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Two points still matter to each and every team

Gubb sized Two points still matter to each and every team

St. Thomas senior captain Tyler Gubb has his Tommies in first place in the MIAC, just a point better than Gustavus Adolphus (photo: Mike Ekem).

It’s now or never.

Yes, every win means something this time of year, especially in Division III.

Our expert columnists pick this weekend’s matchups, as well as some midweek games next week, as some teams look to clinch playoff berths and others will be on the outside looking in.

ECAC East – Tim Costello

It is all about being in the moment and focusing on the task at hand.

A solid 4-1-0 (.800) pick week has things looking up, but there is just one week remaining in the regular season. That brought up the overall season to 36-19-5 (.642), which is still short of my 70 percent target.

I’m picking a couple of extra games with the hope a clean slate gets me to the goal for the season.

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Feb. 14

Massachusetts-Boston @ St. Michael’s

The Beacons are in a flat-out dogfight to finish at or above the No. 3 seed, so there can’t be any looking past a game St. Mike’s team knowing Norwich awaits on Saturday. Coach Peter Belisle won’t let the team think about much other than the two points they need from a win in Winooski. Massachusetts-Boston 5-2.

New England College @ University of New England

The Pilgrims need to be careful and not underestimate the Nor’easters, who have been very tough to play on their home rink. A top-four playoff seed is within reach for the Pilgrims, but they will need to continue to take points. This one is very close and Sebastian Anderson outduels Colby Drost between the pipes. New England College 3-1.

Babson @ Norwich

The first matchup at Frozen Fenway went to the Cadets in a hard-fought and very spirited 1-0 win. Babson is in the unique position to capture the conference top seed and this game would solidify that position with a win where the Beavers have a solid track record of success. Babson 2-1.

St. Anselm @ Southern Maine

The game at St. A’s ended in a 3-3 overtime draw, so what to expect in this one in Maine? The difference-maker could be goalie Dylan Wells for the Huskies, who did not play in the first meeting between the two teams. Goal total is the same, but favors the home team by an added empty-netter. Southern Maine 4-2.

Saturday, Feb. 15

Skidmore @ Castleton

Alright, before picking the score, understand this one is going to overtime. If Skidmore is one of the combatants, that outcome is almost guaranteed. Neither team has found that level of consistency that coaches aspire their teams reach entering the playoff season. Still, a couple of weeks to find the 60-minute magic and this one goes to the home team. Castleton 4-3.

Massachusetts-Boston @ Norwich

The Cadets may be in a battle to maintain their traditional top position, but have no interest in dropping down to third place against an opponent that beat them earlier after the emotional win over Babson. This one will be tight, playoff-style hockey, but expect the Cadets to find a way to get it done on home ice. Norwich 3-2.

New England College @ Southern Maine

The Pilgrims could still be in the hunt for the No. 3 seed and that should motivate them enough to eke this one out against a Huskies team that really wants to get something going before the conference tournament. It is a bigger incentive for the visitors who take two points.
New England College 4-3.

Lots of drama still left in the regular season in the final week – drop the puck!

ECAC Northeast – Nathan Fournier

Friday, Feb. 14

Nichols at Salve Regina

The lone game on Valentine’s Day in the ECAC Northeast. The last time these two teams met, Nichols doubled up Salve Regina 8-4. The two teams are going opposite directions in the second half of the year. Nichols has been dominant all year long, while Salve Regina has been in a tailspin in the second half. I will take the Bison in a 5-3 contest.

Saturday, Feb. 15

Wentworth at Becker

Wentworth has been on a roll lately, winning five out of the last six games. They can’t take a day off against Becker as the Hawks have played the top teams in the conference tough the last few games. They beat Nichols 4-1 on Feb. 1 and tied Johnson and Wales 4-4 on Feb. 8. I expect them to make this game close, but Wentworth pulls it out in the end, 4-2.

Curry at Suffolk

This could be a battle for positioning for the final conference tournament spot. In the first meeting, Curry defeated Suffolk 4-1. I expect this to be a much tighter game as both teams try to get one step closer to the conference tournament. I will take Curry in a 4-3 contest.

Johnson and Wales at Western New England

Johnson and Wales has hit a bump in the road the last few weeks. This game could get them back on track heading to the conference tournament. They had no problem in the first meeting against the Golden Bears in the 6-1 victory on Jan. 25. Despite the tough times for Western New England, I expect them to play a tough game, but I see Johnson and Wales winning 5-4.

Monday, Feb. 17

Worcester State at Becker

This a nonconference matchup that was postponed on Jan. 21. This should be a warmup game for both teams as they prepare for the final conference games. I will take Becker in this contest as they have been playing well.

Wednesday, Feb. 19

Johnson and Wales at Nichols

This should be a very good contest between the two most consistent teams all year in the conference. It will be a showdown of the top two goaltenders in the conference in Joey Ballmer for Johnson and Wales and Alex Larson of Nichols. Both teams have potent offenses, but I believe it will be a low-scoring contest. I will take Nichols in a 3-2 game.

Western New England at Salve Regina

In a battle between two teams that showed so much promise to start the season, I think both teams will play with nothing to lose, so it should be a wide-open game offensively. Salve Regina won in the first meeting, but I will take Western New England in a 6-5 contest.

Becker at Suffolk

This a game where Becker can really play spoiler to Suffolk’s conference tournament chances. This should be a very good game. Suffolk suffered a loss in its last game this year to miss the conference tournament. While this isn’t their last game, it’s a must-win and I think their experience last year will help them. The Rams pull the victory out in a 4-2 contest.

Thursday, Feb. 20

Wentworth at Curry

If you are fighting for a conference tournament berth, Wentworth isn’t the team you want to be playing at this moment. That’s what Curry faces and a win would do them wonders. I think this will be a perfect example of a game being close for the first two periods, but Wentworth pulls away in the third for a 6-3 victory.

ECAC West – Dan Hickling

Friday, Feb. 14

Hobart (11-6-4, 5-3-3) @ Neumann (7-10-4, 2-7-2) – Hobart 5, Neumann 2

Hobart has hopes of catching up to league leaders Utica and Elmira and with two games against last-place Neumann, they should be able to grab the points. For the Knights, it’s been a long, difficult season.

Saturday, Feb. 15

Elmira (13-8-0, 8-3-0) @ Manhattanville (7-10-4, 2-7-2) – Elmira 4 Manhattanville 1

The question is which of Elmira’s “Super Sophs” will step up this time? The answer is probably at least one too many for the Valiants to handle.

MASCAC – Nathan Fournier

Saturday, Feb. 15

Worcester State at Framingham State

If Framingham State wants to be in the top four in the final MASCAC standings, they have an opportunity against Worcester State. They beat them the last time the two teams met, but the first game ended a draw. With a lot on the line for both teams, I expect and exciting game, but I see Framingham State coming out on top 5-3.

Massachusetts-Dartmouth at Salem State

This is a crucial two points for Salem State if they want to stay atop of the MASCAC standings. The Corsairs have been turning things around lately, but I think it’s too little, too late to defend their conference tournament crown. Salem State has been dominate at home and expect them to put another ‘W’ up in a 6-3 game.

Fitchburg State at Westfield State

Probably the game of the weekend in terms of two teams getting into the conference tournament. It’s the rubber game of the three-game series in the regular season. Both team have won a game on home ice and I expect more the same. I will take Westfield State in a 7-5 game

Monday, Feb. 17

Worcester State at Becker

This a nonconference matchup that was postponed on Jan. 21. This should be a warmup game for both teams as they prepare for the final conference games. I will take Becker in this contest as they have been playing well.

Thursday, Feb. 20

Framingham State at Fitchburg State

Fitchburg State has given Framingham State fits this season, defeating the Rams 5-2 and 8-2 this season. I see this one resembling the 5-2 game, but I think it will closer than that. Both teams have a lot on line in terms of the conference tournament. I will take Fitchburg State with the clean sweep of the season series in a 4-3 game.

Massachusetts-Dartmouth at Westfield State

This is no easy game for the Owls as UMass-Dartmouth has been a thorn in their sides this season. The Corsairs lost a heartbreaker of a game in the first half of the year 3-2, but came back on Jan. 25 with a 6-3 win. This should be another good matchup and I think UMass-Dartmouth will pull the upset 2-1.

Plymouth State at Worcester State

The Panthers of Plymouth State have been playing very well of late and have asserted themselves as one of the teams to beat when the postseason come around. Worcester State earned a 4-3 overtime win the last time these two teams met. Plymouth State had freshman Max Motew in net. I don’t believe that will be the case this time around. They will go with Gordon Ceasar or Tyler Ingerson. I will take Plymouth State in a 4-1 game.

MIAC/WIAC – Brian Lester

We are down to the final two weeks and several of the matchups become a little more important as teams battle for positioning in the conference tournament and chase down a league championship.

In the MIAC, St. Thomas and Gustavus Adolphus will play the biggest series of the weekend. The Tommies lead the Gusties by a point in the standings.

In the WIAC, Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Wisconsin-Stevens Point will duke it out in a pivotal weekend series between two nationally-ranked opponents.

So without further delay, here are my picks for the weekend:

MIAC

St. Thomas vs. Gustavus Adolphus

This is the series that will all but determine the regular-season MIAC champion.

The teams met once at the beginning of the year, with St. Thomas earning a 5-3 win in the MIAC Showcase.

St. Thomas is on a roll, having won its last six games, and defense has been a key to its success, especially with Drew Fielding playing so well in goal. Fielding owns a 1.43 goals-against average and has allowed only 29 goals on the season.

Alex Altenbernd and Tyler Gubb lead the offense with nine and seven goals, respectively.

Gustavus has been just as tough on defense and is unbeaten in its last six games. Five of those games ended with a win.

John McClean has a 2.01 goals-against average and has racked up 452 saves. He has given up 39 goals on the year.

Corey Leivermann has fueled the offensive success of the Gusties, tallying 13 goals and 10 assists, and Adam Smyth has come through with 11 goals and eight assists.

But this series comes down to defense and it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the games ends in a tie. St. Thomas 3-1, Gustavus 3-2.

St. Mary’s vs. Concordia (Minn.)

Concordia could use a couple of wins this weekend as it looks to maintain its hold on fourth place.

Concordia has played some close games lately, with three of its last six ending in ties, but this is a weekend where it needs to find a way to steal both games.

Caleb Suderman continues his stellar season as he has racked up 15 goals and 11 assists, while Andrew Deters has come through with seven goals and 18 assists. The Cobbers have racked up 74 goals on the season and its offense will need to be clicking this weekend.

Chris Neamonitis has a 2.43 goals-against average and has made 532 saves.

St. Mary’s will come in looking for an upset as the Cardinals sit in seventh in the standings.

The Cardinals would need a heck of a finish to the year, and some help, to climb back into the playoff picture, but they are capable of playing spoiler.

St. Mary’s recently ended a six-game losing streak and only time will tell if that momentum sticks with it. The Cardinals have struggled to be productive offensively, scoring only 46 goals, and that will have to change to be successful against Concordia. My thinking is the Cobbers sweep the series. Concordia 5-3, 4-2.

WIAC

Wisconsin-Eau Claire vs. Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Talk about a huge series. The Blugolds come in ranked third in the country and Stevens Point is fourth. It’s a game worthy of the NCAA tournament one month early.

Eau Claire lost earlier in the season to Stevens Point, falling 4-1, but the Blugolds have been rolling along lately, winning four consecutive games.

Eau Claire has scored 81 goals, but in a matchup like this, defense is vital to success. Tyler Green has been stellar in goal, making 418 saves. He has a 1.84 goals-against average. If Green continues his stellar play, the Blugolds are going to be in great shape.

But the Pointers are equally tough. They have won three of their last four and have been an offensive machine, scoring 107 goals on the year, including 17 by Garrett Ladd. Scott Henegar has tallied 12 goals, Kyle Sharkey has scored 10 and Nick D’Avolio has come through with 10 goals as well.

That offensive attack will be tough to slow down, and it doesn’t hurt that the Pointers have Brandon Jaeger in goal. Jaeger owns a 2.00 goals-against average. I expect this series to end in a split. Eau Claire 3-2, Stevens Point 4-3.

Wisconsin-Stout vs. Wisconsin-River Falls

Stout recently ended a four-game losing streak with a win over Stevens Point and now a series with another nationally-ranked opponent awaits as the Blue Devils battle the Falcons.

Chase Hollander has thrived in goal lately and will need to be ready to go if called upon. The Blue Devils also have Corey Koop between the pipes and he is capable of getting the job done as well.

Kevin O’Donnell leads the Blue Devils with 10 goals and nine assists and he and the rest of the offense will need to be effective be successful against the Falcons.

River Falls has been up and down, but is still in the mix for a league title. Tanner Milliron has a 2.16 goals-against average and has tallied 232 saves, while the Falcons have been led offensively by Willie Hess, who has come through with 10 goals and five assists. Four other players have scored at least five goals for the Falcons. River Falls 4-2, 3-2.

NCHA – Katie Carito

It’s the last weekend of play for the NCHA and a lot is on the line. I’ll pick some matchups conservatively, knowing full well that some dark horses may ruin it all.

Lake Forest at Adrian

Lake Forest (14-8-1) will travel to Adrian (18-1-4) for the final weekend of play. The Foresters are on a 10-game unbeaten streak, most recently sweeping Milwaukee School of Engineering with 3-2 and 4-1 scores. The Bulldogs battled to a 2-2 tie and a 5-3 win against Lawrence last weekend. Adrian has an outstanding home record, going 6-0-2 this season. Adrian 3-1, 3-2

Finlandia at Lawrence

Finlandia (2-19-1) is out of contention for the postseason and was swept by Marian last weekend. Lawrence (5-16-2) hasn’t won a game since Jan. 25 when the Vikings knocked down St. Scholastica 3-2. Lawrence 2-1, 3-2

Northland at St. Norbert

Northland (4-19-0) split a weekend series with Concordia-Wisconsin with a 4-2 on Friday before a 7-2 loss on Saturday. St. Norbert (19-3-1) is the top ranked team going into the weekend. They swept St. Scholastica last weekend, including a 3-0 shutout on Friday. St. Norbert 4-2, 3-1

Marian at St. Scholastica

Marian (10-11-2) has won the past six straight, most recently sweeping Finlandia with matching 5-2 scores each game. St. Scholastica (12-7-4) was swept for the first time last weekend against St. Norbert. St. Scholastica 2-1, Marian 3-1

MSOE vs Concordia (Wis.)

