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Down to the final four

The semifinals are set for this weekend with four teams punching their ticket to get one step closer to the Division III national championship in Lewiston, Maine.

Let’s take a look back at the path teams took to get there:

First Round

Alex Larson’s 45-save performance was not enough for Nichols as the Bison fell to Geneseo 3-2.

Norwich beat Salem State 8-2. Three players scored two goals apiece as Travis Janke, Chris Duszynski and Nick Pichette each netted a pair en route to the victory.

Oswego beat Bowdoin 4-3. The Lakers were down 3-1 midway through the third period when they battled back with three unanswered goals.

Quarterfinals

St. Norbert scored three power-play goals to beat Adrian 7-2. Joe Perry scored twice in the victory.

Tyler Brickler provided Geneseo with all three goals in the 3-2 win over Norwich to advance the Knights to semifinals.

Wisconsin-Stevens Point shut out St. Thomas 3-0, scoring three goals in the third period. Brandon Jaeger made 25 saves in the shutout.

Oswego shutout Babson on Sunday afternoon with Matt Zawadzki getting his fourth shutout of season in the 3-0 win.

Frozen Four

St. Norbert will play Geneseo and Wisconsin-Stevens Point plays Oswego Friday night with the two winners playing for all the marbles Saturday night in Lewiston.

Picking a national champion

It’s now down to just the remaining 11 teams starting with the first round on Wednesday night.

Who ends up in the Frozen Four in Maine and what new champion takes home the title for the 2013-14 season?

Our Division III columnists give this their best shot.

Katie Carito

First Round
Geneseo over Nichols
Norwich over Salem State
Oswego over Bowdoin

Quarterfinals
Adrian over St. Norbert
Norwich over Geneseo
Babson over Oswego
Wisconsin-Stevens Point over St. Thomas

Semifinals
Adrian over Norwich
Babson over Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Final
Adrian over Babson

Tim Costello

First Round

Bowdoin @ Oswego
This is the third meeting between the two teams in the NCAA tournament dating back to 2010. Both teams have shown prolific scoring capabilities, but this one is not likely to be like the 2011 game and end up with 12 goals scored. The visitors are at a disadvantage for the long bus trip, but this Bowdoin team seems to thrive on that. Polar Bears win by a goal. Bowdoin 5-4.

Nichols @ Geneseo
The Bison held off a game Wentworth team to win the auto-bid and Geneseo lost a wild one with Oswego 7-6. Something tells me the home team will tighten things up a bit defensively in this game. Geneseo 4-2.

Salem State @ Norwich
Last meeting between the two teams dates back to 2008-09 season when Norwich won by a score of 6-3. I expect this game to be tighter, but still with the home team prevailing and moving on. Norwich 4-1.

Quarterfinals

Adrian @ St. Norbert
Since the Bulldogs went out of the conference playoffs in the semifinals against St. Scholastica they haven’t played a competitive game during those two weeks. Meanwhile, the Green Knights have continued to fine-tune their championship form and take advantage of the practice-prepped Bulldogs. St. Norbert 5-3.

Wisconsin-Stevens Point @ St. Thomas
Both teams are highly-ranked and battle-tested, although the Tommies seem to be peaking at the right time of the season following last weekend’s MIAC conference championship. Home ice matters in this one. St. Thomas 2-1.

Norwich @ Geneseo
They say that having been there before means something, so in a game that matches two very competitive teams against each other, the team with the most experience in postseason play gets the nod and that means Norwich. Norwich 4-2.

Bowdoin @ Babson
These rivals have gone at it since the old ECAC days and sometimes that meant seeing each other three or even four times in a season. They haven’t played since NESCAC became a playing conference, but the rivalry lives on. Babson 3-2.

Semifinals

Norwich vs. St. Norbert
These two teams have played epic battles in the past in both the semis and finals. Add another chapter to the legend that has recently favored the Green Knights and continues in 2014. St. Norbert 3-2.

St. Thomas vs. Babson
This game could go for a while as both teams play extraordinary defense and their goaltending is among the best in the nation. It’s a one-goal contest and may need overtime to determine a winner. Babson 2-1.

Championship

Babson vs. St. Norbert
The battle between the teams in green is everything anyone could want in a championship game. The Green Knights have been here before and that is just enough to get by the Beavers. St. Norbert 2-1.

Nathan Fournier

First Round
Bowdoin at Oswego – Oswego
Nichols at Geneseo – Geneseo
Salem State at Norwich – Norwich

Quarterfinals
Oswego at Babson – Babson
Wisconsin-Stevens Point at St. Thomas – St. Thomas
Geneseo at Norwich – Norwich
Adrian at St. Norbert – Adrian

Semifinals
Babson vs. St. Thomas – St. Thomas
Norwich vs. Adrian – Adrian

Finals
Adrian vs. St. Thomas – Adrian

Dan Hickling

Oswego 4, Bowdoin
Geneseo 5, Nichols 4
Norwich 2, Salem St 0

Oswego 5, Babson 3
St. Thomas 3, Wisc-Stevens Pr 0
Geneseo 2, Norwich 1
Adrian 4, St Norbert 3

Semis
Oswego 4, St Thomas 2
Geneseo 5, Adrian 3

Final
Oswego 3 Geneseo 2

Brian Lester

Geneseo over Nichols, 3-2; Norwich over Salem State 4-2; Bowdoin over Oswego State 3-1; Adrian over St. Norbert 5-3; Babson over Bowdoin 4-2.

Norwich over Geneseo 2-1; Adrian over Norwich 4-2; Stevens Point over Babson 5-2; Stevens Point over Adrian 4-3.

Stevens Point is my national champ.

Champions crowned, tournament berths gained

The three “Ws” of Division III hockey – watching, waiting, worrying.

That was plenty of each to go around for teams with NCAA tournament aspirations, especially for top seeds – including three of five in the East – who fell in this past weekend’s conference championship tilts.

Ultimately, the news from the selectors was good for some and downright disappointing for others.

Here is the roundup:

ECAC EAST

Being the top seed didn’t help Norwich, who fell to No. 2 Babson, 2-1 in the title tilt at Kreitzberg Arena.

The Beavers used two third-period goals, including one by Nik Tasiopoulos at 10:29, to retain its league tournament crown.

Still, the Cadets managed to garner an at-large bid, extending their string of NCAA appearances to five consecutive seasons and eight for their last nine.

ECAC NORTHEAST

Top seed Nichols prevailed over No. 3 Wentworth, but it took Brett Jackson’s tally at 1:41 of overtime to get the job done.

Nichols claims just its second-ever league (and NCAA berth), the first having come in 2009.

ECAC WEST

The upset theme continued in the West where No. 2 Elmira toppled top-seeded Utica, 5-2.

The Soaring Eagles used four unanswered goals – including three in the third period – to take its sixth conference title in seven years.

As the league doesn’t enjoy an automatic qualifier into the tournament and while Elmira had hopes of an NCAA bid, they were shut out by the selectors.

MASCAC

Being ranked No. 1 didn’t hurt Salem State any as the Vikings dropped No. 2 Plymouth State 5-1 to earn their first NCAA bid since 1995.

Chris Mastropietro had a masterful performance, potting three goals and setting up another.

MIAC

Another pitting of top-two seeds, with No. 1 St. Thomas outlasting No. 2 Gustavus Adolphus 2-1.

This one, as they say, went down to the wire, with the Tommies’ Jordan Lovick knocking in the game-winner with just 1:15 to play.

NCHA

Top-seed St. Norbert continued its postseason mastery by winning its fifth consecutive conference tourney – and 10th since 2003 – with a 5-1 trouncing of No. 3 St. Scholastica.

The Green Knights will be considered a top-favorite to win its fourth Frozen Four championship, the last of which came in 2012.

The news was good for No. 2 Adrian, which spent several weeks atop the USCHO.com Division III Men’s Poll, but was upset by St. Scholastica in the semifinals. The Bulldogs have earned an at-large NCAA berth.

