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Weekend West playoff wrap: Feb. 28

Saxton Soley has St. John’s in the 2016 MIAC title game (photo: Sean Donohue/St. John’s University).

The weekend that was in the West Region playoffs…

MIAC

Thrilling is perhaps the best way to describe the semifinal round of the MIAC tournament Saturday. St. John’s edged rival St. Thomas 2-1 in overtime while regular-season champion Augsburg used a three-goal outburst in the final seven minutes of action to knock off defending tournament champion Hamline by a 5-2 score.

The Johnnies trailed 1-0 with two minutes to play against the Tommies before Joe Freemark scored with 1:40 left to tie the score and force overtime. Andrew Commers delivered the game-winning goal less than two minutes into the extra session to propel the Johnnies into the MIAC title game.

St. John’s extended its unbeaten streak to 10 games as it took advantage of a stellar performance by Saxton Soley, who stopped 23 shots, including all 13 that he faced in the second and third periods to keep the Johnnies within striking distance of a comeback. Johnny Rosium scored the lone goal for the Tommies. St. John’s improved to 13-9-4.

Augsburg and Hamline were tied at 2-2 at the end of two periods before Drew Allen, Corbin Chapman and Nate Flynn all scored goals in the third to push the Auggies to the win.

The Auggies actually jumped on top 2-0 thanks to goals by Corbin Chapman and Will Peterson before Hamline tied the score behind goals from Garrett Schmitz and Mitch McPherson. Jordyn Kaufer nailed down the win as he stopped 24 shots.

Augsburg is 16-8-2 on the year and is aiming for its first MIAC tournament title since the 1997-98 campaign. The Auggies were actually swept by St. John’s in the final weekend of the regular season, but Augsburg had already clinched the conference crown. This time, a berth in the NCAA tourney will be on the line.

NCHA

Adrian punched its ticket to the NCHA title game with semifinal series sweep of St. Scholastica over the weekend.

The Bulldogs defeated the Saints 4-2 in both games and improved to 4-0 on the year against the Saints. Adrian, which is 23-2 all-time in conference tournament action and 23-3-1 on the season, will now get a shot to defend its Harris Cup crown next weekend against St. Norbert.

Adrian finished off the series Saturday, winning its sixth consecutive game. Austin Hervey scored twice while Jeremy Olinyk and Cory Dunn dished out two assists apiece. Kevin Entmaa pushed his record to 14-0 on the season. He is the only unbeaten goaltender in NCAA hockey.

Saturday’s game was actually tied at 2-2 after Derek Sutliffe and Keegan Bruce both scored. Brian Bachnak broke the tie with the first game-winning goal of his career.

St. Norbert secured its spot in the conference title game with a sweep of Marian, which entered the semifinal series riding a 13-game win streak, the longest in the country. The Green Knights won the opener and closed out the series with a 5-2 win. They are 23-2-2 on the season.

The Green Knights scored three goals in the first 13 minutes of the game. Michael Hill struck for his 15th goal of the year in the win while Roman Uchyn came through with his 13th goal. Ross Pavek pushed the lead to 3-0 with his seventh goal.

Gianni Mangone and Devin Stuermer both scored to cut the Marian lead to 4-2 in the third before Erik Cooper struck for his 12th goal of the season to finish off the scoring. Cooper also dished out two assists and has scored at least one point in 19 consecutive games.

WIAC

Wisconsin-Stevens Point is headed to the WIAC tournament title game for the third consecutive season after taking out Wisconsin-Eau Claire 2-1 in overtime Saturday. The two-time national runner-up played the Blugolds to a 2-2 tie in the opening game of the series Friday before capping off the series with Saturday’s thrilling win.

Jacob Barber and Jono Davis both scored goals for the Pointers, who improved to 20-5-2 on the season. Stevens Point had lost both games to the Blugolds in the regular season but entered the weekend hungry for revenge. Max Milosek played a key role in the win as he stopped 28 shots. Adam Knochenmus scored the lone goal for Eau Claire. Stevens Point held a 34-29 advantage in shots.

