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Weekend picks are in

 

Lino Chimienti sized Weekend picks are in

Hobart and netminder Lino Chimienti face Nazareth Friday night (photo: Dan Hickling).

Our East columnist, Dan Hickling, and our West columnist, Brian Lester, are back at it this week with their picks for the weekend’s top games.

BRIAN LESTER

Another weekend of college hockey is about to begin.

For some teams, conference play continues this week while other teams are set to battle in pivotal nonconference games that will prove beneficial in the long run.

One of the big matchups of the weekend is St. Thomas’ showdown with Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The two teams met in the NCAA tournament a year ago, with the Pointers winning and going on to finish as the national runner-up.

The Tommies come in at 1-1-2 on the season and will face a huge challenge on the road against the Pointers.

St. Thomas is led by Willie Faust, who has tallied three of the team’s seven goals. He no doubt needs to have a big game for St. Thomas to thrive.

Drew Fielding is allowing 1.69 goals per game and has tallied 82 saves. His play between the pipes will go a long way in determining how the Tommies fare against the sixth-ranked Pointers.

Stevens Point comes in stinging from a 3-2 loss to St. Olaf and is eager to get back on track.

Lawrence Cornellier leads a balanced attack, having tallied three goals. Four others have scored at least two goals. The Pointers have been particularly tough on defense, allowing only four goals. Brandon Jaeger has shined in goal, making 73 saves.

This one will be close, but with the Pointers being at home, they get get the edge. Stevens Point, 3-2.

Other predictions for the weekend:

Gustavus Adolphus (2-2) vs. Concordia (Minn.) (2-2): The Gusties enter their first league series of the season averaging nearly four goals per game. They have scored 13 on the season. Jake Bushey has fueled the attack with our goals. Gavin Tufte has scored twice. Gustavus has yet to give up a power play goal and Erik Johnson has stepped up between the pipes. He has racked up 107 saves in four games.

The Cobbers have shown a lot of potential on offense as well, scoring 12 goals so far. Jon Grebosky has been the top scoring threat, having tallied four goals and an assist. Andrew Deters has also played well. He has scored once and dished out three assists.

Concordia has the luxury of playing both of these games at home and should at least be able to to steal one of them in a battle of two teams that made the MIAC playoffs a year ago. Concordia 4-3, Gustavus 5-3.

St. John’s (2-0-2) vs. St. Olaf (1-3): Another matchup of two MIAC playoff teams from a year ago. The Johnnies have yet to lose and have shown they have the potential to be a very good team after playing Wisconsin-Eau Claire to a 3-3 tie last week.

The Johnnies have scored 11 goals, with Neal Smith paving the way with four. Saxton Soley is one of the top goalies in D-III hockey and his play will be key in the series. He owns a goals-against average of 1.88 and has made 88 saves in three starts.

St. Olaf dropped three of its first four, but did knock off Stevens Point last week for its first win. The Oles are led by Brian Hickey, who has scored two of the team’s eight goals. Steve Papciak has made 96 saves. If St. Olaf can duplicate its effort against the Pointers, they will at least get a split in this home-and-home series. St. Olaf 3-2, St. John’s 5-3.

Augsburg (3-1) vs. Wisconsin-River Falls (2-0): The Auggies are riding high after winning their last two, scoring 10 goals in two games against Bethel. Mark Ohnstead has paced the offense with four goals. Dylan Meier and Rory Vesel have tallied two goals apiece. The Auggies play well as a team. They have dished out 24 assists, including five from Ben McClellan and four from Zach Dick. A total of 14 players have registered at least one assist.

The Falcons have already beaten two MIAC teams and have scored nine goals in their first two games. Alex Murphy is off to a great start, scoring four goals, while goalie Tanner Milliron has come up with 52 saves.

River Falls has been particularly efficient on the power play, having tallied five goals already, but I think Augsburg goes on the road and gets the win. Augsburg, 4-3.

St. Norbert (4-0, 4-0 NCHA) vs. Lake Forest (2-1, 1-1): The defending national champions have been an offensive machine through four games, racking up 28 goals. Ten players have scored at least two goals apiece. The Green Knights have also been sensational on the defensive end of the ice, allowing just four goals on 59 shots. David Jacobson has been solid between the pipes, making 47 saves in three starts. Tony Kulava has started once and has made eight saves.

For Lake Forest, this series is a chance to make a statement against the No. 1 team in the country. The Foresters have shown off their potential to be solid on offense and have tallied 15 goals. But if Lake Forest is going to have a chance at success in this series, it needs to play well on defense. Goalie Leo Podolsky has started twice and has made 58 saves. St. Norbert is just too good offensively to lose in this home-and-home series. St. Norbert 6-2, 5-1.