NESCAC

Fifth-seeded Bowdoin, which will host the Frozen Four in two weeks, earned a shot to be one of its participants after taking a 3-2 win over No. 2 Amherst in double overtime.

John McGinnis’ game-winner came with just 22 seconds gone in the second extra session.

The Polar Bears have now been NCAA tourney participants four of the past five years.

SUNYAC

Meet the old champs.

Same as the new champs.

That would be Oswego, who repeated as league champions, albeit this time as the third-seed, by knocking off No. 1 Geneseo, in a mad-cap, 7-6 goal-fest.

The Lakers saw a 5-1 lead evaporate, but still managed to pull this one across the line.

Shawn Hulshof’s power-play goal with 28.7 seconds remaining proved to be the difference.

Oswego guaranteed itself its fifth straight NCAA berth – the last two ended in heartbreak with Frozen Four title game losses – while Geneseo made it in as an at-large entry.

WIAC

With no auto-bid to count on, the Wisco quintet has to find other ways to work their way into the NCAA bracket.

Wisconsin-Stevens Point did just that, even though they lost a week ago to defending national champion Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the WIAC quarterfinals.

Eau Claire went on to blank Wisconsin-Superior 3-0 to win the league tournament, but will not have a chance to defend its title as Stevens Point, not Eau Claire, wound up with an at-large invite.

Predicting the conference tournament finals – no easy task

Coulthard sized Predicting the conference tournament finals   no easy task

Do Benjamin Coulthard (goalie) and Greg Rooney have what it takes for Trinity to grab the NESCAC championship on Sunday? (photo: David Kingsley)

It’s time to crown the 2014 Division III conference tournament champions and what better people to prognosticate these important games than our D-III columnists.

The nine teams that take home the titles will have earned them and will taste victory as they never have before.

So who wins? Read on, people. Read on.

ECAC East – Tim Costello

I was all right on the ECAC East playoffs last week, but went wrong on picking their conference partner in the Northeast-10 game over a very deserving Southern New Hampshire team.

The 2-1-0 (.667) pick week assures my finish for the year at 44-24-6 (.635) which is ultimately a miss of my 70 percent target. Just the title game left to pick before resetting for the NCAA tournament.

Here is this week’s pick:

Saturday, March 8

No. 2 Babson @ No. 1 Norwich

The Cadets certainly played some of their best hockey in the last meeting of the regular season in Northfield, but still only eked out a 1-0 win. Chris “Czar-nota goal allowed to Babson” will again be looking to outduel the conference goalie and player of the year down at the other end in Jamie Murray. Both teams find the back of the net in this one and the game-winner takes some bonus hockey beyond the 60 minutes of regulation. Norwich 2-1 (OT).

If you can’t get there, find the webcast as this game will be sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat stuff from start to finish – drop the puck!

ECAC Northeast – Nathan Fournier

Saturday, March 8

Wentworth at Nichols

Nichols sophomores have provided the bulk of the scoring this year as Sean Fleming had 12 goals and 20 assists, while Tyler Beasley had 12 goals and 19 assists. Alex Larson was in goal for 14 of their 17 victories. Wentworth has six guys with 10 or more points this season. Both games this season have been competitive and Nichols won both by 5-3 and 4-3 scores. I expect this will be another close game, but I think Nichols comes away with a 5-4 victory.

ECAC West – Dan Hickling

Saturday, March 8

Elmira (15-10-1, 9-5-1) @ No. 13 Utica (16-6-4, 10-4-1) – Elmira 5, Utica 4

Both teams can score like crazy. This one will be likely be decided by a single bounce.

MASCAC – Nathan Fournier

Saturday, March 8

Plymouth State at Salem State

Salem State has won twice this season in the regular season, while the two teams also tied in the other game. Plymouth State is 7-0-2 in their last nine games, while Salem State is 6-2-1 in their last nine. Plymouth State has six guys with 20 or more points this season and Gordon Ceasar has won 10 of the 15 games he has been in net. Salem State has 12 players with 10 or more points. I have Plymouth State coming out on top in a 3-2 game.

MIAC/WIAC – Brian Lester

Two teams are still standing in the MIAC and in the WIAC as well.

On Saturday night, champions in both leagues will be crowned.

St. Thomas and Gustavus Adolphus, the top two teams in the MIAC this season, will square off for the title in their league, while Wisconsin-Eau Claire will take on Wisconsin-Superior in the WIAC championship game. That matchup will feature the third and fourth seeds in the WIAC tournament.

Both games have the potential to go either way and here are some thoughts on both title games, along with my predictions for the weekend.

MIAC

St. Thomas vs. Gustavus Adolphus

For the Tommies, this is their first championship game appearance in four seasons and they are looking to rise to the occasion one more time.

Goalie Drew Fielding has been flat out phenomenal for the Tommies, who are ranked No. 2 in the country, and he will have to be at his best again for St. Thomas to win.

Fielding owns a goals-against average of 1.39 and has allowed only 25 goals all season. He has tallied 583 saves. If he plays at the level he is capable of playing at, the Tommies are going to be tough to stop.

Offensively, the Tommies have a lot of weapons with Alex Altenbernd leading the way with 11 to go along with 13 assists.

Gustavus has a solid goalie as well in John McLean, who has a goals-against average of 1.96. McLean has given up 48 goals and has made 552 saves on the season. He is no doubt capable of getting the job done against the Tommies.

Gustavus has scored 77 goals and Corey Leivermann has racked up 17 goals and 11 assists to pave the way for the Gusties.

Because both teams have such great goalies, this game will be tight. One goal could be the difference in who wins the title. Gustavus is in the championship game for the third consecutive year and I won’t be surprised if it wins it. But I’ll give the Tommies a slight edge since they are at home. St. Thomas, 2-1.

WIAC

Wisconsin-Eau Claire vs. Wisconsin-Superior

The Blugolds are very good offensively, having tallied 90 goals on the season, and they will go into this matchup as the favorite.

Eau Claire, the defending national champion, went 2-0-1 against the Yellow Jackets this year and will take a lot of confidence into the showdown on Saturday.

Nine players have scored five or more goals, including 11 by Joe Krause, and that balance makes the Blugolds difficult to deal with on the ice.

Eau Claire also has two reliable goalies in Tyler Green (505 saves) and Jay Deo (201 saves) and either one could get the job done in this title game because of how well they play at that position. If the Blugolds get great goaltending again Saturday, they will come out on top.

But you can’t discount Superior. The Yellow Jackets swept Wisconsin-River Falls and have some confidence of their own heading into the weekend as they are riding a three-game win streak.

Superior has come through with 70 goals, but has given up 77.

Michael Ray and Pat Dalbec lead the offensive attack with 15 and 12 goals, respectively, and those two will need to step up again for Superior to win the title.

Dayn Belfour continues to improve in goal and has made 357 saves on the season. Superior could also turn to Drew Strandberg if needed.

I won’t be stunned if Superior wins the WIAC championship, but I always go with the current champs until proven otherwise. Eau Claire, 4-1.

NCHA – Katie Carito

Saturday, March 8

St. Scholastica at St. Norbert

The Harris Cup trophy is on the line this week as an NCHA playoff champion will be crowned. St. Norbert (24-3-1) downed Lake Forest last weekend in the semifinals with a 6-0 score. St. Scholastica (16-8-4) beat Adrian 4-3. I think it’ll be a tight game between the squads, but I think the Green Knights are on a mission and will take the win. St. Norbert 2-1

NESCAC – Tim Costello

What a surprise – not really – that in perhaps the most competitive conference in the country, I go 2-2-0 (.500) in the quarterfinals last weekend.

Those results left my overall season at 47-20-8 (.680), so the semifinals and predicted final result are all I have left to get as close to 70 percent success as possible. Going to be great hockey this weekend in Hartford where Trinity hosts Bowdoin for the very first time on campus.