The Pointers will face Wisconsin-River Falls for the championship – the Falcons won the title a year ago.

River Falls opened its semifinal series against Wisconsin-Stout with a 3-1 win before playing the Blue Devils to a 1-1 tie in game two. Because the Falcons won the opener, a tie was good enough to propel them into the title game.

Cory Lushanko scored the lone goal for the Falcons while Tanner Milliron made 28 saves, including 10 in the third period, to help River Falls secure the win. The third-period goal by Lushanko was his third of the season.

Weekend playoff picks: Feb. 25-28

Taylor Pryce and Buffalo State will be looking to continue their strong play in February against a tough Geneseo team in a SUNYAC semifinal game on Saturday (photo: Buffalo State Athletics).

Wow, it is a SUPER SATURDAY!

A total of 36 teams in 18 games showcasing great hockey across the Northeast and teams hoping that this is when they find their best hockey of the season.

I am just like those teams when it comes to my season-long predictions. While I have not been great all season long, my last two weeks at 14-2-2 (.833), including last week’s 8-2-0 (.800) mark, have me believing that I just might be peaking at the right time of the season.

The total for the year now stands at a respectable 60-31-9 (.645) with still lots of action to go beginning with this mega-playoff slate of games on SUPER SATURDAY!

Here are my picks across some of the games (10 total) in each of the East conferences:

Saturday, Feb. 27

Canton @ Daniel Webster – billed as the D-III Independent Championship, the two teams will play a pair of games over the weekend to wrap up their respective seasons. Both teams would certainly like to finish on a high note and the visitors appear to be the better of the two independents right now – Canton 5, Daniel Webster 3

St. Anselm @ Stonehill – the NE-10 championship game will find both teams looking for something out of their first encounter. The Skyhawks would like the result, while the Hawks would like the effort and territorial dominance with a different set of numbers on the scoreboard. Mark Meads and company find a way to win on the road – St. Anselm 3, Stonehill 2

Amherst @ Bowdoin – the Polar Bears are one of the hottest teams entering postseason play, while Amherst has struggled for most of the season in finding consistency. This is likely coach Terry Meagher’s final game behind the bench at Sid Watson Arena if knocking off the defending champions from their NESCAC title wasn’t quite enough motivation – Bowdoin 2, Amherst 1

Norwich @ Babson – a great rivalry game that always brings out the best in both teams no matter where or when they play. History says that 60 minutes is likely not enough time to decide a winner and I tend to agree that this one will be tight. The edge here is likely with the home team, but by the slimmest of margins – Babson 3, Norwich 2

Neumann @ Hobart – the Knights have their work cut out for them in trying to do something no one else has done this season – beat Hobart on its home ice. Neumann has the offensive tools to challenge the Statesmen, but there is too much depth and balance in the Hobart lineup starting with Mac Olson and Ben Gamache – Hobart 5, Neumann 3

Oswego @ Plattsburgh – this is another game that is appearing a round earlier than usual in the playoffs. Oswego has had an up-and-down season, but may have made a statement in their 8-0 quarterfinal win over Brockport on Wednesday. Plattsburgh really had nothing to play for last week, but does now and Bob Emery’s troops will be ready to go – Plattsburgh 4, Oswego 3

Geneseo @ Buffalo State – the Bengals may have surprised some by capturing the second seed in the SUNYAC tournament, but they are peaking at the right time and would love to extend their current six game win streak by a couple more games. The Knights took them to overtime a couple of weeks ago and this could be a case of déjà vu – Buffalo State 3, Geneseo 2

Johnson and Wales @ Salve Regina – it is said that one of the hardest things to do is to beat a team three times in a row. The Seahawks have had the number of their in-state rivals so far this season and will want to score early and get in their heads again to advance. Salve Regina is just a .500 team against conference foes, so the Wildcats can turn the tables on their host. Thinking “three-peat” here – Salve Regina 4, Johnson and Wales 2

