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College Hockey:
Starting off 2014 with predictions

All that is left of the fruitcake is crumbs and memories, Santa is back home resting and the trees and decorations are being put away.

Resolutions have been made and in most cases, already broken.

That said, the men’s Division III conferences get back to work this weekend and our crack staff has returned with its picks for this weekend’s games and contests that go down next week.

ECAC East – Tim Costello

The last week’s picks of the first half finished at 3-0-0 (1.000), which brings this season total to an excellent 19-6-3 (.707). The New Year starts out with some nonconference and tournament action that will definitely challenge my accuracy in the second half.

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Jan. 3

Milwaukee School of Engineering @ Norwich

The Cadets host the Northfield Savings Bank Holiday Tournament annually and look to get off to a good start by being not-so-gracious hosts to their visitors from the west. The likely matchup with Amherst on Saturday should be a great one, but the Cadets won’t get caught looking past MSOE. Norwich 5-2.

Nichols @ Skidmore

This non-conference matchup is so close that I should pick a tie, but will give the Thoroughbreds the win based on home-ice advantage and their ability to take advantage of it. The big sheet will challenge both teams to find their skating legs early in the second half following the holiday break. Skidmore 4-3.

Salve Regina @ Castleton

The Spartans host another nonconference foe to open the second half and should not take this ECAC Northeast opponent lightly. Special teams are the likely difference maker in this one with an empty-netter accounting for the final marker. Castleton 5-3.

St. Anselm @ Potsdam

It is a homecoming of sorts for coach Ed Seney at Potsdam in this nonconference game. The Hawks got it going to wrap up the first half and look to extend their current win streak against a quality SUNYAC opponent. Great goaltending and just enough offense are the difference-makers in this one. St. Anselm 4-3.

Neumann @ Southern Maine

Both teams are still looking for the consistency needed to compete at the top of their respective leagues. The Huskies had it going, but floundered a bit to end the first half, so look for a lot of jump against a tough team from the ECAC West to start play in the New Year. Southern Maine 4-3.

Nothing better to ring in the New Year than starting the second half with a win or two – drop the puck!

ECAC Northeast – Nathan Fournier

Friday, Jan. 3

Trinity at Becker

This isn’t a matchup Becker wants to start the second half of the year with Trinity’s strong start. The Bantams’ offense has carried them to a 6-2 record so far. They won’t panic if Becker gets on the board first as Trinity is a perfect 4-0-0 when scored on first. Becker will have a tough time scoring, in my opinion, and will fall 5-2.

Salve Regina at Castleton

The Seahawks will have had 26 days off since they lost 5-1 to Utica. With that bad taste in their mouth, I expect them to come out firing against Castleton. They also need a victory on the road and a nonconference victory. It shouldn’t be a cakewalk as Castleton carries a 6-4-1 record this season. They have offensive depth that could be a problem for Salve Regina, who will squeak out a 4-3 victory.

Nichols at Skidmore

The Thoroughbreds have played strong in nonconference play. They are very strong defensively, only allowing 2.55 goals per game and their penalty kill is shutting down the opponents power play 88.7 percent of the time. Nichols will rely on goaltender Alex Larson, who has been simply outstanding this season. I think Larson will be too much for Skidmore in a tight 3-2 victory.

Curry at Oswego

Curry will have its hands full with Oswego. I don’t believe Curry is at the same level and will have trouble containing the Lakers. Curry will have to get better offensively in the second half of the season. I have the Lakers winning this one 7-1.

The winner of this game will face the winner of Utica/Wisconsin-Stout game on Saturday, while the losers face off the same day.

Saturday, Jan. 4

Nichols at Castleton

This should be a very good and compelling contest. The Spartans have the offensive firepower to put pressure on Nichols’ goaltender Alex Larson. They also feel comfortable at home with a 4-2 record. Nichols can exploit their penalty killing, though, as the Spartans only kill off 71.4 percent of their opponents’ power plays. The Bison power play converts 20 percent of the time. Nichols will take this one 4-3.

