a nonconference game is Worcester State. They won their first three games of the year in nonconference play and haven’t won a game since then in conference play. Careful for what you wish for because Nichols has been solid so far in every aspect of the game. I expect that to continue with a 5-1 victory. The winner faces the winner of Becker/Assumption. I believe both teams will come away with a win against whoever they face on Sunday.

Sunday, Dec. 1

UMass-Dartmouth at Bowdoin

The two teams met eight months ago in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Corsairs will be looking for some redemption from their loss in the tournament. The Polar Bears will be ready and I they they will be able to work out some of their kinks in their game. I will take Bowdoin in a 4-2 contest.

Salem State at Connecticut College

The Vikings have struggled so far this year allowing over four goals per game despite having 188 shots on goal this season. They have only allowed 147 shots by their opponents. Connecticut College has had a tough start to the season, losing their first four games. Salem State has had more game action, so I will take them to win a 6-2 game.

Tuesday, Dec. 3

Stonehill at Framingham State

The Rams have been much more competitive this season, so you can’t count them out. For a team like they are who are trying to rebound from a dismal season, they are getting contributions from everyone in the lineup. They will need to be able to stay out of the box and tighten up defensively if they want to win consistently. Stonehill has a decent offense and stays out of the box. so I will take them in a 4-3 victory.

MIAC/WIAC – Brian Lester

It’s another crossover week for teams in the MIAC as teams are participating in a showcase with the NCHA in Appleton, Wis.

Meanwhile, a very light schedule is on tap in the WIAC as Wisconsin-Superior is the only team in action. It takes on

Plattsburgh State Friday in the PrimeLink Great Northern Shootout. The Yellow Jackets will battle Middlebury or Norwich in the finale of the prestigious event.

So without hesitation, here are my picks for the week. And hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

Friday, Nov. 29

St. Olaf vs. Marian

One of the biggest challenges for St. Olaf will be winning away from home. The Oles are 0-4 in true road games and 0-2 on neutral ice. The Oles have just one win and need to generate more offense to be successful. They have just 14 goals while allowing 31. Tough to win games when the scoring stats aren’t in your favor. Marian has won four of its last five and has tallied 26 goals while giving up 21. Tyler Klein has eight of those goals. Marian 5-3.

Lake Forest vs. St. Mary’s

The Cardinals did gain some confidence from earning a series split with defending league tournament champion St. John’s and it will be interesting to see if they build on the momentum. St. Mary’s needs Bobby Marx and Bobby Thompson to thrive offensively, but they also need Christian Gaffy to be on top of his game in goal. Lake Forest has won its last two games and has come through with nine power-play goals. The Cardinals can’t allow Lake Forest to be in man-advantage situations.

St. Mary’s 4-3.

Gustavus Adolphus vs. Lawrence

The Gusties have played well, winning three consecutive games, and that bodes well for them heading into the weekend. They have been very productive on offense, racking up 26 goals, and have spread the wealth behind 38 assists. If that continues, and the defense plays well in front of John McLean, Gustavus has a great chance of continuing its streak. Lawerence has been up and down, but has gotten a lot of scoring from Huck Saunders, who has tallied four goals. Anton Olson is giving up 2.92 goals per game. If the Gusties can strike early, they will be fine. Gustavus 5-2.

Saturday, Nov. 30

St. Olaf vs. Lawrence

St. Olaf has struggled offensively. Lawrence isn’t much better. But the Oles will find a way to steal one on the weekend. St. Olaf, 3-2.

Gustavus vs. Marian

This is a game between two teams that have been on a roll. It should be entertaining and close. I give Gustavus the edge. Gustavus 4-3.

Bethel vs. Concordia (Minn.)

The Royals desperately need a win, but winless on the year, including two losses on neutral ice, this game might not be the place to find its first win of the season. They simply have to be more effective on offense. They have scored only 14 goals and three of those players have accounted for 10 of those goals. Mitch Hughes has led the way with four goals on the season. Concordia has struggled, too, losing its last four. But it has been a little more effective on offense this season. Concordia, 4-2.

WIAC

Superior at Plattsburgh

The Yellow Jackets are making a long trip to New York. They have been good on the road, though, winning two of three, but it’s going to take a heck of an effort to knock off Plattsburgh. The Yellow Jackets have been balanced on offense and have racked up 42 goals. They need to be balanced Friday to be successful. Plattsburgh has yet to lose and has only tied once. Going to be tough to take down the Cardinals on the road. Plattsburgh 5-3.

NESCAC – Tim Costello

This week was a respectable 4-1-0 (.800), bringing the season average to 8-1-1 (.850), but whether in a tournament or facing top-flight nonconference opponents, this week poses many challenges to maintaining the high percentage of successful picks made this season.

No guarantees, but here are the weekend’s picks:

Saturday, Nov. 30

Suffolk vs. Bowdoin

The Colby-Bowdoin Classic finds Bowdoin looking for more consistency than its current record indicates. After the emotional weekend of the longstanding rivalry with Colby, the Polar Bears get back to basics and their winning ways against the Rams from the ECAC Northeast. Bowdoin 4-1.

Amherst @ Babson

This is one of the marquee matchups of the weekend and the two teams in many ways are mirror images of each other. Great balance, strong defense and goaltending and good special teams on both benches, so who blinks first? Actually would like to pick a tie in this one, but both teams know how to make big plays at the right time. I am picking the home team by an eyelash. Babson 2-1.

Wentworth @ Wesleyan

The Cardinals had a tough weekend on the road last week in conference play, so they will be looking to rebound against the Leopards, who are still seeking some overall consistency to their game. First line for Wesleyan is deadly and their prolific scoring continues. Wesleyan 5-2.

Salve Regina @ Trinity

The conference leaders from the ECAC Northeast venture to Hartford looking to benchmark how good their game is against a quality opponent on the road. Trinity is off to a good start and Benjamin Coulthard makes life difficult for the visitors in shutting down their offense in net. Trinity 4-2.

Utica @ Connecticut College

The ECAC West leaders visit the Camels, who are looking to break through with a quality and winning performance. Yes, a little “puck luck” would certainly help the home team in this matchup, but even that isn’t enough against what Utica brings in their game. Utica 5-3.

The matchups this early are truly a Thanksgiving treat – drop the puck!

SUNYAC – Dan Hickling

Friday, Nov. 29

Wisconsin-Superior (3-4-0) @ No. 3 Plattsburgh (6-0-1) – Plattsburgh 6, Superior 1

The Cardinals will use this tilt as a Primelink Shootout tuneup before facing either Norwich or Middlebury (both ranked) the next night.

Saturday, Nov. 30

Fredonia (2-4-1) @ No. 5 Adrian (7-0-0) – Adrian 4, Fredonia 2

Fredonia, making a westward swing to face one of the nation’s strongest squads, should prove to be a learning experience for the youthful Blue Devils.

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