Westfield State @ Massachusetts-Dartmouth – when is home-ice advantage not home-ice advantage? The Corsairs are just 4-5-0 at home against conference foes and 50 percent of those wins have come over the Owls. Coach John Rolli will need a big game from Drew Michals in goal and a bit of the old Hetland Rink magic from playoff games past – Massachusetts-Dartmouth 3, Westfield State 2

Becker @ Nichols – the Bison have struggled down the stretch and the sting of last week’s overtime loss that cost them the first-place bye may be just what coach Parker Burgess needs to motivate his team to take no prisoners against a potentially dangerous quarterfinal foe. The defending champions look to flex their muscles a bit and show they intend to defend – Nichols 6, Becker 2

Unfortunately, a lot of teams will see their season end this weekend, but for those moving on, the task does not get any easier in the next round. You can’t play next week if you don’t win on Saturday – drop the puck!

WEST PICKS – Brian Lester

It’s a new season for teams in college hockey and anything can happen in a playoff situation.

St. John’s (12-9-4) at St. Thomas (13-7-5)

Both regular-season meetings were competitive as the two rivals played to a 2-2 tie on both nights. The Johnnies are unbeaten in their last nine games, while the Tommies are 5-1-3 in their last nine games.

This one comes down to defense and it won’t be a surprise if it’s decided in overtime. Goaltenders Saxton Soley (St. John’s) and Joe Morris (St. Thomas) could very well have the biggest impact on how this game plays out. Expect another low-scoring showdown.

St. John’s, 3-2.

Hamline (9-11-5) at Concordia (Minn.) (10-13-2)

The Pipers are going to have to be road warriors once again if they are going to repeat as conference tourney champs. They have only won twice in true road games this year, but they do feature two of the top scoring threats in college hockey in Charlie Adams (21 goals, 26 assists) and Brandon Zurn (18 goals, 28 assists).

Concordia has struggled lately, losing five of eight, but the Cobbers do at least have home-ice advantage for this matchup. Jon Grebosky has led the way for Concordia with 11 goals and 14 assists on the year.

The Cobbers and Pipers split in the regular season and this one could no doubt go either way.

Hamline, 5-4.

Augsburg (15-8-2) vs. Hamline (9-11-5)

The reigning regular-season conference champs have the luxury of playing at home and will be ready to go. The Auggies swept the Pipers in the regular season and should continue that domination in the playoffs.

Augsburg is 6-2-2 in its last 10 games. Nate Flynn leads the Auggies with 15 goals and 13 assists. He is one of five players who has scored eight or more goals.

Augsburg, 5-4.

Adrian (21-3-1) vs. St. Scholastica (15-8-3)

The two-game series begins Friday night. The Bulldogs have won their last four games and Connor Armour leads the way in points with seven goals and 30 assists. They have one of the best goaltenders in college hockey as Kevin Entmaa is 12-0-0. He is the only unbeaten goaltender in college hockey.

The Saints rolled to a 6-2 win over Lawrence to advance to the semifinal round. They are coming off their first win in five games and Keegan Bruce will be a key to the Saints’ success. He recorded a hat trick against Lawrence and has scored at least one point in 15 of the Saints’ last 17 games.

Adrian is 11-0 at home and swept St. Scholastica in the regular season.

Adrian, 4-2 and 5-4.

St. Norbert (21-2-2) vs. Marian (17-5-3)

St. Norbert is unbeaten in its last nine games. Marian has won its last 13 games and is the hottest team in college hockey.

Erik Cooper leads the Green Knights. The NCHA Player of the Year and has come through with 11 goals and 17 assists and has scored a point in his last 17 games.

The Sabres defeated Concordia (Wis.) 3-0 to advance to the semifinal round and have two of the top scoring threats in college hockey in Derek Thorogood (nine goals, 24 assists) and Devin Stuermer (17 goals, 15 assists). Mike Baldwin has won 13 games and has recorded four shutouts this season.

St. Norbert and Marian split in the regular season, with the Green Knights winning 4-1 and the Sabres earning a 4-2 win.

St. Norbert, 3-2, Marian 4-3; St. Norbert 2-1 (mini game).