MSOE (6-16-1) dropped two games to Lake Forest over the weekend. Concordia (9-10-4) split a weekend series with Northland. The Falcons’ success this season has come in bunches and I think they are due for an upswing in luck. Concordia 3-1, 2-1

NESCAC – Tim Costello

It was another solid week of picks despite the competitiveness of the league.

A 4-1-0 (.800) week of picks brought the overall percentage back to my 70 percent success target. The overall season stands at 39-15-6 (.700), so now it is about finishing strong in the final two weeks of the regular season to stay at my targeted goal.

Here are the picks:

Friday, Feb. 14

Trinity @ Bowdoin

The Polar Bears are in a very tight battle for the fourth and final home-ice playoff seed and the Bantams will be a stern challenge at the “Sid.” This one will see lots of offense and a playoff-like atmosphere. Bowdoin 5-4.

Middlebury @ Williams

The Rte. 7 home-and-home season finds both teams with all at stake in terms of position in the standings and earning a very valuable two points. This rivalry always brings out the best in the teams and for Williams that means Sean Dougherty is better than the guy in the Panthers’ crease. Williams 3-1.

Wesleyan @ Colby

The Mules finally scored on a power play against Amherst last weekend, but it wasn’t enough to garner any points. Back to basics with Sam Parker playing well and some more support for Ben Chwick and Nick Lanza offensively. Colby 3-2.

Saturday, Feb. 15

Williams @ Middlebury

It is always difficult to beat a team on back-to-back nights, especially when the return matchup is on the road. I would like to pick a tie here but think the Ephs can “be in the moment” as their coach likes to say and steal a needed extra point. Williams 3-2.

Tufts @ Hamilton

These two teams need to take care of their own business and then scoreboard watch to see if anyone helps them out in their drive to reach the top eight in the standings. The Continentals are closer to that goal and playing at home and these two points help a lot in keeping hopes alive for the final week of the regular season. Hamilton 4-2.

Connecticut College @ Amherst

The home team is an all-out battle for the top seed and the visitors are trying to confirm their place in the postseason dance. Hard to argue with how well the Lord Jeffs played at home last week against two very tough teams from Maine. Win and scoreboard watching may now commence. Amherst 4-2.

There are opportunities abounding for teams to change position and in some cases assure qualification for the post-season – drop the puck!

SUNYAC – Dan Hickling

Friday, Feb. 14

Brockport (6-12-3, 3-8-1) @ Cortland (4-13-3, 3-7-2) – Brockport 4, Cortland 3

Both teams desperately need the points as they scrap over the league’s final playoff spot. The feeling here is that Brockport finds a way, this time.

Saturday, Feb. 15

Morrisville (5-15-2, 2-11-1) @ Potsdam (7-12-2, 2-8-2) – Potsdam 5, Morrisville 3

This will be the back half of a two-game set. The loser is as good as dead, while the winner will still be barely breathing. The Bears come in with the hotter hand.

Playoff pictures not clear just yet

photo Playoff pictures not clear just yet

Babson goaltender Jamie Murray pitched a 27-save shutout last weekend against Southern Maine (photo: Babson Athletics).

Playoff implications were on the line over the weekend as conferences hit the last weekend or two of conference action.

Teams on the cusp of missing playoffs battled to overtime ties and wins, while teams at the top were nearly upset in multiple games.

ECAC East

Friday night was the night where ECAC East fans were on the edges of their seats.

Three games went into overtime, with Babson getting a 2-1 win over the University of New England and St. Michael’s getting the 3-2 win overtime victory against Skidmore. Norwich and Castleton ended in a 1-1 tie. Southern Maine dropped a game to Massachusetts-Boston 3-2 in a back-and-forth affair.

Saturday night saw two shutouts as Babson’s Jamie Murray made 27 saves in a 3-0 victory over Southern Maine. Norwich’s Chris Czarnota earned his third shutout of the season in a 3-0 win over Skidmore.

ECAC Northeast

A three-goal third period helped last-place Becker battle Johnson and Wales to a 4-4 overtime tie Saturday evening, marking it the second four-goal performance in a week from the Hawks.

ECAC West

First-place Utica swept Neumann over the weekend with 3-2 and 4-2 wins. Freshman forward Luc Boby scored three goals for the Pioneers, which included the game-winning goal in each contest.

MASCAC

Thursday saw a battle of the top of the conference as Salem State tied Plymouth State 3-3. Salem went on to hand Westfield State a 5-1 loss on Saturday night, while Plymouth State skated to a 2-2 overtime tie with Fitchburg State.

MIAC

St. Thomas moved to the top spot and slipped past Gustavus Adolphus in the MIAC standings with a 5-2 victory over Bethel.

The series to watch next weekend will the home-and-home series between the two top MIAC schools as the Tommies and Gusties battle it out.

NCHA

For the first time this season, St. Norbert has taken sole possession of first place in the standings after a sweep of St. Scholastica.

Lawrence gave Adrian all they had in their weekend series. On Friday night, the Vikings battled the Bulldogs to a 2-2 overtime tie. On Saturday night, the Bulldogs found themselves down 3-0 after the first period, but scored five unanswered goals in the second and third periods to down Lawrence 5-3.

NESCAC

The standings are tight going into the last two weekends of play for the NESCAC. Amherst and Trinity are tied for the top spot in the standings with identical 11-3-0 conference records. Williams is right behind them, sitting in third with 22 points. With two weekends of the regular season left, it’ll be a photo finish to see who gets the regular-season title.

SUNYAC

Potsdam is relentless while winding down the season. The Bears battled with Buffalo State to a 1-1 tie on Friday and then took Fredonia to overtime that ended in a 4-4 tie the next night. Jon Hall made 32 saves in Friday’s game while stopping 47 shots in Saturday’s contest.

WIAC

The race is tight going into the last few weekends of play for the WIAC.

Defending national champion Wisconsin-Eau Claire swept Wisconsin-Superior with 3-0 and 6-2 scores.

Third-place Wisconsin-Stevens Point, just two points out of first, split a weekend series with Wisconsin-Stout, winning Friday’s contest 6-2 and dropping Saturday’s 4-2.

Pickin’ this weekend’s games

Soley sized Pickin this weekends games

Saxton Soley is backstopping St. John’s to what the Johnnies hope is a favorable MIAC playoff seed in two weeks (photo: Caleb Williams/d3photography.com).

It’s getting down to nitty-gritty time, so who’s in and who’s out?

Nothing is certain yet, but with just a few weekends left in the regular season, every win counts.

Here are the predictions for this weekend’s games and then some:

ECAC East – Tim Costello

I know it is winter, or at least the groundhog says we have more coming, but I am clearly on a slippery slope and going the wrong direction.

Upsets abounded last weekend leading to a 1-3-1 (.300) pick week. That has dropped the overall season down to 32-18-5 (.627). The games aren’t getting any easier, but I need to pick up my game accordingly.

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Feb. 7

Southern Maine @ Massachusetts-Boston

The Beacons rallied for a win and a tie last weekend, but don’t have a position in the top four locked up just yet. The offense is too much for the Huskies on the road and the Beacons pick up a needed two points. Massachusetts-Boston 5-2.

New England College @ St. Anselm

The Pilgrims got behind early and narrowly avoided being shut out at home before the semester break in this travel partner matchup. Turnabout is fair play and the visitors steal one on the road, leveraging an empty-net goal for the final difference. New England College 3-1.

University of New England @ Babson

The Beavers sit atop the standings late in the season and should be strongly motivated by the chance to grab the top seed if they continue their strong play down the stretch. Balance is the key for Babson at home and four different goal-scorers point the way to a win. Babson 4-1.

Saturday, Feb. 8

St. Michael’s @ Castleton

It’s tough to know which one of these teams is bringing their ‘A’ game on any particular night, so this one will go the distance and maybe an extra five minutes if the first matchup is any indication. The Spartans need the points more and the home crowd spurs them on to victory. Castleton 4-3.

Norwich @ Skidmore

The Cadets haven’t dropped two games in a row in a VERY LONG time. Needless to say, coach Mike McShane will have the boys refocused to start a new win streak and stay in the hunt for the top spot in the conference. It’s close, but the visitors have enough to garner a second overtime win against Skidmore. Norwich 3-2.

Three weeks, six games and 12 points are available. Who wants the points the most? – drop the puck!

ECAC Northeast – Nathan Fournier

Saturday, Feb. 8

Salve Regina at Curry

Playoff positioning is up for grabs here. The Seahawks came hot out of the gate this season, while Curry is just finding its stride. One thing for certain – I don’t see another 6-3 contest like we saw on Nov. 19 with these two teams in which the Seahawks won. There will be offense in what I think will be a 5-4 Curry advantage.

Becker at Johnson and Wales

Does Becker have another upset brewing after their 4-1 victory over Nichols last Saturday? In my opinion, I can’t see it happening. Johnson and Wales put up eight goals in their first meeting in November. Cody Sarmiento had a hat trick that night for Johnson and Wales. Then again, Becker gained the confidence that they can beat the top teams in the conference with the win against Nichols. I still don’t think it will be enough to knock off Johnson and Wales, who have been knocking on the USCHO.com’s Division III Men’s Poll the last few weeks. Johnson and Wales 5-1.

Suffolk at Nichols

Suffolk handed Nichols its worst loss of the season back on Nov. 20, winning 7-1. That has been one of the few hiccups to the Bison season so far and revenge is on their minds. I don’t think you will see Alex Larson give up four goals in a period like he did in the first period. Suffolk has lost some tough games lately, with a 3-2 defeat to Wentworth on Jan 29. and a 4-3 defeat to Johnson and Wales in overtime on Saturday. I have Nichols coming away with a 4-2 win.

Sunday, Feb. 9

Western New England at Wentworth

Wentworth is finally putting it together the last few weeks and are in the thick of things for the ECAC Northeast regular-season title. Western New England is fading back as they had high hopes for this season. They aren’t quite out of it just yet, but need to get a win or two in the near future. The Golden Bears won the first contest 6-3 and again, I don’t think we will see the same result again this time around. I will take Wentworth 4-3 in this contest.

Tuesday, Feb. 11

Nichols at Wentworth

A lot of eyeballs will be on this matchup as it could shake up the entire ECAC Northeast standings. In the first contest, it was a very good game as the Bison came away with the 4-3 victory. This time around, I think we will see the same thing happen again. Both teams need the two points and I expect it to have a playoff atmosphere. I will take Nichols in a 3-2 game.

Wednesday, Feb. 12

Salve Regina at Becker

While the Seahawks have struggled since Nov. 30, they did beat Becker in their winning stretch to start the season 5-2. I believe Salve Regina has more depth then Becker, which will be the difference-maker. Becker will probably skate with them for the first two periods, but see Salve Regina pulling away in a 6-2 contest.

Thursday, Feb. 13

Curry at Johnson and Wales

Curry’s daunted stretch of games come to an end against Johnson and Wales. Curry defeated Johnson and Wales 4-3 on Nov. 16. Johnson and Wales to that point hadn’t hit their stride and are 12-4-0 since that point. This will be another good contest with the way Curry has been playing the last month, but will take the home team in a 5-3 game.

Suffolk at Western New England

This is another rematch where Suffolk is the hunted instead of the hunter. They defeated Western New England 5-3 on Nov. 16. Simon Leahy had two goals in the victory, while Brandon Stroud had a pair of his own in the losing effort. Both teams will want to host a quarterfinal conference tournament game, so I expect it to be another tight contest. I will take Western New England in a 5-4 game.

ECAC West – Dan Hickling

Friday, Feb. 7

Neumann (7-8-4, 2-5-2) @ No. 15 Utica (11-5-4, 6-3-1) – Utica 5, Neumann 2

Utica is far too good a club to have won just once (last week in Elmira) in its last six starts. This would be a good time to prove it.

Saturday, Feb. 8

Elmira (12-8-0, 7-3-0) @ Hobart (11-5-4, 5-2-3) – Hobart 3, Elmira 2

First place could be on the line, here, which could make this clash the “Thrilla in the Chilla.” The guess here is that Hobart’s home-ice advantage will frost the Soaring Eagles.

MASCAC – Nathan Fournier

Saturday, Feb. 8

Framingham State at Massachusetts-Dartmouth

Both games between the two teams this season have been one-goal games. In the first meeting, Framingham State surprised the defending league champions in a 5-4 contest. Last month, UMass-Dartmouth came back and squeaked out 2-1 win. Saturday is the rubber match at UMass-Dartmouth and I will take the Rams in 5-3 contest.

Fitchburg State at Plymouth State

Both teams are in the thick of things when it comes to hosting a playoff game. Plymouth State has made a second-half push and are in second place in the standings and would get a bye into the semifinals. Fitchburg State would host a quarterfinal contest. It will be a de facto playoff game with two very important points up for grabs. I will take the Panthers as they are hosting this contest in a 3-1 game.

Westfield State at Salem State

Another contest with huge playoff implications. Salem State is at top of the standings and Westfield State is sitting in fourth. Westfield State has won both games this season, 8-5 on Nov. 14 and 4-3 on Jan. 16. Salem State’s only loss at home has been against the Owls, so the Vikings have something extra to play for in this game. My heart says Salem State will play with that extra motivation, but my brain says Westfield State will go for the clean sweep. I will go with my brain in a 3-2 game.

Tuesday, Feb. 11

Worcester State at Assumption

While the rest of the conference beats each other up this weekend, the Lancers have the weekend off and have a nonconference game on Tuesday. They are on the outside looking into the conference tournament. This will be a good game to tinker with lineups and work out some kinks that they may have for the final two weeks of regular season play coming up. I will take Worcester State in a 3-2 game.

Thursday, Feb. 13

Worcester State at Fitchburg State

The Lancers get back in the saddle in league play Thursday. The teams have split the first two games of the season Fitchburg State defeated Worcester State 7-3 in which the Lancers were in the second game of a 1-6-1 stretch to end the first half of the season. The Lancers defeated the Falcons 5-3 in their second game of their 4-2 stretch in their last six games. I will take the Falcons at home 4-2 as they are 7-4-0 at home this season.