Here are the picks:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

No. 5 Bowdoin @ No. 1 Trinity

Both games in the regular season went to Trinitym but the last get-together in Brunswick saw bonus hockey, albeit for 24 seconds, in the Bantams’ 5-4 win. This game has all the makings of a great, fast-paced offensive showcase and the fans will not be disappointed. Benjamin Coulthard makes one more save than Max Fenkell and an empty-net goal seals the final score for the host Bantams against the defending champions who bring their “A” game. Trinity 5-3.

No. 3 Williams @ No. 2 Amherst

The two teams split in the regular season and both have the ability to grind it out and play it very close. Special teams may actually be the difference in this one as both goaltenders have been outstanding all year and it may take an extra guy on the ice to find some open space for that big goal. I wouldn’t tighten the skates too quickly in the Trinity and Bowdoin locker rooms as this one could very well see an overtime session or two. Amherst 2-1.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

No. 2 Amherst @ No. 1 Trinity

Obviously, if I am wrong about Saturday, this preview and prediction won’t mean a thing.

But if I am right (there is always hope), the final will be an opportunity for Trinity to avenge two losses in the regular season that represent half of their season total.

It is a classic matchup of offense vs. defense and while I usually believe defense wins out, this one goes to the home team with firepower and the conference player of the year in Jackson Brewer, who is fast approaching the 60-point mark for the season. Trinity gets up early and holds on to win the conference title and likely cements its No. 1 seeding in the East for the NCAA tournament. Trinity 4-2.

Ultimately, this is what the teams play for, a chance to claim a conference championship – drop the puck!

SUNYAC – Dan Hickling

Saturday, March 8

No. 10 Oswego (19-6-2, 10-5-1) @ No. 10 Geneseo (21-5-0, 14-2-0) – Geneseo 4, Oswego 3

Genny has never had a season like this one. Don’t expect it to be short-circuited now.

Midweek picks – ECAC Northeast and MASCAC semifinals

larson alex5 sized Midweek picks   ECAC Northeast and MASCAC semifinals

Can sophomore goalie Alex Larson lead Nichols into the ECAC Northeast championship game (photo: Jill Souza).

The ECAC Northeast and MASCAC tournament semifinals go down this week, with championship hardware to be decided this weekend.

ECAC Northeast

Wednesday, March 5

Curry at Nichols

Curry is playing very good hockey right now, beating Johnson and Wales in the final game of the regular season and Salve Regina in the ECAC Northeast quarterfinals. The Colonels will have to beat another tough test in Nichols, a team they lost both games to in the regular season. They played the Bison tough losing 2-0 and 2-1. I think this will be another good game. Nichols wills fight off rusty legs early on, but will come away with a 4-3 win.

Johnson and Wales at Wentworth

This should be a battle. Wentworth has played well in the second half of the year and Johnson and Wales has been consistent all season long. The teams split this season with each team winning on their home ice. This will be a back and forth game, but I see Johnson and Wales winning this one 5-4

MASCAC

Tuesday, March 4

Westfield State at Plymouth State

This game should be a wide-open contest. The two teams met in the final regular-season contest of the year with Plymouth State winning 5-2. The Panthers did win the season series, though, outscoring the Owls 17-8 in three games. I think this game will be within two goals with the Panthers pulling off the tough task of beating an opponent four times in a year. Plymouth State 5-3.

Framingham State at Salem State

Three weeks ago, Framingham State came away with the 4-3 victory at home. Framingham State is the only team to beat the Vikings at the Richard H. Rockett Arena this season and that’s where this semifinal matchup is being held. Both teams have a win, loss and a draw this season. Someone will have to win this game and I will take the Vikings in a 3-1 game.

Cream rising to the top

The elite teams are rising to the top as the number of participants continues to dwindle down through advanced rounds of the conference playoffs.

There are conference championship games on the horizon along with the highly-coveted NCAA tournament auto-bids that come with the titles.

Here is a recap of the great action across the country in D-II and D-III that has everything in place for a wild finish to conference play everywhere this upcoming weekend and outcomes that may have a huge impact on who gets into the NCAA tournament.

ECAC East

The matchup in the title game that many anticipated is now a reality following semifinal-round wins by both Norwich and Babson.

The Cadets downed fifth-seeded Castleton by a score of 4-3 led by Travis Janke’s goal and an assist. The Cadets spotted the Spartans an early one-goal lead before reeling off four unanswered goals that stood up for the win and the opportunity to once again host the championship game next weekend.

The Beavers spotted Massachusetts-Boston one-goal leads twice in the first two periods of play, but leveraged goals from four different players, including an empty-netter from Nik Tasiopoulos, to seal the 4-2 win and return date with Norwich next Saturday night. Jamie Murray made 25 saves in picking up his 20th win on the season for Babson.

ECAC Northeast

With the top two teams, Nichols and Wentworth, earning byes to this week’s semifinal round on Wednesday, the quarterfinal matchups determined their upcoming opponents.

In a mild upset, Curry defeated Salve Regina by a 4-1 score, despite being outshot by the Seahawks by a 38-18 margin.

Jordan Reed score on a penalty shot in the final minute of the opening period that jump-started the Colonels to a three-goal lead by the five-minute mark of the second period. Derek Mohney, the ECAC Northeast goalie of the year, stopped 37 of 38 shots as the Colonels advance to face top-seeded Nichols.

In the other quarterfinal, Johnson and Wales defeated Suffolk by a score of 7-0. After a sluggish and scoreless first period that saw the Wildcats outshot 8-2, Johnson and Wales kicked its offense into high gear in the second period. Cody Sarmiento scored just 32 seconds into the middle frame and added three more assists as his team put up four goals in the second period and three in the third on just 20 shots on goal. Joey Ballmer stopped 17 shots in earning the shutout. The Wildcats will face Wentworth in the semifinals.

ECAC West

Elmira’s Brian Depp recorded a hat trick for the home team in a hard-fought semifinal-round win over Hobart. Depp opened and closed the scoring for the Soaring Eagles, who needed a three-goal third period rally to overcome the Statesmen by a score of 5-3. Hobart exploded for three goals and outshot Elmira 26-5 in the second period, but the home team returned the favor in the third period, posting a 17-6 shot advantage and scoring three goals themselves to erase a one-goal deficit and earn their spot in the conference final next week.

Manhattanville traveled to face the No. 1 seed Utica Pioneers in the other semifinal played on Sunday afternoon and the Pioneers eked out a 1-0 win with a third-period goal from Jordan Hobiaca just over halfway through the period. Nick Therrien stopped just 16 shots from the Valiants, but made several big stops for the hosts, who now will face Elmira for the conference title next weekend.

MASCAC

Both Plymouth State and Salem State found themselves enjoying well-deserved byes this past weekend while quarterfinal action determined their opponents for the Tuesday night semifinal-round of the conference tournament.

Westfield State got a late first-period goal from T.J. Powers and it held up as the game-winner in a 1-0 win for the Owls over Worcester State. Goaltender Eddie Davey earned the shutout in his 10th win of the season. Westfield State will play Plymouth State on Tuesday night.

In the other quarterfinal, Framingham State took a lopsided 7-1 win over Fitchburg State that was essentially decided in the first 20 minutes of play where the host Rams scored four unanswered goals and cruised to the win. Forward Dean Cavicchi scored two goals and Robert Driscoll added four points for the Rams, who will now play Salem State on Tuesday night.

MIAC

St. Olaf used a 5-3 win over Concordia (Minn.) on Friday night to earn its way into a semifinal matchup with league leaders St. Thomas on Saturday. The Ollies were a game opponent, scoring first against the nationally-ranked Tommies. St Thomas responded with goals from Tyler Gubb and Alex Altenbernd and 22 saves from Drew Fielding to move on to the championship game against Gustavus Adolphus.

The Gusties were also involved in a close playoff matchup with St. John’s despite outshooting the visitors by a wide margin. Twice the home team had to rally from one-goal deficits, scoring the tying goal early in the third period and then celebrating Andy Pearson’s game-winning goal with just 34 seconds remaining in regulation.