Tanner Milliron has River Falls primed for a deep playoff run (photo: Kathy M Helgeson/UW-River Falls).

Wisconsin-Stevens Point (19-5-1) at Wisconsin-Eau Claire (15-5-5)

The Pointers have yet to beat the Blugolds this season, but will look to change that trend this weekend in a WIAC tournament semifinal series. Both games in the regular season were decided by a goal.

Stevens Point is 10-3 on the road and has scored 127 goals. Joe Kalisz has paved the way with 13 goals and 26 assists. Max Milosek is 14-4-1 and has recorded two shutouts.

Eau Claire has won its last two games and finished the regular season with a share of the conference title. Adam Knochenmus has struck for 21 goals to go along with 16 assists. The Blugolds have scored 100 goals in all. Tyler Green has made 17 starts in goal and is 10-4-3.

Stevens Point, 4-3, Eau Claire 5-4, Stevens Point, 3-2 (mini-game)

Wisconsin-Stout (10-12-5) at Wisconsin-River Falls (15-6-4)

River Falls swept the regular season series against Stout, winning 4-3 and 4-0. The Falcons feature one of the top goaltenders in the game in Tanner Milliron, who is 13-6-4 and has four shutouts to his credit. Kyle Gattelaro has scored nine goals and dished out 10 assists to pace the Falcons. River Falls has scored 72 goals in all.

The Blue Devils have just one win in their last 11 games and playing on the road won’t be easy. Stout is 5-7-2 away from home this season. Jake Useldinger, who has scored 10 goals and dished out 13 assists, will need a big performance to put Stout in a position to pull off the upset.

River Falls, 5-2 and 3-0.

Weekend wrap: Feb. 21

Second in the country in minutes played and having recorded 800 saves on the season, Endicott goaltender Kevin Aldridge backed the Gulls to the ECAC Northeast regular-season title in their inaugural NCAA season (photo: David Le).

Some of the Eastern conferences didn’t even wait for the playoffs to create some drama this past weekend.

A first-year program took a giant step in winning the regular-season title and all of the seeded teams took care of business in the opening rounds of the playoffs in the NE-10 and NEHC tournaments.

Needless to say, there was lot of jockeying for position in the final weekend of the regular season.

“The pressure of wearing a sweat suit on Monday or going to practice is huge,” noted Babson coach Jamie Rice. “It is the toughest game of the year in my opinion because you never know how your team is going to respond. Your freshmen haven’t been there and your seniors know it is the last time. The ‘win or the season is over’ is a lot of pressure.”

Here is the weekend recap:

ECAC Northeast

First-year Endicott captured the regular-season crown by virtue of taking care of business with a 7-0 win over Western New England on Wednesday and a 6-3 win over Curry on Saturday. They needed some help to erase their one-point deficit in the standings and got it with Johnson and Wales’ 5-4 overtime win over defending conference champion Nichols, who had taken down Suffolk earlier in the week, 5-1.

J and W’s overtime win saw a seven-goal third period erupt from a 1-0 Nichols lead in the first 40 minutes. The Wildcats erased one-goal deficits three times before capturing the lead with less than seven minutes remaining. The Bison tied the game at four on Chris Deming’s goal only to see Jonathan Ruiz’s unassisted goal win the game with just over one minute remaining in the extra session.

Salve Regina and Suffolk round out the remaining top four seeds in the ECAC Northeast. Salve Regina split the games during the week by capturing a key two points from in-state rival J and W by taking a 4-1 decision on Wednesday before dropping the season finale to Wentworth by the same 4-1 score.

ECAC West

Hobart had already clinched the top spot, so the battle was among teams between positions 2-4. The top seeds took care of business in their final conference game, downing Elmira at home by a 5-2 score.

Manhattanville took the second seed despite losing to Neumann by a 4-1 score on Friday night. Jory Mullin and Shane Topf scored second-period goals to break open a 1-1 tie for the Knights. Utica moved into the No. 3 spot with a 5-2 win over Nazareth. Three third-period goals from Riley Egan, Anthony McVeigh and Kevin Valenti broke open a 2-2 tie for the Pioneers.