Salem State at Framingham State

Framingham State has had the slight advantage this season, defeating the Vikings 6-3 on Nov. 16 at home and earning a 4-4 tie in Salem St. The third matchup should be more like the second matchup where it will be a close game. I won’t call it a tie because I don’t believe in “kissing your sister,” but this will come down to the wire. Since the last time these two teams met, the Vikings have alternated in wins and losses. If you look at the schedule, where this game falls, recent results suggest a win for Salem State.

Plymouth State at UMass-Dartmouth

On paper, this game looks like a mismatch, but with the history between the two teams the last two years, anything is possible. Both teams have split the season series so far with the Corsairs winning the first contest on Nov. 16 in a hard-fought 4-3 game. In the Jan. 18 contest, the Panthers shut out UMass-Dartmouth 3-0. I believe Plymouth State will win again with Gordon Ceasar being the X-factor once again in goal. This time, I think UMass-Dartmouth will find away to beat him, but Plymouth State wins 4-2.

MIAC/WIAC – Brian Lester

The regular season is winding down and the title races have yet to be decided in the MIAC and WIAC.

Concordia (Minn.) and St. Olaf highlight the weekend slate in the MIAC, while Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Wisconsin-Stevens Point are both looking to stay in title contention by taking care of business in their respective matchups this weekend.

You can check out all of that and more in my weekend picks.

MIAC

Bethel vs. St. Thomas

Bethel is going to need a remarkable late-season push to get into the conference tournament, while St. Thomas is still fighting for the right to win the league championship. The Tommies are in second place entering the weekend.

The Royals have dropped three consecutive games and are going to need quite an effort to take down the Tommies. Brock Raffaele and Travis Payne have eight goals apiece and will need stellar performances to put the Royals in a position for an upset.

The Royals also need to be at their best on defense, having allowed 60 goals on the season.

The Tommies have scored 60 goals this year, including nine by Alex Altenbernd, and Drew Fielding continues to be a force in goal, allowing only 26. He has racked up 440 saves.

St. Thomas, riding a four-game win streak, is just too good on both ends of the ice. St. Thomas, 6-2, 7-1.

Concordia (Minn.) vs. St. Olaf

Concordia comes in four points behind third-place St. Olaf, meaning this series is huge for both teams. The Cobbers have won two consecutive games and the Oles are rolling behind a six-game win streak.

Caleb Suderman leads an offense that has tallied 68 goals this season. He has scored 13 to go along with nine assists. Jordan Christianson has been solid as well, tallying eight goals and six assists. The Cobbers are balanced for sure and goalie Chris Neamonitis is playing well. He has a goals-against average of 2.43 and has racked up 532 saves.

It’s huge St. Olaf gets this series at home, where it is 4-2-2, although the Cobbers are 6-4 on the road this season.

St Olaf has leaned heavily on the play of Dan Cecka, who has tallied 14 goals and six assists. But like the Cobbers, the Oles are balanced as well offensively.

The play of Steve Papciak in goal will be key. He has a goals-against average of 1.81. Defense could decide this series. My guess is it ends in a split. St. Olaf 4-2, Concordia 5-3.

St. John’s vs. Hamline

St. John’s enters the weekend in fifth and still has time to climb in the standings. The Johnnies have lost two consecutive games, but should be able to get back on track against the Pipers, who have lost their last six games.

The Johnnies managed only two goals in a series against Gustavus, but the Johnnies have the ability to play well offensively. Josh Gross has scored six goals to go along with nine assists and Phil Johnson has come through with five goals and five assists.

Saxton Soley owns a 2.24 goals-against average and has tallied 359 saves. His play in goal, combined with enough weapons on offense, should give the Johnnies a chance to sweep the series. St. John’s, 6-1, 5-0.

WIAC

Wisconsin-Stevens Point vs. Wisconsin-Stout

The Pointers have won two consecutive games and are legit contenders for the conference championship. Stout comes in on a three-game losing streak.

Stevens Point has been a force on offense, racking up 99 goals, including 21 off the power play. Garrett Ladd is having a stellar season with 16 goals and 15 assists and two others have scored 10 or more goals in Scott Henegar (12) and Nick D’Avolio (10).

Combine the balanced attack with the play of Brandon Jaeger in goal, and the Pointers seem poised for a sweep. Jaeger owns a 1.87 goals-against average and has tallied 349 saves.

Stout needs to score early if it’s going to have a chance. The Blue Devils have scored 48 goals on the season and Kevin O’Donnell leads the way with nine goals.

Corey Koop will need to have one of his best games of the year in goal for Stout to have a chance. Koop has a 3.37 goals against average and has made 558 saves. My guess is Stevens Point rolls. Stevens Point, 6-2, 7-2.

Wisconsin-Superior vs. Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Superior could use a big weekend to get back in the mix for the WIAC title, while Eau Claire is looking to stay on a roll as its riding a two-game win streak.

Superior has to be productive offensively to have a shot in the series. The Yellow Jackets have scored 51 goals and have allowed 58.

Pat Dalbec has played well, having scored nine goals and dished out 10 assists, while Michael Rey has come through with nine goals and nine assists.

Drew Strandberg and Dayn Belfour continue to split time in goal and have each given up 26 goals. Both will have to be ready to be at their best against an explosive Eau Claire team.

The Blugolds are alive and well in the hunt for a league title and have scored 72 goals while allowing only 32.

Jon Waggoner and David Donnellan have scored nine goals apiece for Eau Claire, while Joe Krause has tallied eight goals. Waggoner and Krause have eight assists apiece as well. Jack Callahan leads the team in assists with 12.

Tyler Green and Jay Deo are both formidable goalies and either one is capable of getting the job done. Green, who has started the last five games, has made 347 saves and Deo has tallied 128 saves.

Eau Claire is just too tough on both ends of the ice to stumble and I expect the defending champs to get a sweep this weekend. Eau Claire, 4-2, 5-1.

NCHA – Katie Carito

Lawrence at Adrian

Adrian (17-1-3) was handed its first loss of the season last weekend in quite the fashion as they fell 11-1 to St. Norbert. The Bulldogs rallied the next night as they defeated the Green Knights 4-1. Lawrence (5-15-1) was most recently swept by Lake Forest. I think Adrian will bounce back from a weekend split quite well, especially at home. Adrian 3-2, 4-1

Northland at Concordia (Wis.)

Northland (3-18-1) is on a five-game losing streak, most recently getting swept by St. Scholastica. Concordia (8-9-4) was swept in a home-and-home series with Marian. The Falcons have gone 0-5-1 in the last six and will look at this weekend as a chance to get back to their winning ways. Looking at the Falcons schedule, they tend to win, and lose, in batches. Concordia 2-1, 2-1

Milwaukee School of Engineering vs. Lake Forest

Lake Forest (12-8-1) is on a tear after sweeping Lawrence last weekend with 7-0 and 3-2 scores. They have gone unbeaten in the last eight, winning seven straight. MSOE (5-9-2) is starting to find their footing after a dismal first half of the season. I think each team will win at home. Lake Forest 3-2, MSOE 4-2

St. Norbert at St. Scholastica

St. Norbert (17-3-1) and St. Scholastica (12-5-4) are meeting for the second and third time this weekend. In their nonconference matchup earlier this season, the Saints took the victory with a 4-2 win. These familiar opponents are sure to put on a show – can I pick overtime? St. Norbert 3-2, St. Scholastica 2-1

Marian at Finlandia

Marian (8-11-2) has posted two sweeps in the last two weekends against Northland and Concordia (Wis.). Finlandia (2-17-1) has been swept the last two weekends and sits at the bottom of the NCHA. Marian 2-1, 4-1

NESCAC – Tim Costello

Now that is more like it!

A 4-1-1 (.750) week of picks brought the overall percentage back into reach of my 70 percent success target. The overall season stands at 35-14-6 (.691), so if I can just get a little puck luck in some of the very tough conference games this week, I might reach my goal.

Here are the picks:

Friday, Feb. 7

Bowdoin @ Hamilton

The Polar Bears are in a tight battle for a home-ice position in the standings with Colby and Middlebury, so every point matters. Long bus ride for the visitors that only is lessened by going out and securing the valuable two points. Colin Downey continues his hot scoring streak for the visitors. Bowdoin 5-2.

Connecticut College @ Tufts

Mike Petchonka has found his mojo down the stretch for the Camels and they will need to continue to ride the hot goaltender in this travel partner battle to stay in playoff contention. A lot of confidence for the visitors on the front end of this home-and-home weekend. Connecticut College 3-1.

Colby @ Amherst

Finally, a home game for the Lord Jeffs after playing their last 10 games on the road, including a trip to Wisconsin. Everything is better at home – the food, your own bed and yes, the win. Amherst 3-2.

Saturday, Feb. 8

Williams @ Wesleyan
The Ephs don’t know how to play them other than close. They score just enough and Sean Dougherty slams the door shut on the opposition. Sounds like a pretty good formula for success. Williams 3-2.

Middlebury @ Trinity

The Bantams handled the Panthers at Middlebury the first time around and offensively, the home team may have the best top six forwards in the conference. The Panthers have yet to show consistency in their game and drop a close one on the road. Trinity 4-2.

There are battles for position up and down the standings and weeks are winding down. Time to step up the game, boys – drop the puck!

SUNYAC – Dan Hickling

Friday, Feb. 7

Buffalo State (9-8-3, 6-3-1) @ Potsdam (7-12-0, 2-8-0) – Buff State 5, Potsdam 2

After a two-week layoff, the Bengals will be eager to resume their challenge for a first-round bye. Potsdam has already pulled off one major upset (Geneseo), but a second would be asking a lot.

Saturday, Feb. 8

No. 10 Oswego (13-4-2, 6-3-1) @ Morrisville (5-13-2, 2-9-1) – Oswego 6, Morrisville 3

The Lakers are laden with first-year players making important contributions, but yet to be playoff tested. No doubt, Oswego head man Ed Gosek is delivering the message that at this stage of the year, there are no more rookies, only Lakers. Morrisville’s desperate fight to keep its already slim playoff chances alive may not be enough to get the job done.

Slew of upsets the talk of the weekend

Leivermann GAC sized Slew of upsets the talk of the weekend

Corey Leivermann and Gustavus Adolphus swept St. John’s last weekend to stay atop the MIAC (photo: Laura Westphal/SportPix).

Up is down.

Down is up.

Hard to tell which way was which based on last week’s Division III action, such were the number of upsets registered around the rinks.

Scarcely any conference was immune from the toppling of giants, as six of the nine league leaders suffered at least one loss during the weekend.

Here’s the blow-by-blow:

ECAC East

For No. 5 Norwich to suffer two conference losses in one weekend is a rarity, yet that is precisely what occurred. The Cadets sustained a 4-3 loss to New England College on Friday (not really an upset), then fell to St. Anselm, 2-1. Conference leader Babson was stung, slightly, when it was tied 3-3 by Castleton on Derek Gingera’s extra-attacker goal with 30 seconds remaining.

ECAC Northeast

Conference-leading Nichols was hammered by cellar dweller Becker, 4-1, giving credance to that old chestnut about any given Saturday.

ECAC West

Another last-place squad, Nazareth, continued its impressive late season run with Friday’s 4-3 toppling of ECAC West contender Hobart. It followed the Golden Flyers’ upsets of nationally-ranked Utica and Geneseo the week previous. Hobart did rebound against Nazareth on Saturday with a 5-1 drubbing.

Meanwhile, two other contenders, Utica and Elmira, split their weekend set.

MACSAC

Salem State was yet another conference leader to be tripped up as it lost to sixth-place Worcester State, 3-2 on Saturday.

MIAC

First-place Gustavus Adolphus, ranked No. 15 in the USCHO.com Division III Men’s Poll, was the exception to the rule as the Golden Gusties swept a home-and-home set with St. John’s, 2-1 and 4-1. Adam Smyth’s tally early in the third proved to be the difference maker in Friday’s win.

NCHA

Even the nation’s top-ranked team can have a bad day, but few No. 1s within memory were blasted the way Adrian was in its 11-1 rout by No. 2 St. Norbert on Friday.

Tyler Zepeda registered the hattie for the Green Knights. Adrian, however, showed plenty of resilience in the following night’s rematch, taking a 4-1 win.

Third-place St. Scholastica, which dropped out of USCHO.com’s top 15 last week, may have played its way back in with twin blastings of Northland, 9-2 and 5-0.

NESCAC

First-place Williams piled up wins over Connecticut College and Tufts, while second-place Amherst kept pace with triumphs over Trinity – 3-2 on Erik Williams’ goal with 5:10 remaining – and Wesleyan.

SUNYAC

Geneseo had one of the more bizarre weekends, as the Ice Knights outscored No. 4 Plattsburgh, 5-3 on Friday, then was pasted 5-2 by last-place Potsdam the following night.

WIAC

One night after squeaking by Wisconsin-Superior, 2-1, first-place (and 10th-ranked) Wisconsin-River Falls fell to the Yellowjackets in the rematch by the same score.

Two teams behind the Falcons in the standings – but ahead of them in the rankings – both affected weekend sweeps. No. 3 Wisconsin-Stevens Point took its lone contest, a 5-3 nonconference win over Bethel.

Meanwhile, No. 7 Wisconsin-Eau Claire swept its two games with Wisconsin-Stout, 4-0 and 3-1.

Playoff pictures coming into focus

adrian bench Playoff pictures coming into focus

All eyes will be on Adrian this weekend as the Bulldogs look to stay unbeaten with a two-game set on the road at St. Norbert (photo: Adrian College Athletics).

As we enter the final month of the regular season, every coach will say that two points on a nightly basis is necessary.

Our slew of Division III men’s columnists take to this weekly blog to tell you, our loyal readers, just what will indeed happen this weekend at rinks across the country.

Or so they think.

ECAC East – Tim Costello

Wow! Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did!

A 2-4-0 (.333) pick week has dropped the overall season down to 31-15-4 (.653). I have a lot of improving to do and not a lot of time to do it in. Let’s see if the end of January and beginning of February can jump start a new trend upwards.

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Jan. 31

Skidmore @ Massachusetts-Boston

The Beacons lost two tough ones to travel partner Babson last weekend and three in a row which must have coach Peter Belisle and the troops looking for payback against this weekend’s opponents. Too bad for Skidmore that they are in the cross hairs first on Friday night. Massachusetts-Boston 4-2.