NCHA

Adrian’s hopes of facing off against St. Norbert in the championship game next weekend were dashed by a resilient St. Scholastica squad that upset the Bulldogs by a score of 4-3. The Bulldogs outshot their opponent by a 44-24 margin, but could not hold off St. Scholastica, who took advantage of a last-second goal in the second period by Dylan Nowakowski and a goal just over a minute earlier by Brandon Nowakowski to take a 3-2 lead at the break. Adrian tied the game early in the third, but St. Scholastica again responded with Alex Valenti’s unassisted goal just over three minutes into the final period that held up as the game-winner. Tyler Bruggeman made 41 saves for the winners, who now will face the nation’s top-ranked team, St. Norbert, in the conference final next weekend.

St. Norbert made it as easy as 1, 2, and 3 against Lake Forest in their semifinal game. The Green Knights leveraged two goals apiece from Joe Perry and Cullen Bradshaw in scoring once in the first, twice in the second and three times in the third period for the 6-0 win.

NESCAC

The quarterfinal round certainly displayed a lot of offense for the winning teams moving onto next weekend’s final four hosted by Trinity.

The Bantams showed off their potent offense yet again in beating Wesleyan by a score of 9-1. Both Jackson Brewer and John Hawkrigg had six points apiece, while Sean Orlando posted a hat trick that helped him surpass the 20-goal plateau for the season.

Amherst rallied from one goal down in the third period and took advantage of late third-period goals by Brendan Burke and Brian Safstrom to earn a hard-fought 4-2 win over visiting Connecticut College.

Sean Daugherty stopped 47 of 50 shots by Colby and added an assist as one of 14 players on the scoresheet in the Williams 7-3 win over Colby.

Bowdoin proved that a road team could win in this conference with a pivotal second period that took control of the game at Middlebury. Colin Downey and Kyle Lockwood scored two goals apiece for the Polar Bears, who won 6-3, and will now take on the top-seeded Bantams next weekend.

SUNYAC

In a huge rivalry game, Oswego used two third-period goals from Mike Mantagna and Josh Timpano to erase a 1-0 lead for Plattsburgh and earn a shot at the conference title next week against regular-season champ and top-seeded Geneseo.

The Knights scored twice in the second period and goaltender Nick Horrigan continued his torrid play, posting a shutout for Geneseo in their 2-0 win over Buffalo State.

WIAC

Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Wisconsin-Stevens Point squared off in one semifinal series with the Pointers taking the first game on Friday night by a score of 4-2 and the Blugolds taking the contest on Saturday night by a score of 1-0 off a first-period short-handed goal by Joe Krause. A mini-game to decide the series took place immediately after the Saturday night game with the Blugolds coming out on top in the single period affair by a score of 2-1.

The defending national champions survive and move on to the championship game with Wisconsin Superior next Saturday night.

In the other semifinal pairing, Wisconsin-Superior swept Wisconsin-River Falls by scores of 2-1 and 4-0 to advance to the title game. Six different players scored for the Yellow Jackets in the wins.

Northeast-10

The lone championship game this past weekend went to Southern New Hampshire as it defeated St. Michael’s by a score of 4-1.

The Penmen had previously taken out the four-time defending champion Hawks from St. Anselm in the semifinals and completed the sweep of ECAC East teams with a complete victory over the Purple Knights on Saturday afternoon.

Tyler Holske made 44 saves for the victors, who notched their first ever NE-10 title with the win.

Getting down to the nitty gritty

cecka dan sized Getting down to the nitty gritty

St. Olaf senior forward Dan Cecka hopes to help extend the Oles’ season past this weekend (photo: St. Olaf Sports Information).

The Division III playoffs are in full swing and one loss means the skates are hung up for the rest of the season.

Who moves on and who gets set for golf season? Let’s put that in the collective hands of our D-III columnists.

ECAC East – Tim Costello

There is nothing like the feeling of nailing every pick, especially at this time of the year.

An incredible 4-0-0 (1.000) pick week has things looking up heading into the conference semifinals. That brought the overall season to 42-23-6 (.634), which is still short of my 70 percent target.

Not many games left, but will throw in a bonus Northeast-10 pick for their championship weekend and see if that helps the cause.

Here are this week’s picks:

Saturday, March 1

No. 5 Castleton @ No. 1 Norwich

The Cadets have established their own tradition in the past couple of seasons of making things miserable for their in-state rivals in the semifinal round of the conference tournament. Different Castleton team with a different coach, but unfortunately, the same result, albeit closer than the past two seasons. Home team has better balance and experience in big games and that is when it matters the most. Norwich 3-2.

No. 3 Massachusetts-Boston @ No. 2 Babson

The fact is these two team always play high-intensity hockey and both have the same passion and desire to move on to next weekend for a shot at the conference title. It is hard not to go with the home team that has ridden the hot goaltender and overall team game to great success all season. Not convinced it might take some extra time to determine the winner, but someone out of the norm usually does that for the team in green. Babson 2-1.

NE-10 Championship

No. 4 St. Michael’s @ No. 3 Southern New Hampshire

Upsets dominated the semifinal round as SNHU knocked off the defending four-time champs in St. Anselm and St. Michael’s strong play at the end of the season continued when it eliminated top-seeded and previously-unbeaten Stonehill. Dave Donzanti has been terrific in goal down the stretch and Danny Divis continues to impress offensively as the ECAC East and NE-10 rookie of the year. The Purple Knights host hardware after a hard-fought game. St. Michael’s 4-3.

It’s a pretty elite group remaining and no team is looking ahead to anything but this week’s opponent – drop the puck!

ECAC Northeast – Nathan Fournier

Quarterfinals

Saturday, March 1

No. 6 Curry at No. 3 Salve Regina

This will be a very intriguing matchup as both teams have had a solid second half. The second game between these two clubs was closer than the first game. Salve Regina won both games, but the Seahawks needed overtime to win 3-2. I think this will be an offensive game, but I will take Salve Regina in a 5-4 game.

No. 5 Suffolk at No. 4 Johnson and Wales

Johnson and Wales has been one of the more consistent teams in the conference. Suffolk has played well against the top competition in the conference, including a 4-0 win over Wentworth this past Saturday. I expect this to be a close game for two periods, but I think Johnson and Wales has too much depth and will come away with a 6-3 win.

ECAC West – Dan Hickling

Semifinals

Saturday, March 1

Hobart (14-8-4, 7-5-3) @ Elmira (14-10-1, 9-5-1) – Elmira 4, Hobart 3

A week ago, Hobart skated into Elmira and took away two overtime wins. This time, the Soaring Eagles will make home ice a true advantage.

Sunday, March 2

Manhattanville (13-11-2, 5-8-2) @ No. 14 Utica (15-6-4, 10-4-1) – Utica 5, Manhattanville 1

The Pioneers have the look of a defending champion ready for another postseason roll. It’s M’ville’s misfortune to be standing in the way.

MASCAC – Nathan Fournier

Quarterfinals

Saturday, March 1

No. 6 Worcester State at No. 3 Westfield State

The Owls have swept the season series this season against the Lancers. The Lancers have lost six out of their last eight games. Although it’s tough to beat an opponent four times in a season, I expect this to be a closer game than the regular season, but I will take Westfield State in a 3-1 game.

No. 5 Fitchburg State at No. 4 Framingham State

Another matchup where there was a season sweep as Fitchburg State won all three games this season against Framingham State. The two teams just met last week where it was a 3-2 contest. I expect it to be another close contest. I think Framingham State will come away in this game in a 4-3 game.

MIAC/WIAC – Brian Lester

It’s playoff time in the MIAC and WIAC.

This is the time of the year where the action heats up to another level and I’ve decided to look at the Concordia (Minn.)-St. Olaf matchup and the Wisconsin-Stevens Point/Wisconsin-Eau Claire matchups, while trying to predict what next week’s league championship games will look like.

So here are my picks – enjoy the playoffs!