MASCAC

The drama about the final playoff positioning is going to carry over right to the last day of the regular season on Tuesday, Feb. 23. Both Salem State and Plymouth State won a pair of games to remain one and two on the leaderboard, just a point apart with one game remaining to decide the top seed.

Plymouth State notched a pair of 4-1 wins over Fitchburg State and Worcester State to keep their hopes of the regular season title alive. Josh Woody and Andrew Wigg had a pair of points apiece in the close game with the Lancers that was finalized by two empty-net goals in the final 90 seconds.

Salem State downed Massachusetts-Dartmouth behind a hat trick from Michael Casale and then took a 4-2 win over Framingham State by a 4-2 score with Jason Pucciarelli picking up the win in goal with 27 saves for the Vikings.

NE-10

The semifinals of the NE-10 tournament saw the top two seeds advance to next Saturday’s championship game.

St. Anselm downed Southern New Hampshire by a 3-0 score behind three goals from Vin D’Amato and a 24-save shutout from goaltender Shane Joyce. Top-seeded Stonehill scored six times in the final 40 minutes to break open the game with Assumption on their way to an 8-4 win. Robbie Dorgon recorded four points for the winners, while Brandon Bete recorded two goals, raising his season total to a nation-best 25 in a losing effort for Assumption.

NEHC

The quarterfinal round of the conference tournament saw all four top seeds advance to the semifinal round without a lot of drama.

No. 1 Massachusetts-Boston shut out Southern Maine behind two goals from Frankie DeAugustine and 20 saves from Billy Faust. No. 2 Babson downed Skidmore 5-2 with Matt Brazel and Tommy Munichello both recording a goal and two assists apiece for the victors. No. 3 Norwich took down cross-state rival Castleton by a score of 4-1 with a balanced offensive attack that included Kevin Salvucci’s 16th of the season on the power play to seal the win. No. 4 UNE took full advantage of their home-ice advantage by taking New England College by a 4-1 score as Connor Maloney made 38 saves in the win.

Semifinal games scheduled for Saturday include UMB hosting UNE and Norwich visiting Babson.

NESCAC

Williams has clinched the top seed with Trinity and late-surging Bowdoin capturing the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively, for the NESCAC tournament. The Polar Bears used a 4-4 tie with Tufts and 4-3 win over Connecticut Colege to wrap up the third seed. That left three teams battling into Sunday for the final home-ice spot, including Hamilton, Middlebury and Amherst.

Hamilton resolved the battle with a 2-2 tie against league-leader Williams, coming from behind in the third period on Seamus O’Neill’s first goal of the season. Evan Buitenhuis made 30 saves for the Continentals.

SUNYAC

Plattsburgh had already clinched the top seed for the SUNYAC tournament, but finished the schedule with a pair of 3-3 ties with Brockport and Geneseo.

Buffalo State claimed the second seed in emphatic fashion, knocking off Oswego on Friday night by a 3-1 score behind two goals from Taylor Pryce. On Saturday, the Bengals captured a critical two points by downing Cortland by a 7-0 score where six different players scored goals.

Geneseo secured the third seed with a 2-0 win over Potsdam on Friday prior to their 3-3 tie with Plattsburgh on Saturday, while Oswego captured the fourth seed with a 7-2 win over Fredonia where seven different players scored.

First-round tournament action begins on Wednesday with Plattsburgh and Buffalo State earning first-round byes. Geneseo will host Potsdam and Oswego will host Brockport, with the winners moving on to the semifinals on Saturday.

Weekend Biscuits

Michael Casale, Salem State – the Vikings forward notched a hat trick in Salem Sate’s 6-2 win over Massachusetts-Dartmouth on Thursday night. The goals helped Salem State maintain its one-point margin in the standings over Plymouth State.

Vin D’Amato, St. Anselm – the junior forward provided all of the offense the Hawks needed in their NE-10 semifinal playoff win over SNHU by scoring a goal in each period to complete his hat trick in the 3-0 victory.