Marian (2-2, 2-2 NCHA) vs. Milwaukee School of Engineering (0-4, 0-4): Marian has won its last two games and will look to keep the momentum rolling this weekend. The Sabres have been led by Derek Thorogood and Brodie Jamieson. Both players have tallied two goals apiece. Marian will look to improve a bit on defense this weekend. The Sabres have given up 12 goals, including four on the power play. The good thing is Marian can turn to either Mike Baldwin or Mike Gudmandson in goal. The two have combined to make 115 saves.

The Engineers have struggled, allowing four or more goals in each of their games, and that trend needs to change if they want to get back on track. Of course, all four losses have come against nationally ranked opponents, and that experience could pay off this weekend. Generating offense hasn’t been a huge issue. MSOE has tallied 11 goals, with Omar Mullen scoring three times. The Engineers have been competitive and my guess is they find a way to get at least one in the series. MSOE 4-2, Marian 5-3.

DAN HICKLING

Friday

ECAC East – New England College (0-2-1, 0-2-0) at Skidmore (2-1-0, 1-1-0) – NEC 3 Skidmore 2.

Nothing so dangerous as a team hungry for its first win. That description fits the Pilgrims to a tee.

ECAC West - Nazareth (2-0-1, 1-0-1) at Hobart (2-2-0, 1-1-0) – Hobart 4, Nazareth 3.

The upstart Golden Flyers opened some eyes last weekend by taking three out of four points from Utica. Grabbing two more, with Hobart goalie Lino Chimienti standing in the way, might be asking too much.

SUNYAC – Cortland (0-2-1, 0-2-1) at Morrisville (0-2-2, 0-2-2) – Morrisville 5 Cortland 2.

Someone’s gotta win their first game, unless of course they tie, which the Mustangs have done twice already. Then they would get to do it all over again on Saturday, when they meet again.

Saturday

ECAC Northeast - Nichols (4-0-0, 2-0-0) at Wentworth (3-0-0, 1-0-0) – Nichols 4, Wentworth 1.

Wentworth is off to a soaring start under new coach Jay Pecora. However, the defending conference champion Bison will beckon their hosts back to Earth.

MASCAC – Fitchburg State (0-2-3, 0-1-1) at Worcester State (1-1-2, 0-0-1) – Fitchburg 1 Worcester 0.

Tired of tying – they have three deadlocks already this season – the Falcons are due to break into the win column. A battle of under rated goaltenders – Fitchburg’s Ryan Wysocki and Salvatore Tecci of Worcester – could be in the offing.

NESCAC – Middlebury (0-0-0, 0-0-0) at No. 13 Bowdoin (0-0-0, 0-0-0) – Bowdoin 3 Middlebury 2.

It was a win over Middlebury to open the NESCAC tourney that sent then fifth-seeded Bowdoin on its improbable run to the NCAAs. Now nationally ranked, the Polar Bears will be looking to start another run, this one on opening night.

The weekend that was

tyler beasley The weekend that was

Tyler Beasley’s two goals helped Nichols overcome Curry last Saturday (photo: Dan Hickling).

As the weeklong grind begins, it’s never a bad thing to reflect back on the weekend that was in NCAA Division III hockey.

East columnist Dan Hickling and West columnist Brian Lester have the low-down.

EAST – Dan Hickling

ECAC EAST – Babson, Castleton and Massachusetts-Boston all enjoyed productive, two-win weekends … Top-line center Mike Driscoll potted two goals in Babson’s 7-0 blanking of D-II foe St. Anselm. Goalie Jamie Murray made 25 stops for the shutout and even racked up an assist. Murray then turned in an 18-save whitewash the next night against New England College. … Likewise, Castleton goalie Ryan Mulder was perfect in both his starts, with blankings of both Southern Maine (4-0) and UNE (3-0). … UMB’s Steven Buco scored with 1:39 gone in overtime to cement Friday’s 5-4 over New England College. The next night, Buco turned playmaker, setting up both of Nathan Milam’s goals in a 3-1 win over St. Anselm. Milam already has five tallies in the new season.

ECAC NORTHEAST – Just three games on the slate, all on Saturday, and two of them decided by one goal … Wentworth’s Ben Brouillard netted the game-winner at 11:42 of the third in a 3-2 triumph over Salve Regina. Kevin Crowe also scored twice for the Leopards, who are now 3-0 overall for new head coach Jay Pecora. … Suffolk got third-period goals from Justin Selep and Danyil Medvedev to take a 3-2 squeaker over Salve Regina. Medvedev’s game-winner came at 15:44 … Tyler Beasley scored twice on power plays in the third period to lift Nichols to a 4-1 win over Curry.