MIAC

Concordia at St. Olaf

The Cobbers and Oles played two tight games during the regular season, with St. Olaf winning 5-4 in the first game. The second game ended in a 2-2 tie.

Concordia needs to get big performances out of Caleb Suderman and Andrew Deters. Suderman has come through with 16 goals and 14 assists, while Deters has tallied nine goals and 21 assists.

The Cobbers are fairly balanced as 14 players have scored two or more goals on the year. Chris Neamonitis owns a 2.57 goals-against average and has racked up 551 saves.

St. Olaf has won four of its last six games and is 6-2-3 at home this year.

Dan Cecka will be counted on to help lead the way in this playoff battle. He comes in with 17 goals and 12 assists on the season.

Peter Lindblad has tallied 14 goals and seven assists. The Oles, like the Cobbers, are balanced offensively as a total of 15 players have scored two or more goals.

Because of that similarity in balance, defense could be the key to success. St. Olaf has Steve Papciak in goal. He has played in 21 games and has allowed 52 goals, while making 532 saves.

Although St. Olaf is at home, I’m going with the upset in this one. Concordia, 4-3.

St. Thomas gets the winner of the Concordia-St. Olaf game, while St. John’s will battle Gustavus Adolphus. Ultimately, I think we will see St. Thomas and Gustavus play for the MIAC title next weekend.

WIAC

Wisconsin-Eau Claire at Wisconsin-Stevens Point

It will be a battle of national powers one more time as the Pointers and Blugolds face off in a two-game series in Stevens Point.

The Pointers have won three of their last four and swept the Blugolds during the regular season.

Stevens Point has scored 123 goals on the year and five players have scored 11 or more goals. Garrett Ladd leads the way with 18 goals and 21 assists, while Kyle Sharkey and Joe Kalisz have tallied 13 goals apiece. Scott Henegar and Nick D’Avolio have tallied 12 and 11 goals, respectively, for the Pointers.

Brandon Jaeger has been solid in goal, allowing just 45 goals and racking up 502 saves.

Eau Claire is the defending national champion and its hopes of defending that title likely hinge on winning this tournament.

The Blugolds have struggled down the stretch, losing three of their last four, but you can never count the champs out. Eau Claire has been led by Joe Krause and Jon Waggoner. Both players have tallied 10 goals apiece.

Tyler Green has spent most of the time in goal, having tallied 473 saves. He has allowed just 36 goals and owns a 2.14 goals-against average. Jay Deo has played in eight games and has racked up 172 saves.

Eau Claire is going to need a tremendous defensive effort to win this series and advance in the tourney. I could see this going down to a third and decisive mini-game, but my money is on the Pointers. Only time will tell, I guess. Stevens Point 4-2, 5-3.

As for the rest of the tourney, I don’t expect Wisconsin-River Falls to have much trouble taking care of business against Wisconsin-Superior. I’m expecting River Falls and Stevens Point to play for the WIAC championship next week.

NCHA – Katie Carito

Semifinals

Lake Forest at St. Norbert

Fourth-seed Lake Forest (15-11-1) will travel to top-seed St. Norbert (23-3-1). The two teams played a home-and-home series earlier this season. The Green Knights held the Foresters to just two goals that weekend as they won 9-1 and 4-1. In this single-game elimination format, I think St. Norbert will advance to the finals. St. Norbert 3-2

St. Scholastica at Adrian

Adrian (22-1-4) traveled to St. Scholastica (15-8-4) in January. The first game of the series saw the two talented teams end in a 1-1 overtime tie. The second game of the series again saw overtime, with the Bulldogs getting the 4-3 win. Adrian has a fantastic home record. Adrian 4-1

NESCAC – Tim Costello

Now that is what I call a bounce-back week!

An awesome 5-0-0 (1.000) week left my overall season at 45-18-8 (.690), so now let’s see if, like the teams themselves, I can stay hot when it matters most in the playoffs.

Here are the picks:

Saturday, March 1

No. 8 Wesleyan @ No. 1 Trinity

The third game between these two teams in just nine days begs the expression about familiarity breeding contempt. Trinity swept both games last weekend – one in a defensive battle and one in an offensive barrage. Don’t expect anything but close in this one because it’s hard to beat a team three times, never mind in a 10-day span. Trinity 4-2.

No. 7 Connecticut College @ Amherst

The two teams played to a tie just about two weeks ago in a game that had all the makings of a playoff game. It was low scoring, tight-checking and limited shots by both teams. See a repeat with an empty-netter creating the final score. Upset alert, upset alert! Connecticut College 3-1.

No. 6 Colby @ No. 3 Williams

The Ephs have really struggled down the stretch and will need to refocus on their game come playoff time. Colby can claim equal struggles over the past few weeks, so who is likely to return to form quicker? I am going with the home team and Sean Dougherty backstopping a win. Williams 3-2.

No. 5 Bowdoin @ No. 4 Middlebury

It is the time of the year when you expect the most from your most experienced players. Boy, have Colin Downey and Louis Belisle from Bowdoin and Middlebury, respectively, delivered for their teams down the stretch with big goals. Not sure if either factors into the decision here, but the guys in the crease surely will and the Panthers are on one of their runs against the defending conference champs. Nothing comes easy and maybe there is bonus hockey in this one. Middlebury 3-2.

At the end of the day, about any team could come out on top in any of these games – drop the puck!

SUNYAC – Dan Hickling

Semifinals

Saturday, March 1

No. 12 Oswego (18-6-2, 10-5-2) @ No. 4 Plattsburgh (12-2-2) – Plattsburgh 2, Oswego 1

If it’s March, it must be time for a playoff clash for these two SUNYAC titans. This will be the sixth such meeting in the past seven years, but just the first in that time as a semifinal. The Lakers won in Platty just a week ago, but twice in a row would be unlikely.

Buffalo State (10-11-5, 6-6-4) @ No. 10 Geneseo (20-5-1, 14-2-0) – Geneseo 3, Buff State 2

If the Bengals had been hotter down the stretch, one could see an upset in the works. Instead, it’s Genny that seems to peaking, and at just the right time.

The weekend that was

Geneseo cele sized The weekend that was

Geneseo topped Fredonia last Saturday to win its first SUNYAC regular-season title since 1990 (photo: Dan Hickling).

Another weekend is in the books in Division III hockey and there was plenty of interesting moments around the nation.

St. Thomas had its bid to finish unbeaten in MIAC play end with a 1-0 loss to St. John’s, while WIsconsin-River Falls nailed down the top seed in the WIAC by knocking off Wisconsin-Stevens Point on Friday.

Plymouth State kept its unbeaten streak going with a shutout win over Framingham State and Babson is headed to the ECAC East tournament semifinals for the 10th time in the last 12 years.

Meanwhile, Geneseo won its first SUNYAC championship in more than two decades.

For more about the weekend that was in college hockey, check out the recap below.

ECAC East

Babson scored five goals in the second period and pulled away for a 6-0 win over Southern Maine in a conference tournament quarterfinal on Saturday.

The Beavers are now 20-4-2 on the season and will head to the tourney semifinals for the 10th time in the last 12 seasons.

Mike Driscoll and Mike Vollmin each scored a goal and dished out an assist in the win.

The Beavers are are unbeaten in their last 17 games at home and are now 19-8-1 lifetime against the Huskies.

Peter Belisle won his 100th game as the head coach of Massachusetts-Boston on Saturday as the Beacons knocked off New England 6-2 in an ECAC East quarterfinal.

Belisle is the all-time winningest coach in program history. He is 100-95-16 in his career at Mass.-Boston. Nathan Milam helped pave the way in the latest win for the Beacons as he scored twice. Travis Daniel scored a goal and an assist to push his career point to 125, which ranks fifth all-time in school history.

ECAC Northeast

Nichols wrapped up its regular season with a 5-5 tie against Western New England on Saturday. The Bison is 16-6-3 overall and in first place in the standings with a 9-3-2 mark.