Norwich @ New England College

The Pilgrims have been ensconced in the top four all season and need points to stay there. Unfortunately, Norwich is only one point ahead of Babson, so they need the win as much or more to stay in first. Too much depth for the Pilgrims to handle from the Cadets. Norwich 3-1.

St. Michael’s @ St. Anselm

The Friday night game is two games in one in counting for both the ECAC East and NE-10 standings. Both teams will bring their best, but the Hawks have been more consistent and have the better goaltending to hold up in this one. St. Anselm 4-3.

Saturday, Feb. 1

St. Michael’s @ New England College

It’s a bounce-back game for the Pilgrims, who take the needed two points, but not without a battle from the Purple Knights, who continue to play well in spurts, but not the full 60 minutes. New England College 4-2.

Skidmore @ Babson

The Beavers have been rock-solid at home and goaltender Jamie Murray has been among the best in the country in shutting down opposing offenses. The Thoroughbreds have some skill, but so does the Babson back line, which also contributes offensively. Babson 2-1.

Norwich @ St. Anselm

The Hawks played a very good game the first time around at Northfield, so their confidence should be high entering the Saturday matinee. Only problem is Norwich remembers the first game, too, and looks to get the offense on track against the Hawks early. Norwich 4-2.

The calendar changing to February should create a sense of urgency for every team – drop the puck!

ECAC Northeast – Nathan Fournier

Saturday, Feb. 1

Nichols at Becker

This is going to be an intriguing game as Becker earned a 3-3 tie on Nov. 13. Nichols has more depth then Becker. Gregg Hussey had to make 40 saves in Becker’s net on that night. Becker will need to limit Nichols shots this time around. Still, if they limit Nichols’ shots to 30, I don’t think it will be enough. Nichols wins 5-1.

Wentworth at Salve Regina

Both teams aren’t having the season they had wanted. Salve Regina got off to a hot start in the first half of the season in conference. When they got out of conference, the wheels fell off. Wentworth has struggled all season. They are both still in the thick of things in terms of the conference tournament. I think Salve Regina gets back on track in a 6-3 game.

Johnson and Wales at Suffolk

Johnson and Wales are firing on all cylinders right now and I don’t think that will stop against Suffolk, a team that did play them tough the first time around as they fell 3-1. The Rams haven’t been playing well lately and that’s not a good trait in playing one of the hottest teams in the nation. I have Johnson and Wales winning 5-3.

Curry at Western New England

The Colonels have been playing well in 2014 and they face a Western New England team that brings a lot of offense. In the first game between the two clubs, the Golden Bears shut out Curry 4-0. Do I think Western New England will be that dominant this time around? No. I believe Curry will be more competitive, but Western New England gets back on track with a 4-3 win.

Tuesday, Feb. 4

Nichols at Curry

The Bison of Nichols shut out Curry the first time around with a 37-save effort from Alex Larson. They picked up goals from Frank Butler and Brett Jackson. Nichols also took eight penalties in the contest, which Curry couldn’t convert on. I expect this contest to be high-scoring with the same team coming out on top. Nichols win 4-1.

Salve Regina at Suffolk

Salve Regina doubled up Suffolk 6-3 the first time the two teams met in November. I think the Seahawks look back at this game to regain some of the confidence they had in the first half of this season. Salve Regina scored six in a row before Suffolk scored three times in the third period. I have the Seahawks winning 5-2.

Johnson and Wales at Wentworth

In the first contest in Providence, this was a pretty competitive contest with the Leopards winning 5-3. Wentworth had two power-play goals in the losing effort. Until someone stops Johnson and Wales, I have no reason to pick against them. They have one of the best freshmen goalkeepers in the nation in Joey Ballmer. Johnson and Wales win it 6-1.

Wednesday, Feb. 5

Western New England at Becker

The Golden Bears needed overtime to defeat Becker 5-4, so this isn’t a game Western New England can look past. Becker came back from a 4-2 deficit to force the overtime and get one of its two points in ECAC Northeast play. To keep up with Nichols and Johnson and Wales, Western New England will need both points in this one. I have them winning 7-4.

ECAC West – Dan Hickling

Friday, Jan. 31

Nazareth (5-12-1, 1-6-1) @ Hobart (10-4-4, 4-1-3) – Nazareth 3 Hobart 2

Those giant killers from Nazareth, fresh from two huge upsets a week ago, have one more shocker in them.

Saturday, Feb. 1

No. 12 Utica (10-4-4, 5-2-1) @ Elmira (11-7-0, 6-2-0) – Utica 3 Hobart 2

The two-game weekend set could have national implications and will certainly have strong pull within the league. Expect a split, with the Pioneers winning the back half.

MASCAC – Nathan Fournier

Saturday, Feb. 1

Massachusetts-Dartmouth at Fitchburg State

The last time these two teams played, it was the final game for both teams for the first half as the Falcons defeated the Corsairs 3-0 on Dec. 7 as Ryan Wysocki pitched a 3-0 shutout. Timmy Genova had two goals and Thomas Carlow also had a goal. I expect Fitchburg to win again this time around in a 4-2 contest.

Plymouth State at Westfield State

This should be an offensive showdown with both teams averaging over three-and-a-half goals per game. In the first game, Plymouth State came away with a 6-4 victory. I think this time around, it won’t be as much of a high-scoring game with Plymouth State adding goalie Gordon Ceasar from Utica, but Westfield State has offensive firepower. I will take Plymouth State in a 5-3 game.

Salem State at Worcester State

It wasn’t a pretty contest the last time these two teams met on Dec. 7 where Salem State came away with the 6-1 victory. This time, the game is in Worcester and the Vikings haven’t had the best of luck on the road. Worcester State has been playing better the last two weeks. At the end of the day, I believe Salem State has an advantage in talent. The Vikings win 3-1.

Thursday, Feb. 6

Westfield State at Framingham State

This will be a very intriguing game as the first time these two teams met, Framingham State had a better first half compared to Westfield State. In the second half, Westfield has been playing better and Framingham State has cooled off. I think Westfield State redeems its 2-1 loss from the second game of the season. Westfield State in a 6-4 final.

Salem State at Plymouth State

This will be the game of the night in the MASCAC. This will be a very good competitive game. The first game of the season went into overtime with Salem State coming up with the 4-3 victory. Salem State had four different scorers, while Zack Sarig scored twice. It will be another close game and I think Plymouth State gets it done on home ice 3-2.

UMass-Dartmouth at Worcester State

Both teams need the two points for conference tournament positioning. They are the bottom two teams in the MASCAC standings. UMass-Dartmouth beat Worcester the first time the two teams met in the first half of the season. I think the Corsairs get it done once again, but I believe it will a closer contest. UMass-Dartmouth wins a 4-3 game.

MIAC & WIAC – Brian Lester

It’s the final weekend of the month and the battle for league titles continues to take shape.

St. Thomas enters the weekend four points behind first-place Gustavus Adolphus in the MIAC, while St. Olaf and St. John’s have opportunities to move up in the standings with big weekends.

In the WIAC, no one is running away with the title just yet. Wisconsin-River Falls is on top, but Wisconsin-Stevens Point is right on its tail. Only one team has more than two losses in league play and that is Superior, which has three.

To say the least, everything gets interesting at this point in the season.

So without further delay, here are my picks for the weekend.

MIAC

St. Thomas vs. Augsburg

The Tommies have been tough on defense lately and their last three wins have come via shutout behind the solid play of Drew Fielding.

Fielding has been remarkable in goal. He has a goals-against average of 1.36 and has allowed only 22 goals on the season. He has racked up 403 saves as well. If he continues that trend, it’s going to be tough for Augsburg to get a win in the series.

The Auggies haven’t been bad and really need to get a split out of this weekend. They have tied in their last two games. Their capable of big games on offense and have racked up 45 goals on the season, including 11 by Ben McClellan.

Still, I just think if Fielding is on his game, the Tommies win both. St. Thomas, 4-1, 3-0.

St. John’s vs. Gustavus Adolphus

This is an opportunity for Gustavus to strengthen its hold on first place, but it won’t be easy against a Johnnies team still determined to make a push for another title.

The Gusties have won four consecutive games and have scored three or more goals in each of those wins. Also during that stretch, they haven’t allowed more than two goals in a game.

Corey Lievermann, who has 11 goals and eight assists, continues to shine and will need to be an impact player again this weekend. The Gusties have a lot of talent around him, though, and have racked up 58 goals in all. If John McLean does his job in goal – he has a 2.14 goals-against average – the Gusties win at least one in the series, and maybe both.

The Johnnies could take a huge step forward in the standings with a big weekend. They are two points out of third and seven out of second. St. John’s has been on a roll. It has won six consecutive games and seems to have found its stride.

The Johnnies have scored 49 goals and will need to be clicking on offense to get the job done, but the real key is the play of Saxton Soley, who has a goals-against average of 2.08. This series will be decided by defense. Gustavus 4-2, St. John’s 3-1.

St. Mary’s vs. St. Olaf

St. Olaf is in third and gain even more ground with a strong performance this weekend. The Oles have won four consecutive games and have scored 49 goals on the year. They have scored four or more goals three times during the streak and have earned a pair of shutouts in the stretch as well.

St. Olaf needs to attack early and often, and Dan Cecka could be key to that. He has scored 11 goals and dished out five assists. If the Oles are clicking offensively early, they will be in great shape.

St. Mary’s needs a sweep if it’s going to have any hope of getting back into the playoff picture. The Cardinals have dropped three consecutive games and have allowed 55 goals on the season.

The Cardinals need to find a way to strike first and their defensive performance will have to be their best of the season if they are going to do something against the Oles. St. Olaf, 4-1 and 5-3.

WIAC

Wisconsin-River Falls vs. Wisconsin-Superior

River Falls has been a little up and down lately, but owns a 4-2 record in conference play. The Falcons have proven they are legit, though, and are coming off a 3-1 win over Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Willie Hess continues to power the offense with 10 goals. River Falls has scored 55 goals in all, while the goalie rotation of Scott Lewan and Tanner Milliron has proven to be effective.

The big thing for River Falls is that it has played well on the road, fashioning a 6-3 record, and that should be beneficial to it this weekend against Superior.

Superior is looking to turn things around and comes in on a three-game winless streak.

Pat Dalbec and Michael Rey need to play well for the Yellow Jackets to have a shot at winning at least one game in the series. Dalbeck and Rey have tallied eight goals apiece and have come through with eight assists apiece as well. Scoring early will be big for Superior. River Falls 4-2, Superior 3-2.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire vs. Wisconsin-Stout

The Blugolds have been tough defensively and recently came off a stretch where they blanked five consecutive opponents.

Eau Claire continues to be tough offensively as well and has racked up 65 goals on the year.

Goaltending will be vital to success for the Blugolds, especially on the road. Tyler Green and Jay Deo have combined to allow only 28 goals. Green has racked up 292 saves and Deo has come through with 128 saves.

Regardless of who gets the nod as the starter, both are certainly capable of getting the job done. And if the Blugolds get great goaltending, they will be tough to beat this weekend. It’s also worth noting that Eau Claire is 5-1-1 on the road.

Stout has a chance to make a move in the standings, but it won’t be easy against the defending champions. The Blue Devils have been up and down lately as well, winning two of their last four, and they are going to need a great performance out of Corey Koop to be successful against Eau Claire.

Koop has made 547 saves on the season and he will need to rise up as he has done in the past for the Blue Devils to be in this game. Stout has scored 47 goals on the year and will need to make the most of its opportunities. Eau Claire, 5-1, 4-0.

NCHA – Katie Carito

Adrian at St. Norbert

This is without a doubt the series to watch this weekend. Top-ranked Adrian has yet to have a loss on the season, toting a 16-0-3 record. The second-ranked St. Norbert has a 16-2-1 record. Both teams are tied for first in the conference with 22 points. The Green Knights have a stellar home record, while the Bulldogs are very impressive on the road. I’m torn on who to choose, so I’ll pick a split. St. Norbert 2-1, Adrian 4-1

Milwaukee School of Engineering at Finlandia

Finlandia (1-11-0) was swept by Adrian last weekend, while MSOE was shut out by St. Norbert. Both teams had a win before going into the weekend facing the conference powerhouses. I think they will split the weekend. MSOE 2-1, Finlandia 2-1

Lake Forest vs. Lawrence

Lake Forest (10-8-1) is sitting in the fourth spot in the conference with 12 points, while Lawrence (5-13-1) is at the cusp of losing a playoff spot at seventh. Lake Forest is riding a six-game unbeaten streak. Lawrence snapped a seven-game losing streak last weekend with an impressive 3-2 win over St. Scholastica. I think Lake Forest will extend its streak to eight. Lake Forest 2-1, 3-1

Marian vs. Concordia (Wis.)

Marian (6-11-2) sits at sixth place with 11 points, while Concordia (8-7-4) is right above the Sabres in fifth place with 12 points. This will definitely be an exciting series to watch. The Sabres swept Northland last weekend. The Falcons are looking to snap a four-game winless streak. I’m going split. Marian 3-2, Concordia 2-1

Northland vs. St. Scholastica

St. Scholastica (10-5-4) has gone 2-2-2 in the second half the season and has yet to find a real rhythm. Northland’s (3-16-0) three wins have come to conference opponents. I think this weekend will be a good time for the Saints to get back in their winning ways. St. Scholastica 3-2, 2-1

NESCAC – Tim Costello

A 3-2-1 (.583) week of picks is the best of January, but like teams that want to advance in playoff hockey, I better start making better picks at the most important time of the season.

Overall record now stands at 31-13-5 (.684), so I clearly have my work cut out in the final month of the regular season if I want to reach the 70 percent threshold.

Here are the picks:

Friday, Jan. 31

Tufts @ Middlebury

The big question in this one is who is in goal for either team and will they come up with enough stops to get the win. The Panthers have home ice and the better offense so expect they get enough from whomever is in the crease on Friday night. Middlebury 5-2.

Connecticut College @ Williams

The battle for first overall is fully engaged, so don’t expect the Ephs to be leaving any points on the table while they scoreboard watch the action at Trinity. The Camels are a game opponent, but the Ephs have too much game and actually don’t play a one-goal contest. Williams 3-1.