Salve Regina at Skidmore

Another good contest. If Salve Regina wants to pick up the victory, it will have to get off to fast start as they are 3-0 when scoring first. They are also 6-1 when outshooting their opponent. Both teams will be facing the second game of a back-to-back. Expect both teams to be a little sluggish and I have Skidmore to come out with a 5-3 victory.

Western New England at Trinity

This should be a very good game between two teams that know how to put the puck in the net. Fourteen of Western New England’s 38 goals have come on the man-advantage, while Trinity has scored 12 times on their 30 total goals. I expect both teams to score at least three goals at least in a wide open game. I will take Trinity in a 7-4 game.

Suffolk at Massachusetts-Boston

A very tough challenge for Suffolk against UMass-Boston to open up the second half of the year. UMass-Boston will have to make sure they aren’t looking ahead to the Fenway Park game against Salem State on Tuesday, as Suffolk could surprise them. The Rams will need a big game from Tim Sprague and Charlie McGinnis. I will take UMass-Boston 6-1.

The winner will face the winner of the Southern New Hampshire-Tufts game, while the losers will face each other in the third-place game of the Codfish Bowl on Sunday.

Tuesday, Jan. 7

Framingham State at Western New England

The Golden Bears are going to be playing in their second game of six games in 10 days. It will be very important for them to rack up wins early in that stretch before they head out to New York to face Brockport and Utica on Jan. 9 and 10, respectively. For Framingham State, they look to continue their momentum from a strong first half of the season. In the end, I will take the Golden Bears as I like their depth in a 4-2 game.

Wednesday, Jan 8

Westfield State at Becker

Westfield State will be looking for their first nonconference win of the season when they travel to Becker. They have the offense to make that happen, but their defense will need to tighten up up as they are allowing 3.55 goals per game. Becker, with only one win on the season, is hoping 2014 will be more kind to them. I will take Westfield in a 5-1 game

Thursday, Jan. 9

Johnson and Wales at Massachusetts-Dartmouth

Johnson and Wales will look to their offensive totals against UMass-Dartmouth. They are at their best when they come out of the gate strong in the first period. UMass-Dartmouth only has two wins on the season when they were leading after one period. If the Corsairs can stop the line of Josh Obregon-Cody Sarmiento-Stefan Brucato, they could have a chance with an upset. I won’t bet on that happening and will take Johnson and Wales in a 7-2 victory.

Wentworth at Plymouth State

I believe the Leopards will have their hands full with Plymouth State. Not too many goal-scorers have emerged in the first half with only two players having four goals so far this season. It’s a game where Plymouth State can build off confidence with a strong defensive effort. I expect Ian McGilvrey and Zack Sarig to lead Plymouth State to a 6-3 victory.

Western New England at Brockport

The Golden Bears continue their road trip against the Golden Eagles. This is a very winnable game for Western New England. Brockport has allowed 52 goals this season in 12 games, so the Golden Bears will be licking their chops. Brockport hasn’t been able to keep games close this season, so expect Western New England to potentially jump on them early. I have Western New England winning this one 8-2.

ECAC West – Dan Hickling

Friday, Jan. 3

No. 9 Utica vs. Wisconsin-Stout @ Oswego – Utica 4, Stout 0

This is the opening tilt of Oswego’s Pathfinder Bank Classic. The question is not the result, but which Pioneer goaltender — senior Nick Therrien or freshman Marcus Zelzer — will get the win.

Neumann vs. Southern Maine @ Middlebury – Neumann 3, USM 0

Knights’ senior goalie Braely Torris spent two years in the nets for USM. Don’t think he wouldn’t love to slam the door on his old mates.