Evan Jones scored his first goal of the season. The goal gave the Bison a 5-3 lead, but the Golden Bears rallied to force overtime.

Alex Larson and Dylan Woodring split time in goal for the Bison. Larson finished with 28 saves and Woodring made 11 saves.

ECAC West

Manhattanville defeated a ranked opponent for the second time this season as it knocked off Utica 3-1 on Saturday.

The win clinches a home game in the conference tournament for the Valiants, who improved to 12-11 overall and to 5-8-2 in the conference.

Phil Dinner, Mark Rivera and Luc Van Natter all scored goals for the Valiants, who were outshot 29-26. Alex Scola played well in goal as he racked up 28 saves for his ninth win of the season.

MASCAC

Gordon Ceasar turned in another stellar performance in goal, blanking a second straight opponent as Plymouth State notched a 4-0 win over Framingham State on Saturday.

Ceasar made 14 saves in the win and the Panthers dominated offensively as they outshot the Rams 43-14.

Ian McGilvrey helped pave the way as he scored a goal and dished out an assist as the Panthers improved to 12-10-2 overall and 5-0-2 in the conference.

The Panthers stretched their unbeaten streak to seven games and maintain their hold on first place in the standings.

MIAC

St. John’s closed out its regular season with an impressive win as it handed St. Thomas its first conference loss of the season.

The Johnnies earned a 1-0 win over the Tommies and secured the third seed in the upcoming conference tournament. The win by St. John’s ended St. Thomas’ bid to become the first team to go unbeaten in MIAC play since Augsburg did it during the 1981-82 campaign.

Jason Johnson scored the only goal of the game. It was his third game-winning goal of the year and the sixth of his career. Saxton Soley racked up 21 saves to record his second shutout of the year and the fourth shutout of his career.

The Johnnies finished 11-3-2 in MIAC play, marking the first time since the 2005-06 season that it has won 10 conference games.

NCHA

St. Norbert will still be the No. 1 team in the nation this week after sweeping Lawrence in an NCHA Harris Cup playoff quarterfinal series over the weekend.

The Green Knights knocked off the Vikings 5-0 on Friday and then capped the sweep with a 3-1 win on Saturday. Michael Hill helped lead the way as he scored his 17th goal of the season.

Marian Fiala and Sam Higgins also scored goals in the win.

The Green Knights held a 37-15 edge in shots and David Jacobson racked up 14 saves. St. Norbert is now 23-3-1 on the season.

NESCAC

Amherst was playing for the second seed in the upcoming conference tournament when it battled Williams on Sunday and it managed to secure it with a 4-1 win over its rival.

The Jeffs improved to 14-7-3 overall and to 12-4-2 in the conference behind a three-goal third period that sealed the deal.

Michael Cashman tied the score at 1-1 in the second before Ryan Edwards, Elliot Bostrom and Chris Roll all scored goals in the third to lead Amherst to the victory.

Dave Cunningham stepped up in goal as he racked up 29 saves, including 13 in the second, to earn his 12th win of the season.

The win for Amherst was its first since beating Bowdoin on Feb. 8. The Jeffs improved to 6-3 in road games this season.

SUNYAC

Geneseo won the regular-season championship on Saturday as it knocked off Fredonia 6-3. It is the first conference title for the Knights since 1990.

Geneseo will have home-ice advantage throughout the conference tournament.

Garry Childerhose and Tyler Brickler each scored two goals in the win. Zach Martin and David Ripple also scored goals for the Knights, who are 20-5 overall and 14-2 in the conference.

Geneseo held a 36-34 edge in shots and Nick Horrigan made 34 saves en route to his 11th win of the season.

WIAC

River Falls knocked off No. 3 Stevens Point 5-4 on Friday and earned the top seed in the conference tournament in the process.

Alec Hagaman scored two goals to pave the way, while Scott Lewan racked up 34 saves.

Willie Hess scored a goal in the win as well and pushed his to 11 on the season. Hess leads the team in goals scored.

The Falcons are now 15-6-3 overall and 8-3 in the conference. The win was their third consecutive and they also improved to 9-4 on the road this season.

Playing the games that matter

UNE Colby Drost Playing the games that matter

Colby Drost will need to be focused if the University of New England is to get by Massachusetts-Boston this weekend (photo: David Bates/Fotografix Studio).

For some Division III conferences, this weekend is the final go at the regular season.

Others start the playoffs.

Either way, the intensity should be ramped up and players will either show they have ice in their veins or butterflies in their stomachs.

How will this weekend play out? As always, our crack staff has some ideas.

ECAC East – Tim Costello

It all came crashing down in the final week of the regular season and my poor picks hurt the overall record a lot.

An atrocious 2-4-1 (.357) pick week has things looking bleak. That brought down the overall season to 38-23-6 (.612), which is way short of my 70 percent target. It’s all about the conference playoffs now, so maybe a fresh start will help some renewed accuracy.

Saturday, Feb. 22

No. 8 Skidmore @ No. 1 Norwich

The Cadets are back with their game faces fully on based on last week’s clutch performances against two tough conference foes. This one will be closer than the final score indicates as one or more empty-netters make up the difference. Norwich 5-2.

No. 7 Southern Maine @ No. 2 Babson

Expect Dylan Wells to be rather busy in the Huskies net as the Beavers roll four lines – it’s hard to tell any of them apart in terms of their balanced contributions to the scoresheet. It’s too much for a Huskies’ team that has battled all year, but couldn’t quite get over the hump. Babson 4-1.

No. 6 University of New England @ No. 3 Massachusetts-Boston

To beat any team four times in the same season is going to take a lot for the Beacons. Key question is if goalie Colby Drost can keep the Nor’easters in it and if Jared Melman match firepower with a potent Beacon offense. This one comes down to the wire and special teams will be a factor in the outcome in this matchup. Massachusetts-Boston 2-1.

No. 5 Castleton @ No. 4 New England College

The four vs. five game is always a wild one, but the same could be said for all of the quarterfinal pairings this year. Two teams going in different directions at the end of the season and this time home ice isn’t enough to keep the Spartans from advancing to the semis. Castleton 3-2.

Quarterfinals action means have the teams are going home – drop the puck!

ECAC Northeast – Nathan Fournier

Saturday, Feb. 22

Becker at Curry

Becker has been an interesting team the last few weeks as they have been playing everyone tough. Curry will have to be on its toes as both teams are still trying to secure a conference tournament bid. The two teams met last month with Curry winning 2-0. I believe Curry comes out of its funk and wins this one 3-2.

Western New England at Nichols

Western New England is fighting for their playoff lives and will need a win to keep up with Curry and Suffolk. I give the Golden Bears a puncher’s chance against Nichols because the Bison has slipped in some games that they should have won this season. I don’t expect it to be 6-2 game like the first meeting in which Nichols won. I will take the Bison in a 3-1 game.

Wentworth at Suffolk

A rivalry between two schools two and half miles apart with a lot on the line. Suffolk is trying to secure a place in the conference tournament, while Wentworth is trying to get one of the top two spots and a bye into a semifinals. This game is a toss-up, but I will take Wentworth in a 4-3 contest

Sunday, Feb. 23

Johnson and Wales at Salve Regina

Another rivalry game between two Rhode Island schools. In the first matchup at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Salve Regina spoiled Johnson and Wales’ party in a 2-1 game. Salve Regina has taken its experience from the nonconference portion of its schedule and used it in conference and are in the thick of things along with Johnson and Wales. I will take Johnson and Wales in a 5-4 game.

Tuesday, Feb. 25

Western New England at Becker

Who knows where both teams will stand in terms of the playoffs when they drop the puck for this game? My hunch is that the Golden Bears will still be in the hunt and will need to win this game to get in. Becker is that perfect spoiler team and will give Western New England a game. I will take Western New England in a 5-3 game.

Curry at Johnson and Wales.