Saturday, Feb. 1

Amherst @ Trinity

The first matchup went the way of the Lord Jeffs on their home ice, so look for the high-flying offense of the Bantams to look to return the favor this weekend. Amherst hasn’t seen a home-ice game all month and need to find points on the road, but won’t find them in Hartford. Trinity 3-1.

Hamilton @ Wesleyan

The Cardinals dug themselves an early hole and now are looking to finish strong in the final month and make sure they qualify for the postseason. Home games should mean points and Keith Buehler and company find two against their rivals from upstate New York. Wesleyan 4-2.

Tufts @ Williams

The Jumbos have struggled stopping shots and goals from opponents all season and Williams is a team you don’t want to have that issue with. Home sweep on tap for the boys in purple assuming they don’t take Tufts lightly. Williams 5-2.

Sunday, Feb. 2

Hamilton @ Trinity

The battle for first and potential tiebreakers should be in full swing next week when the Bantams see Williams, but coach Matt Greason isn’t going to let the boys forget about these points and playing tough against a team that has always caused Trinity trouble. Trinity 4-2.

The battle is to qualify for the playoffs and hopefully with the best seeding possible – drop the puck!

SUNYAC – Dan Hickling

Friday, Jan. 31

Potsdam (6-11-0, 1-7-0) @ Brockport (5-9-3, 2-5-1) – Potsdam 4 Brockport 2

Both teams are desperate for points, but the Bears are truly backed into a corner. For them, it’s snarl time.

Saturday, Feb. 1

Cortland (4-12-3, 3-6-2) @ Oswego (12-4-2, 5-3-1) – Oswego 5 Cortland 2

The Lakers will want to prove they are better than their last outing, a 4-0 blanking at Buffalo State last Saturday.

Still time for movement, but league leaders gaining steam

Eddie Z sized Still time for movement, but league leaders gaining steam

Goaltender Ed Zdolshek helped Nazareth gain its first conference win over the weekend by beating Utica in overtime (photo: Dan Hickling).

The weeks are dwindling towards the end of the regular season and the battles for playoff position are intensifying everywhere.

Some teams are getting hot at the right time of the year, but can they knock off the teams that have been playing well all year long?

Here are some of the highlights from some great matchups in conference play this past week:

ECAC East

League-leading Norwich swept a pair of games at home over the University of New England and Southern Maine by scores of 5-1 and 3-0, respectively. Goalie Chris Czarnota recorded both wins, stopping 20 of 21 shots for the Cadets, who need all four points to maintain their slim one-point margin in the standings over Babson.

The Beavers played a home-and-home series with nationally-ranked Massachusetts-Boston and created some room at the top of the standings by beating the Beacons both nights by scores of 2-0 and 3-2 where sophomore goaltender Jamie Murray stopped 66 of 68 shots to pick up both wins.

With the Beacons dropping both games, New England College leveraged a split in its games with Castleton and Skidmore to move into third place in the conference.

ECAC Northeast

In a battle for the top spot, Nichols upended Salve Regina by a score of 8-4 to take a one-point lead in the standings over the Seahawks and Johnson and Wales. The Bison used seven different goal-scorers and saw Frank Butler score twice, including the game-winner, in the convincing home win.

Johnson and Wales kept pace with a 6-1 win over Western New England with Joey Ballmer earning his 14th win of the season in goal for the Wildcats.

ECAC West

Look out for the Hobart Statesmen, who certainly liked seeing the calendar turn to 2014.

After a slow start, Hobart is unbeaten in 2014, posting eight straight wins, including two over nationally-ranked opponents at the Buck Supply Winter Classic at Plattsburgh.

This past weekend, Hobart swept a pair of games over conference rival Manhattanville by scores of 4-3 and 5-1. The wins on the road were led by Mac Olson, who scored a goal in each game, including the shorthanded game-winner in Saturday’s game. The two wins moved Hobart into a second-place tie in the standings with Utica and both teams trail Elmira by just a point with just three weeks remaining in the regular season.

Nazareth played spoiler and earned its first win in the conference with a 2-1 overtime upset of Utica. Goalie Ed Zdolshek stopped 34 of 35 shots and Scott Dawson scored the game-winner in the extra session for the Golden Flyers.

MASCAC

Five teams are now separated by just three points in the standings after last week’s action.

Salem State leads the conference by just a point over Westfield State and Framingham State with Fitchburg State and Plymouth State just a couple of points in arrears.

Salem State posted a 5-2 win over Massachusetts-Dartmouth on Thursday night, while Framingham suffered an 8-2 loss To Fitchburg on Saturday. Jake Martin posted a hat trick and Timmy Genova scored two goals for the Falcons in a game that saw four goaltenders facing a total of 90 shots on goal.

MIAC

Gustavus Adolphus still leads the standings by four points over St. Thomas, but the Tommies have two games in hand. The Gusties posted a 4-1 win Friday night over St. Mary’s and added one more in a 5-1 road win over the Cardinals. Gavin Tufte and Gustav Bengtson scored two goals apiece in the road win, while four different players shared the offensive load in the 4-1 home win on Friday.

St. Thomas outscored Hamline by a combined 10-0 in two games to post back-to-back shutout wins. Drew Fielding stopped all 35 shots he faced in both games and the Tommies needed an empty-net goal for some breathing room in Saturday’s 2-0 win.

NCHA

Adrian, the nation’s No. 1 team, swept a pair of games from Finlandia by scores of 6-3 and 5-3. Jeremy Olinyk scored twice in Saturday’s win to lead the Bulldogs.

Tied with Adrian at the top of the conference standings is St. Norbert. Goaltender David Jacobson maintained his unbeaten record at 13-0-1 while posting back-to-back shutouts for St Norbert in the 3-0 and 2-0 wins over Milwaukee School of Engineering.

This weekend finds the conference leaders playing a pair of games at St. Norbert that may go a long way in determining who stays at the top of the standings.

NESCAC

With a late goal in the third period by Ben Chwick, Colby removed Williams from the list of unbeatens in NESCAC play in a game that had all of the intensity of a playoff game.

Goaltender Sam Parker outdueled Sean Dougherty for Williams to pick up the win. Williams bounced back with an equally hard-fought win over Bowdoin by a 2-1 score on Saturday, while Colby fell to Middlebury by a 5-2 score.

Trinity has very quietly moved into a tie in the league standings with their weekend sweep of two conference road games over Connecticut College and Tufts. Sophomore John Hawkrigg continued his torrid scoring over the weekend and Trinity now has four players with 10 or more goals and 25 points overall or higher with three weeks remaining in conference play to add on.

SUNYAC

Plattsburgh took a 4-0 lead through two periods and cruised to a 4-2 win over Potsdam to maintain their lead in conference play.

On Saturday night, Buffalo State surprised Oswego with a 4-0 win at home, scoring all four goals in the second period. Buffalo State goaltender Kevin Carr earned first-star honors, posting 33 saves, including 26 in the final two periods to earn the shutout and win.

WIAC

Wisconsin-Eau Claire finally surrendered a goal to the opposition this past weekend.

Having gone unbeaten since Dec. 7, the Blugolds posted five straight shutouts entering their weekend series with Wisconsin River Falls. Friday’s 8-3 win saw five goals in the third period to break out the game, while the visitors fought back on Saturday for a 3-1 win that gave the Blugolds their first loss in calendar 2014. Goalie Scott Lewan stopped 30 of 31 shots to earn the hard-fought victory.

The weekend roll of the dice

21 Stephen Castriota The weekend roll of the dice

Stephen Castriota has scored some big-time goals lately for Fredonia. Does his clutch play continue this weekend (photo: Dan Hickling)?

Believe it or not, but playoff pictures are starting to become less blurry as teams are jockeying for positioning in their respective conference standings.

That said, the games are decided on the ice and this weekend, there is no shortage of games to go down in Division III circles.

Here is what our group of columnists has to say about this weekend and beyond.

ECAC East – Tim Costello

It was another mediocre pick week as I finished at 3-2-0 (.600) last week. That less-than-stellar performance brings the season total to 28-11-4 (.698) for the season, which is below my target of 70 percent. The weeks in the season are dwindling down, so more pressure on the teams and subsequently, me.

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Jan. 24

Babson @ Massachusetts-Boston

The two teams chasing the Norwich at the top of the standings play a home-and-home series this weekend. Both teams are nationally-ranked and looking to make a statement in the conference. The Beavers take the opening round and just maybe need overtime to do it. Babson 3-2.

New England College @ Castleton

The Pilgrims have quietly stayed in the top four and are playing very good hockey, as evidenced by last week’s conference player of the week Cheyne Matheson. The Spartans are still struggling with consistency in their game and the Pilgrims will take advantage of mistakes. NEC 5-3.

Southern Maine @ St. Michael’s

The Friday night game in Winooski is billed by the hosts as the second annual Alzheimer’s Awareness Game, which seeks to provide awareness and raise funds around this debilitating disease. The hosts are playing better, but wins continue to be hard to come by and the visitors eke one out here. Southern Maine 4-3.

Saturday, Jan. 25

Massachusetts-Boston @ Babson

It’s the return engagement and quid pro quo, the visitors look to steal two points from the home team. Another close one between two very talented teams and this one is decided by special teams, but in regulation time. Massachusetts-Boston 3-2.

New England College @ Skidmore

The Thoroughbreds have had a rough stretch since the calendar turned to week two in 2014. Points and lots of them are needed quickly if Skidmore looks to move into the upper half of the playoff bracket. This is a game they need to win, but the Pilgrims keep their momentum going. NEC 4-3.

St. Anselm @ Castleton

The Hawks have been up and down all season, but their goaltending, especially Nick Dries, has been very consistent. Last two road games this weekend before five straight at home, so a win here at Castleton could get the Hawks jump-started to a long-term winning streak. St. Anselm 3-2.

Weekends, good or bad, can make a big difference in where your team stands on Monday morning – drop the puck!

ECAC Northeast – Nathan Fournier

Saturday, Jan. 25

Suffolk at Curry

This is a very intriguing matchup with Curry 2-1-1 in its last four games, while Suffolk has lost its last two games. Suffolk is sitting in the fifth playoff seed, one point ahead of Wentworth, who holds the final playoff seed. Curry is still in the mix for a conference playoff berth as they are two points back of Wentworth. I see Curry picking up the crucial two points in a 5-3 game.

Western New England at Johnson and Wales

Both teams currently have six points and sit in third place in the conference. If the conference tournament started today, Johnson and Wales would hold the No. 3 seed. It’s an important game for both clubs as Western New England is 1-6 on the road this season and Johnson and Wales is still trying to get into the USCHO.com Division III Men’s Poll. I will take Johnson and Wales as they have the hot hand in a 6-4 game.

Salve Regina at Nichols

In the battle of the top two teams in the conference, this is the marquee game on the schedule. Salve Regina is glad to back in conference play as it has lost the last nine games – all nonconference games – with their lone loss in ECAC Northeast coming to Wentworth. Nichols has had better luck outside ECAC Northeast and I see them overtaking first place in a 5-1 game.

Becker at Wentworth

A win for Becker would do wonders for the Hawks. They have one win on the season and a win against Wentworth would put them in a tie for sixth place with the Leopards. Wentworth earned a tie last weekend with Assumption, but still haven’t won since Dec. 10. I think they get the monkey off their back in a 3-1 game.

Tuesday, Jan. 28

Salve Regina at Johnson and Wales

The two Rhode Island schools have the stage at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence for the lone ECAC Northeast game of the night. Depending how Saturday night’s games go, it could decide first place in the conference. It’s a game I believe Johnson and Wales is able to defend home ice and come away with a 4-2 contest.

Wednesday, Jan. 29

Curry at Becker

This is another game that could tighten up the bottom of the standings. It’s the first of two games between them. They will meet in the final game for both clubs. I will take Becker to win their first game at home all season 3-2.

Wentworth at Suffolk

Another rivalry game between two Boston-area schools. This another game I could see Wentworth use to climb up the standings. It’s a rivalry game, so Suffolk will hang win with them and make it a game. I will go with Wentworth 4-3 in OT.

Thursday, Jan. 30

Nichols at Western New England

This game will be a battle. Nichols has the proven goalie (Alex Larson), while Western New England brings the offense. That will be an interesting dynamic to watch for. I believe Larson, who has allowed 12 goals in his last two games, will steal a game on the road in a 3-2 victory.

ECAC West – Dan Hickling

Friday, Jan. 24

No. 10 Utica (10-3-3, 5-1-1) @ Nazareth (3-12-1, 0-6-1) – Utica 5, Nazareth 1
This could be considered something of a trap game for Utica, given the Golden Flyers’ penchant for playing top teams tough. And what few slip ups the Pioneers have had generally have been to upset minded lesser lights. But an upset here? Don’t count on it.

Saturday, Jan. 25

Hobart (8-4-4, 2-1-3) @ Manhattanville (10-6-0, 3-3-0) – Manhattanville 4, Hobart 3

This game is the ECAC est — a league in which one good weekend, or one bad one, can make or define your season — in a nutshell. Hard fought. Evenly matched. A white-knuckle ride to the final horn. This one goes to the home team.

MASCAC – Nathan Fournier

Saturday, Jan. 25

Fitchburg State at Framingham State

Both teams have been struggling as Fitchburg State has lost its last two games, while Framingham State is 0-3-1 in its last four games. In the first game of the season between the two teams, the Falcons defeated the Rams 5-2 on Nov. 23. The Falcons move to 2-0 on the season against the Rams with a 3-1 victory.

Westfield State at Massachusetts-Dartmouth

The Westfield State Owls have been playing well in 2014. UMass-Dartmouth is still looking for consistency this season. The Owls have been putting up 4.50 goals per game where UMass-Dartmouth has been allowing 3.40 goals per game. The Corsairs played the Owls tough in their first matchup, losing 3-2 on Nov. 23. I think Westfield State wins by a bigger margin this time around in a 6-3 contest.

Worcester State at Plymouth State

The Panthers seem to have found some solid goaltending in sophomore Gordon Ceasar. He was the MASCAC goaltender of the week this past weekend. Worcester State has won its last two games against UMass-Dartmouth and Fitchburg State. This a very intriguing game between two teams who are looking to host a quarterfinal game. I have Plymouth State winning in a 4-3 game.