ECAC WEST – Elmira went to overtime twice, against Neumann and Manhattanville, and emerged with just one point. Neumann’s Chris Bournazos scored on a power play at 2:14 of extra time to beat Elmira 3-2 on Friday. The Soaring Eagles had erased a 2-0 deficit with third-period tallies from Alexander Taulien and Eric David. … On Saturday, Greg Whittle scored with 3:37 left in regulation to help Elmira salvage a 1-1 tie. … Nazareth and Utica played twice, with the upstart Golden Flyers taking a 2-2 tie on Friday followed by a 5-4 win the next night. In that win, Nazareth scored three unanswered goals in the third to erase a 4-2 Utica lead on home ice. David Seward’s tally at 7:43 was the game-winner.

MASCAC – The lone weekend tilt was an exciting one, a 5-5 deadlock between Massachusetts-Dartmouth and Framingham. UMD held a 5-3 lead with 1:48 left the third before Brendan McCarron and Keith Barnaby both scored for Framingham. Barnaby’s goal came with just 10 seconds remaining. Jaret Babych scored twice for the Corsairs in the second period. UMD outshot their hosts 6-2 in overtime, but Framingham goalie Alessio Muggli held firm to preserve the tie.

SUNYAC – Plattsburgh won both its starts in different fashions. On Friday, Cardinals goalie Brady Rouleau outdueled Brockport’s Jared Lockhurst in a 1-0 victory. Rich Botting netted the game’s lone goal at 13:32 of the second period. Lockhurst made 33 saves in a losing effort. The following night, Platty ran past Geneseo, 7-4, outscoring the Knights 6-1 over the last two periods. Seven different Cardinals scored as they erased a 3-0 Geneseo lead. … Morrisville and Buffalo State hooked up for a pair of ties, 4-4 and 5-5. The Bengals had to rely on last-minute heroics both times, with game-tying goals coming from Jake Rosen at 19:43 on Friday and Marcus Michalski at 18:06 the next night. … Oswego prevailed in its only start, 6-4 against Cortland, with half a dozen goal getters chipping in.

WEST – Brian Lester

MIAC – Competitive nonconference games were the story for a couple of teams over the weekend…St. Olaf came through with, perhaps, the biggest win, knocking off Wisconsin-Stevens Point 3-2 on Saturday. The Pointers were the 2014 national runner-up, but the Oles showed up ready to play. Steven Sherman scored the game winner as St. Olaf won its first game of the year. The Oles won despite the Pointers’ 50-33 edge in shots. Steve Papciak racked up 48 saves for St. Olaf….St. John’s led twice but had to settle for a 3-3 tie against Eau Claire on Sunday. It was the first ever tie between the two schools. Neal Smith, Tyler Dunagan and Tyson Fulton all scored goals for the Johnnies, who have yet to lose in four games. Saxton Soley came through with 23 saves. The Johnnies and Blugolds combined to go 0-for-7 on the power play. St. John’s held a 33-26 edge in shots.

NCHA – Nationally-ranked opponents Adrian and St. Scholastica avoided upsets over the weekend. Adrian exploded for three goals in the third period on Friday to knock off the Milwaukee School of Engineering 5-4 and avoid an upset loss. The Bulldogs were paced by Jeremy Olinyk, who scored twice in the victory. Olinyk also dished out an assist. James Hamby came up with 18 saves. Adrian held a 45-24 edge in shots. The Bulldogs completed a sweep of the Raiders on Saturday and have won their last 11 games against the Raiders. They own a 29-3-2 record in the all-time series….St. Scholastica picked up a pair of 4-3 wins over Concordia (Wis.). In the series finale on Saturday, Dylan Nowakowski scored twice, including the game-winner. Corey Koop was tough between the pipes, racking up 29 saves for the Saints. St. Scholastica has opened the season strong, winning its first four games. The Saints have scored four or more goals in each of their four wins.

Dylan Nowakowski CSS sized The weekend that was

Dylan Nowakowski scored twice as St. Scholastica swept Concordia (Wis.) last weekend (photo: CSS Athletics).

WIAC – Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Wisconsin-River Falls showed flexed their offensive muscle in non-conference wins over the weekend…River Falls scored three times in the third period to roll to a 5-2 win over Hamline on Saturday. Christian George scored twice for the Falcons, who owned a 33-26 advantage in shots. George added an assist as well and now has eight goals in his career. Jeff Bergh scored his third career goal in the win for River Falls. The Falcons, 2-0 on the season, were 3-of-7 on the power play. Tanner Milliron tallied 24 saves….Eau Claire opened its 2014-15 season in style, blanking St. Olaf 3-0 on Friday. The Blugolds shut out the Oles for the first time in 26 meetings. Adam Knochenmus, Brandon Whalin and Ethan Nauman all scored goals for the Blugolds, who are the defending WIAC tournament champions. Tyler Green came through with his first shutout win since Feb. 7 of this year. Green racked up 32 saves.