Another game that Johnson and Wales could possible have nothing to play for. They could be in a position where they can’t get a bye and rest some players heading into the tournament. If that’s the case, that opens the door for Curry to secure their berth and/or knock out Suffolk or Western New England. Johnson and Wales has more talent so I will take them in a 6-3 contest.

ECAC West – Dan Hickling

Friday, Feb. 21

Neumann (9-10-4, 4-7-2) @ Nazareth (7-15-1, 3-9-1) – Nazareth 5 Neumann 4

Both teams want to be THAT team that no one wants to meet in the playoffs. This game, the first of a two-game set, should bolster that notion for at least one of them.

Saturday, Feb. 22

Manhattanville (11-10-2, 4-7-2) @ No. 13 Utica (14-5-4, 9-3-1) – Utica 5 Manhattanville 2

If the ECAC West regular-season championship is still undecided Saturday, expect the defending champion Pioneers to go all out to grab it.

MASCAC – Nathan Fournier

Saturday, Feb. 22

Framingham State at Plymouth State

This is the matchup of the night in the MASCAC as this game could be a deciding factor on who heads straight to the semifinals of the MASCAC tournament and who has to play in the quarterfinals. Both teams have won on the road in their first two meetings of the season, but I believe that won’t be the case this time around. It will be a very good game and Framingham State can win, but I see Plymouth State winning 3-2.

Fitchburg State at Salem State

Salem State seems like it have been pulling from the pack as they sit on top of the standings. Fitchburg State is in the middle of a tough stretch to end the season and pretty much everybody has struggled at Salem State this season. I think Fitchburg State hangs around with Salem State for two periods, but Salem State pulls away in the third period to win 5-2.

Westfield State at Worcester State

Westfield State is one of those teams in the running for a bye into the semifinals. The Owls have had no problem this season against the Lancers and I don’t see that changing this time around. With a lot on the line for the Owls, I see them coming away with the 4-1 victory.

Tuesday, Feb. 25

Fitchburg State at Massachusetts-Dartmouth

This is a very intriguing game. Both teams are still alive for the conference tournament, but UMass-Dartmouth is hanging on by a thread. It’s quite possible by the time this game happens all UMass-Dartmouth is playing for is pride and being spoilers. I think they come out and play hard if that’s the case in a 4-3 victory.

Worcester State at Salem State

Worcester State could be in the same position as UMass-Dartmouth, but the Lancers have a tougher task at hand. Salem State is running on all cylinders at the right time. Some may say they are peaking too early, but time will tell. I think the Salem State seniors will win their final regular-season game at home 5-1.

Plymouth State at Westfield State

This could be a possible semifinal match up in the conference tournament. This is another game on the docket that could determine who would host that semifinal game and who would have to play in the quarterfinals. Both games have been high-scoring affairs this season with Plymouth State winning 6-4 and 6-2. I say they complete the sweep in a playoff atmosphere 4-2 win.

MIAC/WIAC – Brian Lester

It’s the final week of the regular season and the stakes are high for several teams. In the MIAC, Concordia (Minn.) is in wait-and-see mode for the playoffs as St. Olaf and Augsburg square off.

The Cobbers will be in the playoffs as long as the Auggies don’t earn a sweep in regulation.

In the WIAC, Wisconsin-River Falls takes on Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Wisconsin-Eau Claire and if the Falcons win both games, they will win claim the league championship.

Here are my predictions for the weekend.

MIAC

St. Olaf vs. Augsburg

St. Olaf sits in third place in the standings, but only has a one point lead over St. John’s. This series for the Oles carries a lot of weight in terms of playoff positioning.

The Oles have scored 68 goals and have allowed 66. St. Olaf has won five of its last six games and is led by Dan Cecka, who has scored 16 goals and dished out nine assists.

If he has a big weekend, St. Olaf has a chance to win both games and head into the postseason with momentum.

Augsburg is in desperation mode. The Auggies have won two consecutive games and have been effective on offense as they have tallied 72 goals. They have given up 63.

Ben McClellan leads Augsburg with 14 goals and five assists.

Both offenses should be able to create opportunities, which means the team that plays the best defense is going to prevail. St Olaf, 4-2, Augsburg 3-2.

St. Thomas vs. St. John’s

The Tommies have the league title wrapped up and have home-ice advantage throughout the conference tournament.

But this is a series between two rivals and St Thomas needs to show up ready to play to avoid an upset against a St. John’s team still fighting for playoff positioning.

For the Tommies, it’s all about goaltending. If Drew Fielding plays his best, the Tommies are going to be in a position to win both games. Fielding owns a 1.44 goals-against average and has racked up 524 saves. If he plays well and the Tommies continue to be balanced on offense, St. Thomas will head into the tournament on a 10-game win streak.

But I could see the Johnnies stealing one if they play up to their potential. St. John’s has won four consecutive games and Saxton Soley has been solid in goal. He has a 2.08 goals-against average and has made 443 saves. The Johnnies need him to play well to have a shot at victory.

Offensively, St. John’s has racked up 65 goals and is fairly balanced as well. Defense will decide this series. St. Thomas 5-2, St. John’s 4-3.

WIAC

Wisconsin-River Falls vs. Wisconsin-Eau Claire

The Falcons are scheduled to play Stevens Point today on the road, but have the luxury of playing the Blugolds at home.

This should turn out to be quite a battle. The Falcons have won their last two games and have racked up 70 goals. Their offense is balanced and seven players have scored at least six goals on the season. Willie Hess leads the way with 10 goals.

Scott Lewan and Tanner Milliron are both capable of playing well in goal and the defense of the Falcons will need to be solid to match the effort the Blugolds will give on defense.

Tyler Green owns a goals-against average of 2.08 and has made 448 saves. The defending national champions have tallied 83 goals on the offensive end of the ice and Jon Waggoner leads the way with 10 goals and eight assists.

If Eau Claire is on top of its game, it has a shot at getting the job done on the road, where it is 7-3-1 this season. This game could go either way. Blugolds, 4-2.

Wisconsin-Stevens Point vs. Wisconsin-Superior

The Pointers are a machine on offense, having cranked out 115 goals on the year while allowing only 44.

Garrett Ladd has been unreal, tallying 18 goals and dishing out 20 assists, while four other players have scored at least 10 goals. Brandon Jaeger has been rock solid in goal. He owns a 1.89 goals-against average and has tallied 463 saves.

If the Pointers play their game, no way do they lose to Superior, which comes in on a two-game losing streak.

Superior has managed only 53 goals and has given up 67. Pat Dalbec leads Superior with 10 goals and 11 assists.

The Yellow Jackets have played well at times, including battling the Pointers to a 4-4 tie earlier this season. But Stevens Point is on a mission to win a league title and I expect them to get the job done. Stevens Point, 7-3.

NCHA – Katie Carito

Lawrence at St. Norbert

St. Norbert (21-3-1) has the edge going into the tournament as the No. 1 seed. Lawrence (6-17-2) slipped into the playoff race on Saturday night. I think the Green Knights will have this quarterfinal series. St. Norbert 3-2, 2-1

Milwaukee School of Engineering at Adrian

This will be an exciting series as the two teams have a storied rivalry, especially during playoffs. MSOE (7-17-1) has powered through the second half of the season and come into the playoffs as the seven seed. Adrian (20-1-4) has had a bulldozer season and is the No. 2 seed going into the weekend. Adrian 3-2, 2-1

Concordia (Wis.) at St. Scholastica

Concordia is making a conference playoff appearance for the first time since 2008-09. The Falcons (10-11-4) will be heading to St. Scholastica (13-8-4), who ended the regular season at third in the standings. St. Scholastica 2-1, Concorida 2-1, Mini game St. Scholastica 1-0

Marian at Lake Forest

The Marian Sabres (11-12-2) saw a seven-game win streak snapped on Saturday as they fell 3-1. Lake Forest (14-10-1) hasn’t been able to get past the quarterfinals since the 2009-10 season. The Foresters will have home ice in the opening round of the playoffs. Lake Forest 2-1, Marian 2-1, Mini game Lake Forest 1-0

NESCAC – Tim Costello

Wow! Can I not pick them or what?