Tuesday, Jan. 28

Franklin Pierce at Framingham State

This is the last nonconference games for the MASCAC. Framingham State will have have a great chance to get some momentum going into the final month of the season. Franklin Pierce is 1-1 this season against MASCAC teams having beaten Westfield State 3-2 and dropping a 4-2 decision to Fitchburg State. I have Framingham State winning 3-0.

Salem State at St. Anselm

This is St. Anselm’s first game against a MASCAC school. They are 4-0-0 when they leading after one period. The Salem State Vikings are 2-4-1 when trailing after one stanza. They also score a little over half a goal less in nonconference play. I think the Vikings can get it done on the road in a 3-2 game

UMass-Dartmouth at Stonehill

The Consairs have their hands full with Stonehill, who is scoring 3.59 goals per game. In their lone game against a MASCAC opponent, they lost to Plymouth State 3-2. I believe they will have better success this time around in a 7-3 win over UMass-Dartmouth.

Thursday, Jan. 30

Plymouth State at Framingham State

In the first contest between these two clubs, Eric Ward had two goals in the Rams’ 4-2 victory. Last season, they lost all three games. The Rams are playing confident this season, so like the first game this season between the two teams, I expect another close game. I believe Plymouth State will pick up a big 5-3 road victory.

Fitchburg State at Salem State

Another game on the schedule where its a game that could separate the standings. Salem State has 10 points and Fitchburg State has six points. Fitchburg State can close the gap or the Vikings could make it a top tier of the three teams between Westfield State, Framingham State and themselves. With the Vikings strong home record, I have them winning 6-4.

Worcester State at Westfield State

Dalton Jay recorded a hat trick against Worcester State on Dec. 5. Frank Zuccaro and P.J. McCadden assisted on all three goals in the 6-2 win. The Owls’ offense has been strong in conference play and I expect it to continue in this contest against the Lancers. Westfield State wins it 8-5.

MIAC/WIAC – Brian Lester

As we close in on the final month of the regular season, the conference races are beginning to heat up in the MIAC and WIAC.

The standings are tight in both leagues. Gustavus Adolphus is in first place in the MIAC and four points ahead of second-place St Thomas. St. John’s is in third with 15 points.

River Falls leads the WIAC, but the teams behind the Falcons are all well within striking distance.

So without further delay, here are my picks for the weekend.

MIAC

St. Thomas vs. Hamline: The Tommies will look to gain ground in the standings when they play a home-and-home with the Pipers.

St. Thomas should have the edge. It has racked up 40 goals and allowed just 24. Alex Altenbernd leads the team with six goals and eight assists. Drew Fielding owns a 1.55 goals-against average.

Hamline has managed only 25 goals and has given up 65. Kevin Novakovich leads the Pipers with five goals and six assists. It will take a tremendous effort by the Pipers to steal a win in this series. My guess is the Tommies sweep. St. Thomas 5-1 and 5-0.

Augsburg vs. Concordia (Minn.): The Auggies and Cobbers are both vying for a spot in the tournament and this series should be highly competitive.

Augsburg has scored 46 goals and allowed 38 and Ben McClellan leads the team with 10 goals and three assists. Nicholas Widing has five goals and seven assists.

Concordia has tallied 55 goals on the season and has given up 42. If the Cobbers can get going early offensively, especially if Caleb Suderman has a strong effort — he has 11 goals and nine assists — they could very well sweep this series. I’m thinking these teams will split even though Concordia is at home. Concordia 4-2; Augsburg 5-3.

St. Mary’s vs. Gustavus: The Gusties own first place at the moment and it is big for Gustavus that this series will be played on its home ice. Corey Lievermann leads Gustavus with 10 goals and seven assists, while John McClean has been tough in goal with a 2.30 goals against average.

St. Mary’s knows it needs to get at least a split to keep its playoff hopes alive and there is no question the Cardinals could do it. They have scored only 35 goals and will need to be efficient offensively while getting solid play from Christian Gaffy, who has a goals-against average of 2.76. Gustavus 4-2, St. Mary’s 4-3.

WIAC

Wisconsin-River Falls vs. Wisconsin-Eau Claire: The Blugolds are riding high after five consecutive shutouts and it’s going to be tough for the Falcons to score on them.

Tyler Green has earned three of those shutouts and Jay Deo has the other two. Green and Deo have goals-against averages of 2.08 and 0.66, respectively. The Blugolds have allowed 25 goals in all while scoring 56. Joe Krause leads the offense with eight goals and eight assists.

River Falls earned a split with Wisconsin-Stevens Point last week and will be looking for one against Eau Claire. It’s going to have to find a way to sneak in a goal here or there, perhaps off a rebound, and play tenacious defense.

The Falcons have tallied 47 goals and have allowed 33. Willie Hess has struck for 10 goals and three assists while Scott Lewan has come through with 240 saves and has fashioned a goals-against average of 2.51. I can see at least one game ending in a tie. Eau Claire 3-0; River Falls 1-1.

Wisconsin-Superior vs. Wisconsin-Stevens Point: Superior has been a little up and down lately, going 2-3-2 in its last seven, but it will be up for the challenge of taking on the Pointers.

The Yellow Jackets have scored 41 goals and have allowed 43 and they will need to be tough on defense to to get the job done against Stevens Point. Goalies Drew Strandberg and Dayn Belfour have combined for 372 saves. Cody Hotchkin and Pat Dalbec have tallied 14 and 12 points, respectively, with Dalbec racking up six goals, while Hotckin has struck for five goals.

The Pointers have lost only once in their last six games and they could very well keep things rolling in the right direction this weekend.

Stevens Point has been phenomenal on offense, scoring 82 goals, and it has allowed only 26. If Brandon Jaeger is on top of his game in goal — he owns a 1.71 goals-against average — and Garrett Ladd turns in another strong effort — has scored 13 goals and dished out 13 assists — the Pointers are going to be in good shape. Stevens Point 5-2 and 4-1.

NCHA – Katie Carito

All but Lake Forest and Concordia (Wis.) are playing conference action this weekend and I’m not predicting any upsets for the eight teams who will be battling it out.

Finlandia at Adrian

Adrian (14-0-2) remains the No. 1 team in the country after forcing an overtime situation twice last weekend against St. Scholastica. The Bulldogs came out of the series with a tie and a win. Finlandia (2-13-1) earned its first conference win of the season against Northland on Saturday after a 5-4 OT loss on Friday night. Adrian 4-1, 3-1

Northland at Marian

Marian is 4-11-2 on the season and hasn’t won a game since Nov. 22. In January, the Sabres have had to go to overtime to decide a game, but haven’t been able to get the win. Northland (3-14-0) has most recently split a weekend series with Finlandia. Marian 2-1, Northland 2-1

St. Scholastica at Lawrence

Lawrence (4-12-1) is looking to snap a six-game losing streak as it hosts St. Scholastica (9-4-4). The Saints will look to get some of their momentum back (they have had to battle to overtime in their last four games) and only have one win on the second half of the season. St. Scholastica 3-1, 2-1

St. Norbert vs. Milwaukee School of Engineering

MSOE (4-12-1) is on a bit of a hot streak compared to their first-half performance. After losing the first nine games of the season, the Raiders have rallied to go 4-3-1 since Dec. 13. They most recently swept Lawrence, including a 1-0 shutout. St. Norbert (14-2-1) is tied for first in the standings with Adrian, and trampled Concordia (Wis.) 11-1 on Saturday night. St. Norbert 2-1, 2-1

NESCAC – Tim Costello

Back-to-back weekends with 2-3-0 (.400) picks certainly is diminishing my early season success. The overall season record of 19-8-2 (.690) is now below the cherished 70 percent goal, so time to break out of the deep freeze in winter doldrums and start getting a few right.

Here are the picks:

Friday, Jan. 24

Williams @ Colby

The opening game of the season saw a 1-1 tie in Williamstown and both teams have shown since then that they can play high-intensity hockey. It’s another close one, but Sean Dougherty outduels Sam Parker in a NESCAC goalie classic. Williams 3-2.

Geneseo @ Hamilton

Another SUNYAC vs. NESCAC matchup this week that finds the home team facing a very tough nonconference opponent. The Continentals are game and competitive, but don’t have enough in the tank against this upstate New York opponent. Geneseo 4-1.

Amherst @ Concordia (Wis.)
The Lord Jeffs are amidst games seven and eight of ten straight on the road and this weekend takes them way west to face two NCHA opponents. Last week’s conference sweep got Amherst back to its winning ways and this one is close with an empty-netter providing the final margin for the visitors. Amherst 4-2.

Saturday, Jan. 25

Trinity @ Connecticut College

While Williams may be garnering most of the attention at the top of the standings, the Bantams are showing the rest of the league that they are right near the top for a reason – they are playing good hockey. The Camels see it first-hand and suffer a hard-fought loss. Trinity 3-1.

Wesleyan @ Tufts

The Cardinals are 0-4 in conference play the last two weeks, including three tough one-goal losses. Karma doesn’t always balance things out perfectly, but the visitors will take a win by any margin against the Jumbos. Wesleyan 4-2.

Williams @ Bowdoin

The Polar Bears got thumped 5-2 back on the road in November, so the home-ice advantage is something Bowdoin hopes to leverage and stay above the .500 mark in conference play and continuing to move up in the standings. Bowdoin 3-2.

The battle to be in the playoffs and seeded well continues with just four weekends remaining – drop the puck!

SUNYAC – Dan Hickling

Friday, Jan. 24

Brockport (4-8-3, 1-4-1) @ Morrisville (4-10-2, 1-6-1) – Morrisville 4, Brockport 2
One of these two clubs is bound to make a late season charge to the SUNYAC playoffs. The guess here is that the Mustangs take the first step.

Saturday, Jan. 25

Cortland (4-11-2, 3-5-1) @ Fredonia (5-8-3, 2-3-2) – One of D-III’s hottest clubs over the past few weeks, Fredonia should have the upper hand on home ice. Perhaps Stephen Castriota, (AKA Mr. Clutch) will pop in another game-winner.

Wild and wooly weekend

Soley sized Wild and wooly weekend

St. John’s has been led all season by goaltender Saxton Soley and that was the case last weekend as the Johnnies swept Concordia (Minn.) (photo: Caleb Williams/d3photography.com).

It was an interesting weekend in the Division III hockey world.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the defending national champion, won its fifth consecutive game in shutout fashion.

Elmira ended a nine-game losing streak to Oswego and also picked up its third win of the season over a nationally-ranked team in the process.

Adrian and St. Scholastica hooked up in a thrilling weekend series in which both games went to overtime. One ended in a tie. The other ended with a win by Adrian.

Williams also pulled off an upset as it took down Plattsburgh in a battle of nationally-ranked opponents.

For a look at those games and more, keep reading.

ECAC East

Fifth-ranked Norwich has dominated Middlebury lately and the trend continued Saturday as the Cadets nailed down a 5-2 win over the Panthers.

Five players scored goals for Norwich, which defeated its in-state rival for the 10th time in their last 14 meetings. Norwich is 10-2-2 during that stretch, but Middlebury still leads the all time series 80-59-8.

Shane Gorman scored a goal and dished out an assist for the Cadets, while Erik Lyrvall, William Pelletier, Dean Niezgoda and Chris Duszynski all scored goals as well.

Norwich outshot Middlebury 17-1 in the opening period and held a 36-20 advantage overall as it continued its quest for a 16th consecutive regular-season league title.

Max Franklin came through with the game-winning goal in seventh-ranked Babson’s 4-3 win over St. Anselm on Saturday.

Franklin scored at the 15:54 mark of the third period as the Beavers won their third consecutive game, improving to 14-3 overall and to 8-2 in the conference.

Mike Driscoll scored twice for Babson and Jamie Murray was stellar in goal as he tallied 40 saves.

ECAC Northeast

Several Fredonia players reached new heights on Saturday in a 4-0 win over Curry.

Frankie Hart and Zach White scored their first collegiate goals for the Blue Devils and Jeff Flagler earned his first shutout as Fredonia improved to 4-8-3 on the season.

Taylor Bourne also scored a goal, his first of the season, and Matt Owczarczak tallied his second goal of the year.

Flagler made 30 saves in the win and is the first Fredonia goalie to get a shutout this season. He is 1-3 on the year. The win finished off a week where the Blue Devils fashioned a 2-0-1 record.

Franklin Pierce used a furious finish to knock off Suffolk 4-3 on Saturday.

The Ravens scored four goals in the final 27 minutes of the game to earn the win and improve to 3-11-1 on the season.

Tim Sullivan scored two goals to record the first multi-goal game of his career and now has six goals on the year.

Aaron Baker scored his second goal of the year. He also dished out an assist. Baker didn’t get a point in the eight games he played during the first half of the year, but has four points in the last five games.

Ted Walsh tallied the other goal for the Ravens. It was his first game-winning goal and his fifth goal overall on the season.

Kyle Moran made 25 saves as he made his first start since Nov. 30.

ECAC West

Elmira ended a nine-game losing streak to 10th-ranked Oswego and earned its third win over a ranked team this season as it took down the Lakers 3-2 on Saturday.

The Soaring Eagles pushed their win streak to three games and ended the Lakers’ 10-game unbeaten streak.

Elmira scored first, something no other team has done against Oswego this year, as Carter Shinkaruk put the Soaring Eagles in front 1-0 just 28 seconds into the game.

Dylan Herold and Nick Angelo also scored goals for Elmira, which improved to 8-6 on the year.

Sal Magliocco did his part in goal as he tied his career-high in saves with 42. The Soaring Eagles were out-shot 44-26. It’s the biggest difference in shots this season for Elmira.

Nazareth ended a two-game losing streak on Saturday as it pushed past Cortland 4-2. It was just the second win for the Golden Flyers since Nov. 5.

The Golden Flyers are now 3-12-1 overall and won behind goals from Julius Tamasy, Tom Seravalli, David Seward and Mark Zavorin. The goals by Tamasy and Seravalli were shorthanded. Prior to Saturday, Nazareth had scored only one shorthanded goal in its two-year history.

Nazareth held a 38-29 edge in shots and avenged its 5-1 loss to the Red Dragons on Dec. 12. However, Nazareth did lose Tamasy for the rest of the season as he fractured his leg after crashing into the boards in the third period.