MASCAC – Nathan Fournier

Friday, Jan 3

Wentworth at Salem State

Salem State is coming off a loss to Babson and Wentworth lost to Colby on Thursday. This could be a trap game with a Wentworth squad struggling and Salem State looking at a big matchup with Massachusetts-Boston on Tuesday as part of the Frozen Fenway festivities. I think Wentworth will suprise Salem State and get on a winning track in a game that will feature some offense – Wentworth Leopards win 5-1.

Amherst at Plymouth State

A tough game for Plymouth State coming back from the break. Amherst is the 15th-ranked team in the country. Amherst is only averaging 2.88 goals per game so far this season and Plymouth State has had plenty of offensive shootouts this season. It will be interesting how special teams will play a part in this contest with Plymouth State’s power play at 27.1 percent and the Lord Jeffs’ penalty kill at 89.8 percent. I will take Amherst in a 4-3 game.

The winner will face the winner Norwich-Milwaukee School of Engineering game on Saturday and the two losers will face off also on Saturday.

Tuesday, Jan 7

Salem State at Massachusetts-Boston (at Fenway Park)

What a treat for these two teams to get an opportunity to play at one of the most historic ballparks in the country. The key to this game is to make sure players don’t get awestruck. The team that can keep their emotions in check will probably come out on top. UMass-Boston was clicking offensively in the first half and look to continue the same in the second half. The key for Salem State is to keep the game close as they are 4-1 in one-goal games. I have UMass-Boston in a 5-3 game.

Assumption at Fitchburg State

Fitchburg State eases into the second half of the season with an Assumption squad that has been struggling this season. They are scoring a little over two goals this season. The one positive for Assumption has been their penalty kill this season at 85.2 percent. I believe Fitchburg has too much offense for Assumption to contain and I will go with the Falcons in a 6-2 victory.

NESCAC – Tim Costello

It will be quite a challenge to maintain the picks at the level of the first half that finished at 12-1-2 (.867). Interesting nonconference and tournament action to kick things off in 2014, so here are the picks for this weekend:

Friday, Jan. 3

Plymouth State vs. Amherst

Amherst, hopefully, has healed a few bodies over the holiday break that will add to their depth. Too strong in all three zones for the Panthers, who show they can compete with any top team in the country. Amherst 4-2.

Hobart vs. Williams

The Ephs should get the chance to play against the nation’s No. 1 team, but will need to play solid against a feisty Hobart team that is much better than their record indicates. Frozen Fenway date looming early next week, but the Ephs get the job done in typical close fashion. Williams 3-2.

St. Michael’s @ Middlebury

Hosting your own tournament does put a little pressure on the home team, but not as much as what they put on themselves to get the second half off to a good start. The Purple Knights are winless so far this season and the Panthers keep them that way on Friday. Middlebury 5-2.

Trinity @ Becker

The Bantams should be focused and healthy for this nonconference matchup. After stumbling in the first half against Stonehill, look for Trinity to come out strong early against Becker. Trinity 3-1.

Saturday, Jan. 4

New England College @ Wesleyan

The Cardinals have shown their offensive prowess in the first half and face a team that has won with a lot of different strengths. Expect this game to be physical and a power-play or shorthanded goal to be the difference in the game. Wesleyan 4-2.

No easy ones for anyone to start the second half, so you better be ready to play – drop the puck!

SUNYAC – Dan Hickling

Friday, Jan. 3

No. 2 Adrian @ Buffalo State – Buff State 3, Adrian 2

It’s tough to pick against the second-ranked team in the nation, especially one of the few unbeatens left in the land. But in this case, we will. Buff State has the makings of a very good team, provided all parts of its game is in synch. This could be the night for that.

Hamilton @ No. 1 Plattsburgh – Plattsburgh 5, Hamilton 1

The Cardinals are primed to pick up where they left off before the break when they were clicking on all cylinders. Hamilton, a middle-of-the-pack NESCAC squad, can give the nation’s top-ranked team a good game, but not good enough.

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