A tough 1-3-2 (.333) week left my overall season at 40-18-8 (.667), so now it is about being bulletproof in the final week of the regular season to have a shot at my targeted goal.

Friday, Feb. 21

Bowdoin @ Connecticut College

The Polar Bears are in a very tight battle for the fourth seed and the Camels have visions of getting there, too. This one is just like a playoff game and the visitors eke out a win for a very valuable two points. Bowdoin 3-2.

Wesleyan @ Trinity

The Connecticut shootout means much to both teams. The offense from the Bantams might just be too much for the Cardinals, who always play tough at home. Trinity 3-1.

Colby @ Tufts

The Jumbos have played hard all season, so Colby best not take them lightly and expect an easy two points. The game is as close as the score and the Mules get back to winning with some strong defensive hockey. Colby 3-2.

Saturday, Feb. 22

Amherst @ Middlebury
It is what most coaches in the league hoped wouldn’t happen, but if last week’s taking of three of four points from Williams is indicative of the Panthers down the stretch, they could give a lot of teams trouble in the conference tournament. Amherst still has shot at the top spot, so it could be another OT-deciding goal that separates these two rivals. Middlebury 2-1.

Hamilton @ Williams

Williams has stumbled a bit in the last two weeks and can’t get back to the top of the ladder, but they could pass Amherst with some help. Back to basics and their winning ways against a game Hamilton squad that competes hard every game. Williams 4-2.

Could be chaos analyzing tiebreakers to determine final seeding come Sunday – drop the puck!

SUNYAC – Dan Hickling

Friday, Feb. 21

Cortland (4-15-1, 3-9-2) @ No. 4 Plattsburgh (28-3-2, 11-2-1) – Plattsburgh 4 Cortland 1

A bit of giant-killing would be very much to Cortland’s liking, but the Cardinals are clicking now and aren’t likely to stumble.

Saturday, Feb. 22

Buffalo State (9-9-5, 6-4-4) @ Brockport (8-12-3, 5-8-1) – Brockport 3, Buff State 2

Brockport could still have a playoff berth on the line by then, which should be incentive enough to push the Golden Eagles to a win.

Champions getting crowned

Scorcia sized Champions getting crowned

Salve Regina captain John Scorcia scored twice with an assist in the Seahawks’ win over Becker last Wednesday (photo: Andrea Hansen).

The rundown from an exciting past weekend…

ECAC East

The Norwich Cadets captured their 16th straigh ECAC East crown with victories over Babson and Massachusetts-Boston. They defeated Babson 1-0 on Friday night with the goal coming from Dean Niezgoda in the first period and Chris Czarnota stopping all 10 shots. Saturday night, Norwich defeated UMass-Boston 5-3. Stephen Buco had two goals and Travis Jenke had a goal and a helper in the victory.

Both Babson and UMass-Boston tied St. Michael’s over the weekend. UMass-Boston earned 4-4 tie Friday and the Beavers earned a 1-1 tie on Saturday night.

ECAC Northeast

League-leading Nichols’ lone game over the week was on Tuesday with a 5-3 win over surging second-place Wentworth. The Bison jumped out to a 4-0 lead with goals from Mike Weaver, Seth Swanson, Sean Fleming and Mike Schwartz. Wentworth responded with goals from Jordan Bourgonje, Kevin Crowe and Andrew Yarber. Greg Strootman added the empty-netter.

Wentworth defeated Becker 5-3 on Saturday.

Third-place Salve Regina picked up a 6-1 win over Becker on Wednesday. John Scorcia had two goals and an assist in the victory. Alec Butler potted a goal and two assists.

Johnson and Wales picked up a 6-3 win over Western New England Saturday. Fran Mackin had a hat trick and Alan Martin had a pair of his own.

ECAC West

Elmira earned three points over Manhattanville and is in a first-place tie with Utica. The two teams skated to a 1-1 tie on Friday night. Luc Van Natter scored for Manhattanville, while Saturday night was an offensive showdown with Elmira winning 7-4. Jordan Robertson had two goals for Elmira. Jake Mooney had a goal and assist.

Utica picked up a 5-2 victory over Nazareth. Jon Gaffney had a goal and two assists to lead Utica. Nick Therrien had 27 saves.

MASCAC

Salem State continues to be on the top of the MASCAC standings with a 5-2 win over Massachusetts-Dartmouth Saturday night. Mark Macdonald had a hat trick, while Jacob Strzalkowski and Ian Canty also scored for the Vikings. Shaun Walters had both goals for UMass-Dartmouth.

Both Framingham State and Westfield State are two points behind Salem State. Westfield State had a 4-0 win over Fitchurg State. Taylor Murphy had a goal and assist, while Eddie Davey stopped 29 shots for the shutout. Framingham State doubled up Worcester State 4-2. Brandon McCarron potted two goals in the victory.

MIAC

The top two teams in the MIAC met this weekend for two games. St Thomas swept Gustavus Adolphus 4-2 and 4-1 on the weekend. Alex Niestrom had two goals and Tyler Gubb had two assists. Jordan Lovick and Connor McBride also scored. Corey Leivermann scored twice for Gustavus Adolphus. On Saturday, Bryce Walker had a goal and assist for St. Thomas, while Leivermann picked up Gustavus Adolphus’ lone goal.

Third-place St. Olaf had the weekend off.

NCHA

First-place St. Nobert had no problem with Northland this weekend with back-to-back shutouts on Friday and Saturday. On Friday, St. Nobert defeated Northland 10-0 and 7-0 on Saturday. Michael Hill had four goals on Friday and Brandon Hoogenboom had a hat track Saturday.

St. Norbert clinched its 14th Peters Cup (NCHA regular-season championship) in the last 18 seasons in the 7-0 victory.

Second-place Adrian swept Lake Forest with a 4-2 victory on Friday and a 6-5 overtime thriller on Saturday. Ryan Lowe, Zach Wilson, Jeremy Olinyk and Duston Hebebrand tallied on Friday for Adrian. Kevin Balas potted a hat trick, including the overtime goal. Zach Wilson, John Ranalli and Hebebrand also lit the lamp in Saturday’s action.

NESCAC

Top team in the NESCAC, Trinity, took out the two Maine schools in Bowdoin and Colby. On Friday, they needed overtime to defeat Bowdoin 5-4. Ryan Cole had two goals and assisted on the OT goal that was scored by John Hawkrigg, who also had three assists in the game. On Saturday, Trinity doubled up Colby 4-2 with Hawkrigg notching two goals.

Amerst, the second-place team in the NESCAC,. earned two 1-1 ties last weekend. On Friday, they faced Connecticut College where Topher Flanagan scored the lone goal for Amherst. Jake Turrin scored on Sunday in the game against Tufts.

SUNYAC

Geneseo, the top team in the SUNYAC, picked up two 3-2 victories over the weekend. On Friday, Geneseo defeated Oswego as Zachary Vit had a goal and assist, Ryan Stanimir and David Ripple also scored, while Chris Waterstreet and Matt Galati scored for Oswego. On Saturday, they defeated Cortland where Vit had another goal and assist. Tyler Brickler and Jack Ceglarski scored.

Second-place Plattsburgh had the holiday weekend off.

WIAC

Wisconsin-River Falls has a one-point lead over Wisconsin-Stevens Point for the top spot in the conference. River Falls defeated Wisconsin-Stout over the weekend. They defeated Stout 9-3 on Friday where Blake Huppert had two goals and four assists. On Saturday, they needed overtime in the 3-2 win. Christian George had the hat trick.

Stevens Point swept Wisconsin-Eau Claire over the weekend. Friday night, they lit the lamp six times in the 6-1 win. Joe Kalisz had two goals, while Brandon Jaeger made 25 saves. On Saturday, Eau Claire sent Stevens Point into overtime where Stevens Point came way with 2-1 win. Kyle Sharkey and Garrett Ladd scored.