Predicting the best games of the weekend

nick horrigan Predicting the best games of the weekend

Geneseo goaltender Nick Horrigan leads his team to battle Plattsburgh this weekend (photo: Dan Hickling).

Our East columnist, Dan Hickling, and our West columnist, Brian Lester, get into full swing this week with their picks for the weekend’s top games.

DAN HICKLING

Friday

ECAC East
Skidmore (1-0-0, 0-0-0) @ UNE (1-0-0, 0-0-0) – UNE 4, Skidmore 2
Two middle of the pack teams trying to grab some early season points. The Nor’Easters will use home ice to their advantage

ECAC West
Nazareth (1-0-0, 0-0-0) @ Utica (1-0-0, 0-0-0) – Nazareth 3, Utica 2
Teams play twice this weekend. Nazareth always pulls off some early-season surprises and this could well be another of those.

Saturday

SUNYAC
Plattsburgh (1-0-0, 1-0-0) @ Geneseo (2-0-0, 2-0-0) – Geneseo 3, Plattsburgh 1
Clashes of two titans often are decided by goaltending. Genny’s Nick Horrigan has played in a Frozen Four. Plattsburgh’s Spencer Finney has not (yet).

ECAC Northeast
Nichols (2-0-0, 0-0-0) @ Curry (1-2-0, 0-0-0) – Nichols 5, Curry 1
The defending conference champs seem to be ready for another roll through the ECACNE. It begins here with Curry.

MASCAC
Mass-Dartmouth (0-1-0, 0-0-0) @ Framingham (0-1-0, 0-0-0) – Mass-Dartmouth 5, Framingham 4
Could be a big night (and a game winning goal) for UMD’s top scorer Luc Sauve.

BRIAN LESTER

Wisconsin-Stout (0-1) at Hamline (1-1): The Pipers are looking to build off the confidence they gained in a win over St. Thomas last week. Kevin Novakovich leads the team in goals scored with two, while John Sellie-Hanson and Santino Vasquez have both seen time in goal and give the Pipers depth between the pipes.

Stout has played just one game and was outshot 50-27 against Lake Forest. Chase Hollander and Spencer Veale have combined to make 44 saves. This one should be close but Hamline gets the edge at home. Hamline 4-2.

Wisconsin-Stevens Point (1-0) at Gustavus Adolphus (1-1): Gustavus was the runner-up in the MIAC tournament a year ago and is hoping to take the next step this year. This game is a chance for the Gusties to make a statement against the national runner-up of a year ago. Jake Bushey leads Gustavus with two goals and Erik Johnson has started the first two games in goal, tallying 52 saves.

Stevens Point flexed its offensive muscle in its opener, scoring 11 goals against Finlandia. Eight players scored goals and Brandon Jaeger racked up 11 saves. The Pointers will be tough to beat and should nail down a win. Stevens Point, 5-2.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire at St. Olaf (0-2): The Oles are searching for their first win of the year. They managed to score only four goals in the first two games. St. Olaf has had four different players score goals, while Steve Papciak has tallied 38 saves in two games. St. Olaf will have to be at its best on both ends of the ice to knock off a team that is one of the best in the country.

The Blugolds are playing their first game of the year and are coming off a season where they won the WIAC tournament championship. They scored 93 goals a year ago and will come in ready to go after feeling as if they were snubbed in the NCAA tournament selection process. Eau Claire, 4-3.

Concordia (Minn.) (0-2) at St. Scholastica (2-0): The Falcons are hoping to win their first game of the year. They managed only four goals in the first two games and allowed 10. They were outscored 4-2 on the power play in the two games and changing that trend will be a key to success against the Saints on the road.

St. Scholastica rolled to a pair of wins last week and will look to continue hot streak this week as it hosts the Falcons. The Saints have been led by Derek Sutliffe, who has scored five goals. Tyler Bruggeman started in goal twice and has allowed just four goals while making 65 saves. The Saints are poised to sweep the series. St. Scholastica, 5-2, 4-2.

Lake Forest (1-0) at Northland (0-2): Lake Forest scored six goals in its opener against Stout, with Jack Lewis showcasing his talent, scoring three times in the win. Leo Podolsky earned the win in goal, racking up 25 saves, and if the Foresters can put together that same type of effort this weekend, they should be in position to start off league play in style.

Northland is coming off a pair of losses to nationally-ranked Adrian and will need to get its offense going to have success against Lake Forest. The Lumberjacks scored just four goals in their first two games and gave up 16. Tyler Ampe made 49 saves in the first two games. The Foresters appear to have the edge in the series and should get a sweep. Lake Forest, 5-2, 6-3.

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.

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