MASCAC

Alex Dewitz came through with a hat trick as he led Worcester State to a 5-3 win over Fitchburg State on Saturday.

Andrew Bates and Richard Bohan also scored goals for the Lancers, who improved to 6-6-1 overall and to 2-5-1 in the conference. Bates now has a team-best five goals on the year.

Worcester State held a 39-32 advantage in shots, but went 0-for-5 on the power play. Salvatorre Tecci came through with 29 saves and is 4-4-1 on the year.

MIAC

St. John’s scored three unanswered goals in the third period and the Johnnies held on for a 5-3 win over Concordia (Minn.) on Saturday.

Alex Ach came through with his fourth goal of the year during the outburst, while Trent Johnson, Kevin Becker, Brady Riesgraf and Nick Vatnsdal also scored goals in the win.

The goal for Johnson was his first of the year and the game was his first one since Dec. 12 because of an injury. Riesgraf scored his first collegiate goal and Saxton Soley made 22 saves for the Johnnies, who are now 9-6 overall and 4-3 in the MIAC.

St. John’s has won four consecutive games and has come out on top in 15 of the last 17 meetings against the Cobbers.

Gustavus Adolphus scored three unanswered goals and rolled to a 4-2 win over Augsburg on Saturday to complete a weekend sweep of the Auggies.

Sam Smith, Alex Gallen and Andy Pearson all scored goals during the surge and Tyler Lapic scored a goal as well for the Gusties, who are 9-4-3 overall and 6-1-1 in the conference.

Gustavus tallied 35 shots and held Augsburg to 25 shots. John McLean racked up 23 saves and improved his record to 8-3-3. He made 13 of those saves in the third period.

NCHA

Adrian and St. Scholastica squared off in a battle of nationally-ranked opponents Saturday night and it was the top-ranked Bulldogs who prevailed with a 4-3 win in overtime.

Justin Basso scored in OT to give Adrian the victory over the 15th-ranked Saints. It was his third game-winning goal of the season.

Duston Hebebrand came through with two goals and an assist for the Bulldogs, while Jeremy Olinyk also scored as Adrian improved to 14-0-3 overall and to 8-0-2 in the conference.

The Saints, who fell to 9-4-4 overall and to 6-1-3 in the conference, got goals from Justin Krabben, Dave Williams and Joel Paiment.

Adrian was outshot 34-30.

The two teams played to a 1-1 tie one night earlier as both games in the series went to OT.

SUNYAC

Williams earned an impressive win on Saturday as it knocked off third-ranked Plattsburgh in a nonconference showdown featuring two of the best teams in the nation.

The Ephs, ranked 12th in the country, extended their win streak to five games and won their tenth game of the season.

Craig Kitto turned in a hat trick to pace the Ephs, who led 3-0 after the second period. Luke Stickel and Sam Gray also scored for Williams, which was outshot 36-21.

Not only did the Ephs win, improving to 10-2-2 on the year, but head coach Bill Kangas now owns the most wins as a coach in program history. He is 330-223-5 at the helm of the Ephs and is in his 25th season at Williams.

WIAC

In a huge nonconference showdown between sixth-ranked Wisconsin-Eau Claire and eighth-ranked St. Thomas, the Blugolds earned their fifth consecutive shutout with a 2-0 win over the Tommies.

With the shutout, Eau Claire becomes just the second team at any level of college hockey to ring up five consecutive shutouts. Lake Superior State last did it in 1994.

The streak began for UWEC back on Dec. 14.

Chris Heineman scored first for the Blugolds and Jack Callahan came through with the final goal of the night.

The Blugolds were outshot 39-32.

Tyler Green earned the win and has been the goalie in three of the shutouts during the streak. He made 39 saves and has not allowed a goal in 2014. Jay Deo has the other two shutout wins in the streak.

Eau Claire improved to 11-3-1 on the season while the Tommies fell to 10-3-2.

Predicting weekend wins and losses

McLean GAC sized Predicting weekend wins and losses

John McLean was solid in goal for Gustavus Adolphus over the first half and looks to have an even better second half (photo: Laura Westphal/SportPix).

How will this weekend’s Division III men’s games play out? Our columnists have a pretty good idea … right?

ECAC East – Tim Costello

It was the first week of picks that didn’t knock it out of the park as I finished at 3-2-0 (.600) last week.

That sub-par performance brings the season total to a still respectable 25-9-4 (.711) for the season.

The matchups don’t get easier this week with several ranked teams facing each other, but I will still endeavor to pick the challenging ones, too.

Friday, Jan. 17

Babson @ New England College

The first time around, the Beavers won by a 3-0 score at home. The confines at Henniker are more conducive to the Pilgrims’ game, but two goals doesn’t get it done against a Babson team that knows how to score just enough to win. Babson 4-2.

Castleton @ University of New England

The Spartans have been stung by the upset bug against the Nor’easters not so long ago that the upperclassmen don’t remember that feeling. New team and different coach, but if the Spartans want to stay in the hunt for a home-ice seeding, these are the games they need to win. Castleton 5-3.

St. Michael’s @ Norwich

The past week-plus has seen the Cadets play some serious competition from Frozen Fenway and Babson to Massachusetts-Boston and a midweek game with Plattsburgh. They won’t be looking ahead to their other in-state rival in Middlebury on Saturday and take care of business with their travel partner. Norwich 6-3.

Saturday, Jan. 18

Middlebury @ Norwich

It’s one of the oldest and best rivalries in D-III hockey and while the Cadets host St. Mike’s on Friday night, the Panthers get to play a high-octane game against Plattsburgh before traveling to Northfield. Very tough to play back-to-back big games, so the advantage goes to the home team in a close one.

Norwich 3-2. Skidmore @ University of New England

The Nor’easters have played everyone tough and don’t have a lot of wins to show for the effort, but this one gets them the two points in league play. Colby Drost has been very reliable in goal for Brad Holt and makes the difference in this one for the home team. UNE 3-2.

Great matchups both in conference and out of conference play with some traditional rivalries in the mix – drop the puck!

ECAC Northeast – Nathan Fournier

Friday, Jan. 17

Curry at Buffalo State

Buffalo State has already faced another ECAC Northeast opponent in Johnson and Wales a few weeks back. They played them tough, losing both games 2-1. I expect the Bengals to fare batter against Curry, which only has three wins this season. To the Colonels’ credit, they picked up a win last weekend over Canton. I will take the Bengals in a 6-1 game.

Johnson and Wales at Potsdam

The Wildcats have done what they have to do during their nonconference schedule by going 8-1-0 this season outside the ECAC Northeast. The Bears have also played well outside the SUNYAC, going 5-2-0 . Johnson and Wales is on the cusp of making the USCHO.com Division III Men’s Poll as it received nine votes this week. Another good weekend may pot them in the top 15. I have Johnson and Wales in a 4-3 game.

Saturday, Jan. 18

Johnson and Wales at Canton

Canton has split four games this season with ECAC Northeast teams. They have beaten Becker and Suffolk, while losing to Western New England and Curry. This will be a tough test as Johnson and Wales is only allowing 1.29 goals per game this season. After a close game against Potsdam, I like Johnson and Wales to take this one 5-1.

Curry at Fredonia

This should be a very competitive game between two teams who look to get some momentum heading into conference play. This will be the first game for Fredonia against an ECAC Northeast opponent. Curry has played well last weekend and I expect them to take one game this weekend. I have the Colonels in a 4-2 hockey game.

Southern New Hampshire at Salve Regina

It will be a fun game as both teams know how to put the puck into the net. Southern New Hampshire is scoring four goals a game. Salve Regina is putting 3.6 goals per game this season. Both defenses will have a hard time stopping the other team’s offense. Salve Regina hasn’t played well outside the ECAC Northeast. I will take Southern New Hampshire in a 6-4 game.

Franklin Pierce at Suffolk

The Suffolk Rams are still looking to get on track for 2014. They are 1-3-0 this month, but Franklin Pierce isn’t doing much better with a record of 1-3 after losing to Fredonia on Wednesday. I will take Suffolk as the home team in a 3-2 game.

Assumption at Wentworth

This is Wentworth’s final nonconference contest of the season. Both teams are struggling. I believe Wentworth coach R.J. Tolan will be fine-tuning his squad for the stretch run. They are still in the thick of things in ECAC Northeast, so this will be a nice tune-up game. Assumption pulled off an upset over Western New England last week and I think they will take this one 3-1.

Sunday, Jan. 19

Nichols at Assumption

While Assumption is playing Wentworth on Saturday, the Bison are waiting for them in Worcester. Nichols is looking to bounce back from a 8-5 defeat against Manhattanville. This a very winnable game for them. I see them doubling up Assumption 6-3.

Tuesday, Jan. 21

Becker at Worcester State Both teams need a win to get some confidence going into their respectful conference play. Worcester State has played well out of conference with a 4-1-0 mark. Becker’s only win of the season came out out of conference with a 6-4 win over Tufts. This should be a very tight contest and I will take Worcester State out of the MASCAC to defeat Becker in a 2-1 game.

Thursday, Jan. 23

Canton at Curry

Another game for the Colonels that is a game that they can win. If they can go 2-1 this week, it’s the step in the right direction for them. Canton will be as hungry as Curry is. It will be a fascinating contest and I have Curry winning 4-1.

ECAC West/SUNYAC – Dan Hickling

Friday, Jan. 17

Hobart (6-4-4) @ Cortland (4-9-2) – Hobart 5, Cortland 4

Hobart is trending as one of the hottest teams in the country and although Cortland can score goals in bunches, their attack might not be able to get it done this time.

No. 14 Geneseo (11-3-0) @ Neumann (7-5-3) – Geneseo 3 Neumann 1 The second of a two-game set between two squads of Knights which saw the G-Knights win the opener 3-2. Genny had its speed bump a week ago in losing big to Elmira, 5-1, and is ready to settle down for the stretch run.

Saturday, Jan. 18

No. 10 Oswego (9-2-2) @ Elmira (8-6-0) – Elmira 5 Oswego 3 Both teams are hot right now in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season for each. The Pioneers have been filling the net lately, and get the nod here.

MASCAC – Nathan Fournier

Saturday, Jan. 18

Massachusetts-Dartmouth at Plymouth State

These two teams aren’t having the seasons they were expecting to have. In the first matchup this season, the Corsairs took it 4-3. Shaun Walters had two goals for UMass-Dartmouth. Since that game, he has only had five points. Plymouth State has gone 3-5 since that game. I think this game will be a tone-setter down the stretch and whoever comes out on top could get the spark they need. I will take the home team in Plymouth State in a 5-3 contest.

Framingham State at Salem State

A very intriguing game between with the Salem State Vikings 6-1 at home going into the game and the Framingham State Rams trying to stop a two-game losing streak. The Rams, who have been in the top half of the MASCAC the first half of the year, look to keep pace with the Vikings, who are ahead one point going into Thursday’s games. In the first game, the Rams took it 6-3. I like how the Vikings are playing right now and I will go with them in a 3-2 game.

Fitchburg State at Worcester State

If Fitchburg State wants to host a home playoff game, this game could be pivotal for that to happen. Going into Thursday’s games they would be hosting a quarterfinal game. The two teams met on Nov. 16 with the Falcons defeating the Lancers 7-3 in that contest. I will take Fitchburg State in an 8-4 contest.

Thursday, Jan. 23

Westfield State at Fitchburg State This should be a good battle for playoff positioning. Westfield State is very comfortable playing inside the MASCAC with 6-2 record after beating Salem State on Thursday night. The first game on Nov. 21 was a high-scoring affair with the Owls. Tyler Prendergast potted two goals for Westfield State. I expect this to be another high-scoring affair with the Owls in a 7-6 contest.

Salem State at UMass-Dartmouth

This a game that could surprise Salem State. This won’t be an easy victory for a couple of factors. They haven’t played much on the road yet this season. The other thing, the Vikings needed overtime to defeat the Corsairs 4-3. UMass-Dartmouth has played them tough. This will be a tight game and with the Corsairs’ home rink 185 feet by 80 feet, I expect it to be a defensive game. UMass-Dartmouth with the slight 2-1 upset to tighten up the standings even more.

Framingham State at Worcester State

Legs will be the key in this game. The Rams should have fresher legs coming into the game as it will be three games in five days for Worcester State. By Jan. 25, they will have played four games in a week. I expect that to play a huge role in the game. Even if the Lancers’ schedule wasn’t an issue, Framingham State has played better overall, but the last four games overall, Worcester State has had the slight advantage with a 1-0-3 record. I will take Rams in a 5-4 affair.

MIAC/WIAC – Brian Lester

Time for another week of making picks.

And with the exception of the St. Thomas-Wisconsin-Eau Claire game on Saturday, every game this weekend is a conference matchup. This is the time of the year where the conference championship race begins to really take shape and it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out in the end.

Without further delay, here are my picks for the weekend.

Augsburg vs. Gustavus Adolphus

Augsburg has dropped three of its last four, but is still very much in the hunt for a league title and conference tournament berth. The Auggies have scored 69 goals and Ben McClellan has paved the way with 10. If he has a big weekend and goalie John Bretzman can step up — he has a goals against average of 2.55 — Augsburg will have a chance to climb in the standings. The Gusties haven’t been as productive offensively, racking up only 42 goals, but have been competitive in nearly every game, tying three times in their last six games. Gustavus is chasing a MIAC title as well and a strong effort this weekend would add momentum to that title push. John McLean has a goals against average of 2.43 and I think defense will be a key factor in the outcome. Gustavus, 3-1, Augsburg, 4-2.

St. Mary’s vs. Bethel

The Cardinals have struggled, losing two of their last three, and if they are going to make any sort of push for a playoff spot, they need to start building momentum now. It starts with playing well on defense. St. Mary’s has allowed 41 goals on the season and has managed to score only 29. The Cardinals also have to capitalize on power-play chances, which they have done at times this season, having scored 11 power-play goals. If they can can do that and get an all-around defensive effort, they should be poised for success. The thing about Bethel, though, is the Royals are no pushover despite having won only twice. They have lost six games by just one goal and have tied twice. Bethel will be in both games and if it can get going early offensively, it should be in good shape. Brock Raffaele and Travis Payne lead the Royals with six goals apiece. Bethel, 4-2; Bethel 3-2.

Hamline vs. St. Olaf

Hamline has won only twice all season and finding a way to thrive in this weekend series with St. Olaf will not be easy. The Pipers have managed only 23 goals and have allowed 56. Kevin Novakovich and Tyler Gonzales have tallied four goals apiece and they will need to be on top of their games for Hamline to win. The Pipers are also going to need a strong defensive effort. But St. Olaf, despite being on a five-game winless streak, has proven it can play at a high level. The Oles nearly knocked off No. 1 Adrian this past weekend, playing the Bulldogs to a 4-4 tie, and I think they have the weapons on offense to win both games in this series, especially if Dan Cecka steps up again. He has nine goals this year. St. Olaf, 5-2; St. Olaf 4-2.

St.Thomas vs. Wisconsin-Eau Claire

This will be one of the biggest games in the country as the two nationally-ranked teams square off in a nonconference battle. Goaltending is going to be huge for both teams. The Tommies feature Drew Fielding, who has allowed only 20 goals and has a goals against average of 1.52. When he plays well, the Tommies thrive, and Fielding will no doubt need to play well this weekend. Eau Claire could go with Tyler Green or Jay Deo. The Blugolds enter the week on a five-game win streak and have shut out their last four opponents, with Green and Deo each tallying two shutouts during the run. Either one is capable of playing well in goal. The team that gets the best goaltending effort will prevail. The defending national champions are at home and get the slight edge in this showdown. Eau Claire, 2-1.

Wisconsin-Stevens Point vs. Wisconsin-River Falls

In a battle of two of the top teams in the league and in the country, Stevens Point will be tested as it plays on the road against River Falls. The Pointers have been very effective offensively, racking up 78 goals, and they haven’t been scored on often, allowing only 24 goals. Garrett Ladd has led the way for the Pointers, tallying 13 goals and 13 assists, and he is likely to turn in another stellar effort this weekend. Brandon Jaeger has given up just 22 goals and has made 260 saves. River Falls has lost two of its last three and Stevens Point will be the third consecutive nationally-ranked team it has played. The Falcons have managed only 45 goals and have allowed 29. Willie Hess leads the Falcons with 10 goals while goalie Tanner Milliron has a goals against average of 1.45, while Scott Lewan has a 2.45 goals against average. Either one can play at a high level and both will need to be ready to go this weekend. Stevens Point, 4-2; River Falls, 5-4.

Wisconsin-Stout vs. Wisconsin-Superior

Stout will have to be on top of its game defensively to have a shot at earning at least a split out of the weekend series with Superior. The Blue Devils have given up 46 goals and Corey Koop has spent most of the time in goal and has tallied 457 saves. If Koop plays well, the Blue Devils will be in a position to win. It has given up three or more goals in seven of its nine losses and that number has to come down for Stout to have a shot. Superior has had a hard time finding wins lately. The Yellow Jackets have only one win in their last six games and have been blanked twice during the stretch. Superior needs to be able to get going offensively early, with players such as Cody Hotchkin and Pat Dalbec getting involved and making an impact. If those two play well, Superior could get back on track this weekend. Drew Strandberg and Dayn Belfour have combined to allow 38 goals and have 192 and 126 saves, respectively, this year. I’m expecting this series to end in a split. Superior, 4-3, Stout 5-3.

NESCAC – Tim Costello

Ouch!

A 2-3-0 (.400) week certainly derailed the early season success last weekend, but the overall season record of 17-5-2 (.750) still looks strong headed into a very challenging week of key conference and nonconference matchups.

Friday, Jan. 17

Manhattanville vs. Williams

The Ephs stumbled in a nonconference game at Johnson and Wales last weekend, so look for them to be ready at home against the Valiants. Plattsburgh is on Saturday, so important to focus on the task at hand and win a quality non-conference game. Williams 4-2.

Plattsburgh @ Middlebury

Just which Panther team is going to show up in this great rivalry that has spanned decades in nonconference play, the Primelink tournament and the NCAAs? As is usually the case, goaltending is a key and the home team gets one more save than the visitors to take the win and avenge a bad first period and loss at the Primelink in November. Middlebury 4-3.

Bowdoin @ Trinity

The Polar Bears have come out firing on all cylinders in the second half and now take their show on the road. Trinity has been very good all season and Benjamin Coulthard will make life difficult for the offensive firepower Bowdoin brings from Maine. An empty-netter is final goal and difference-maker in this one. Bowdoin 4-2.

Saturday, Jan. 18

Amherst @ Tufts

It was a tough weekend for the Lord Jeffs in Maine last weekend, so it is back to basics against a Tufts team that has difficulties in stopping teams from scoring in bunches. Pressure, timely scoring, good goaltending and special teams are all part of the formula that works for Amherst against the Jumbos. Amherst 3-1.

Plattsburgh @ Williams

The Ephs should have enough in their tank after playing Manhattanville on Friday, but what do the Cardinals have left in theirs after Middlebury the night before is maybe the better question. Dougherty vs. Cadieux is a great match-up and the visitors supporting cast is just a bit better in this one. Plattsburgh 3-1.

Some great match-ups among some ranked teams highlight a tough schedule – drop the puck!

NCHA – Katie Carito

For the first time in over a month, the NCHA will have a full slate of conference action this weekend.

St. Scholastica at Adrian

The Bulldogs (13-0-2) are the top-ranked team in the country and even in some close games, have found a way to battle it out. St. Scholastica (9-3-3) will be one of the toughest teams for Adrian to overcome. I don’t think the Bulldogs are ready to end their reign on the season, especially at home. Adrian 3-2, 2-1

Finlandia vs. Northland Finlandia (1-12-1) has yet to win a conference game. The Lions most recently dropped 4-3 nonconference game to Bethel. Northland’s (2-13-0) two wins have come from NCHA opponents. Last weekend, they dropped 5-4 to Hamline. I think each team will win at home. Finlandia 3-2, Northland 2-1

St. Norbert vs. Concordia (Wis.)

This home-and-home series will be a battle. St. Norbert (12-2-1) is the fourth-ranked team in the country and has rolled through most of the competition this year. Concordia (8-4-3) is on a six-game win streak and is flying high with confidence. I’m going safe with each team winning at home. Concordia 4-2, St. Norbert 5-2

Lawrence vs Milwaukee School of Engineering

Another home-and home series sees Lawrence (4-10-1) facing off with MSOE (2-12-1). Lawrence is on a four-game losing streak, being shut out in two of the losses. Since the beginning of December, MSOE has been battling to turn its season around after losing nine straight to open the season. I think MSOE has the fight to pull to wins this weekend. MSOE 2-1, 2-1

Marian vs. Lake Forest

In this Saturday and Sunday series, Lake Forest (6-8-1) and Marian (4-9-2) will exchange hosting duties. After a hot three-game winning start to the season, Lake Forest has found a way to tie and win their games last season. Marian is in a slump going 0-2-1 in the new year. Again, I’m going with home-team wins. Lake Forest 2-1, Marian 5-4

Standings starting to come into focus

DSC 1863 sized Standings starting to come into focus

Babson goalie Jamie Murray shuts the door during the Frozen Fenway game last week against Norwich (photo: Mike Tureski).

There were several marquee games across the country in the second week back from the holiday break as Babson-Norwich, Utica-Oswego and St. Scholastica-Wisconsin-River Falls were some of the games that people were keeping an eye on.

Here’s how everything shook out last weekend.

ECAC East

No. 6 Babson and No. 5 Norwich had the stage to themselves on Thursday night at Fenway Park. The two teams didn’t disappoint with Shane Gorman scoring the lone goal to give Norwich the 1-0 victory. Chris Czarnota only needed to make 21 saves for the shutout, while Jamie Murrary made 30 saves for Babson.

Massachusetts-Boston, the third team in the conference ranked in the USCHO.com Men’s Division III Poll at No. 15, had the mild 4-2 upset over Norwich Friday night. Jeremy Finger had two goals for UMass-Boston, while Michael Kuhn and Peter MacIntyre also scored. Norwich picked goals from Travis Jenke and Gerard McEleney.

New England College scored victories over the two Maine schools in conference in Southern Maine and the University of New England.

ECAC Northeast

Johnson and Wales picked up two victories with a 4-0 victory over Massachusetts-Dartmouth and a 3-2 game over Williams in overtime.

Stefan Brucato and Eddie Patterson each scored two goals in the victory over UMass-Dartmouth, while Joey Ballmer made 25 saves for the shutout. Johnson and Wales relied on three different goal-scorers in the win over Williams. Patterson added his third of the weekend and Alex Porrier and Aaron Arm also scored. Ballmer picked up his second win of the weekend.

As for the rest of the conference, it was a tough nonconference weekend. Nichols went 1-1 after dropping a 4-1 decision to Hobart, but bounced back to a 9-4 victory over Morrisville.

ECAC West

Conference-leading Utica split the weekend by beating ECAC Northeast opponent Western New England 5-1 and dropping a 5-3 decision to Oswego.

Five different players scored for the Pioneers in the win over Western New England. Easton Powers had a goal and an assist, while Jon Gaffney, Lou Malvasi, Zac Lazzaro and Kevin Kirisits also scored. Mike Baird had two assists and Nick Therrien made 20 saves.

On Saturday, Ridge Garbutt had a goal and an assist in the loss to Oswego, while Adam Graff and Jordan Hobaica also scored.

Elmira also split the weekend, falling 5-4 on Friday night against Buffalo State. Michael Collins had two goals, while Eric Davis and Carter Shinkaruk also scored. In the 5-1 win on Saturday against Geneseo, Jarryd ten Vaanholt notched two goals with Shinkaruk, Brian Depp and Josh Burnell also scoring. Sal Magliocco made 35 saves in the win.

MASCAC

Westfield State has quietly moved up to the standings to be in a tie for first place. On Wednesday, it picked up an 8-1 victory over Becker. T.J. Powers had two goals, while Taylor Murphy, Jackson Leef and Dalton Jay each had a goal and assist. Tyler Prendergast, Jake Suvak and Maxime Richard also scored.

In a conference matchup between Framingham State, they came away with the 4-1 win. Murphy, Jay, Dan O’Connor and P.J. McCadden scored. Jonathan LoParco picked up the victory in goal. Brendan McCarron scored for Framingham State.

Salem State had the big game against UMass-Boston at the Frozen Fenway event where it fell 4-2 on Tuesday. On Saturday, they returned to conference play, defeating Plymouth State 3-2. Eric Defelice, Kyle Phelan and John Needham scored in the win. Chad Barthelmess and Mike Freitag scored for Plymouth State.

MIAC

St. Thomas picked up a 5-2 victory over Finlandia last Friday night. Thomas Williams had two goals, while Nick Nielson had a goal and assist. Connor McBride and Jordan Lovick also scored. Joe Morris made 17 saves. The Tommies followed up that effort with a 3-0 win over Wisconsin-Superior. Tyler Gubb had a goal and an assist, while Michael Dockery and Alex Nielstrom scored. Drew Fielding made 19 saves for the shutout

Concordia (Minn.) earned two points over the weekend with a 4-4 tie with Marian. Garrett Hendrickson had a hand in all four goals with a hat trick and an assist. Caleb Suderman had the game’s tying goal.

Wisconsin-Stout defeated Concordia (Minn.) on Saturday, 5-4 in overtime. Hendrickson had a goal, while Jeremy Johnson netted a goal and an assist. Jordie Bancoft and Dan Hrabowych also scored in the losing effort.

NCHA

The newly-annointed No. 1 Adrian Bulldogs look to keep the top spot in the USCHO.com Poll as they went 1-0-1 this weekend.

They earned a 4-4 tie Friday night with St. Olaf. Jeremy Olinyk, Josh Cousineau, Shelby Gray and Brent Sauve scored for Adrian. Saturday against Gustavus Adolphus, they earned a 2-0 shutout win on the back of Scott Shackell’s 33-save effort. Cousineau scored along with Kevin Balas.

St. Norbert went to overtime twice this weekend as the Green Knights defeated Wisconsin-River Falls 3-2 when Pijus Rulevicius picked up the game-winner with three seconds remaining in overtime. Brandon Hoogenboom and Chris Rial also scored.

SNC then settled for a 2-2 tie with Wisconsin-Stevens Point as Blake Thompson and Reid Campbell scored for the Green Knights.

NESCAC

Williams and Trinity also had the opportunity to play at Fenway Park on Tuesday. Williams doubled up Trinity 4-2 behind four goals in the final inning. George Hunkele scored twice and added two assists, while Craig Kitto had a goal and assist. Nick Anderson also scored.

For Trinity, Jackson Brewer and Sean Orlando scored.

Amherst traveled up to Maine and dropped both games to Colby and Bowdoin. Tyler Lingel scored twice for Colby in the 5-2 win over Amherst. Nick Lanza, Devin Albert, Ben Chwick also scored. Andrew Fenwick and Brandon Burke scored for Amherst.

Bowdoin came away with the 4-2 win over Amherst with Harry Matheson, Colin Downey, Connor Quinn and Matt Rubinoff all scoring. Aaron Deutsch and Andrew Kurlandski scored for Amerst.

SUNYAC

Plattsburgh continues to have a strong season as the Cardinals picked up a 4-3 win over Skidmore and a 6-1 win over Castleton. Michael Radisa, Dakota Mason, Anthony Calabrese, Barry Roytman all scored in the win over Skidmore, while Spencer Finney made 19 saves in the win. Alex Jensen had a hat trick against Castleton with Michael Cassidy, Graham Yeo and Michael Radisa also scoring.

Geneseo picked up a 7-2 victory over Franklin Pierce on Friday as seven players scored a goal. Nick Horrigan made 18 saves in the victory. Oswego also picked up a 5-3 win over Nazareth. Matt Galati had two goals in the victory.

WIAC

Wisconsin-River Falls, after falling 3-2 to St. Norbert on Friday, ended Saturday with a 3-3 tie with St. Scholastica. Willie Hess, Zach Schrotenboer and Jeff Bergh were the goal-scorers Saturday night. Tanner Milliron made 19 saves.

Wisconsin-Stevens Point defeated Lawrence 7-2 as Max Bobrow led the way with two goals. Kyle Brodie, Garrett Ladd, Kyle Heck, Nick D’Avolio and Kyle Sharkey also lit the lamp. Brandon Jaeger stopped 30 shots in the win.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire defeated Northland 5-0 and Lawrence 4-0

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