Robbie Dorgon, Stonehill – the Skyhawks forward scored two goals and set up two others for four points in Stonehill’s 8-4 win over Assumption in the NE-10 conference tournament. The top seeds earned a championship match with St. Anselm next Saturday.

WEST WEEKEND WRAP – Brian Lester

MIAC

St. John’s closed out the regular season with momentum, sweeping conference champion Augsburg in a weekend series. The Johnnies won the opener 5-3 and then capped the series with a 4-2 victory. In the finale, St. John’s scored three goals in the third period to secure the win and stretch its unbeaten streak to nine games. St. John’s is 12-9-4 overall and 10-4-2 in the MIAC. It will host St. Thomas in a MIAC semifinal game Saturday. The Johnnies have outscored their opponents 43-21 over the last nine games, including a 26-5 edge in the third period. Andrew Commers struck for two goals while Sean Lang scored a goal and dished out two assists. In Friday’s game, St. John’s scored five consecutive goals to take control against the Auggies, who jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first six minutes of the game. Huba Sekesi and Matt Colford each scored a goal and an assist. Sam Valerius dished out two assists to help lead the way … Hamline is back in the conference tournament after earning a 6-3 win over Gustavus Adolphus Saturday night. The Pipers secured the fifth and final playoff berth up for grabs, keeping their hopes alive of repeating as MIAC tourney champs. Brandon Zurn scored twice in the win and also dished out an assist. Charlie Adams struck for a goal and dished out two assists. Justin Quale made 35 saves. Hamline, which is 9-11-5 overall and 6-8-2 in the MIAC, is back in the same position it was a year when it had to win three road games over a nine-day period. The journey begins Thursday with a tournament game against Concordia.

NCHA

St. Norbert claimed a share of the regular-season NCHA crown with a 4-0 win over the Milwaukee School of Engineering Friday night. The top-ranked Green Knights have won or shared 15 conference titles in their 22-year history in the NCHA. Michael Hill scored a goal on the first penalty shot attempted in the Cornerstone Community Center. The arena has been around for 16 years. Hill also dished out an assist in the win. Erik Cooper also scored in the win, marking the 17th consecutive game in which he has scored a point. The streak ties the school record, which was set in 2001 by Maris Ziedins. Cooper has scored in 24 of the Green Knights’ 25 games this season. St. Norbert held a 28-12 advantage in shots and Tony Kujava came through with the shutout win. Kujava is 12-1-1 on the season. St. Norbert is 21-2-2 overall and 17-2-1 in the conference. The Green Knights are unbeaten in their last nine games …. Adrian repeated as conference champions, earning a share of the title with a 4-2 win over St. Scholastica Saturday. The third-ranked Bulldogs scored four unanswered goals to overcome a 2-0 deficit against the 14th-ranked Saints. Seven Adrian players scored a point, with Austin Hervey, Connor Armour, Trevor Boyd and Cory Dunn all scoring goals. Armour has come through with seven goals and a nation’s best 30 assists. Chase Matson dished out an assist in the win and has 11 points on the year. He became the 14th player on the Adrian roster to reach double digits in points this season. The record is 16, which was set during the 2012-13 season. Kevin Entmaa, who is only a freshman, racked up 23 saves to improve to 12-0 on the year. He is the only unbeaten goaltender in all of NCAA hockey and the only goaltender in school history to finish a regular season without a loss. Rich Coyne and Mark Whiteley both scored goals for the Saints. Coyne’s goal was his first of the season. Adrian wraps up the regular season at 21-3-1 overall and 17-2-1 in the conference. St. Scholastica is 14-8-3 overall and 12-7-1 in the NCHA. Adrian has won eight conference crowns.

WIAC

Wisconsin-Stout punched its ticket to the semifinal round of the WIAC tournament with a 3-2 win in the mini game of its playoff series against Wisconsin-Superior Saturday. The Blue Devils won the series opener 3-2, but lost the second game by a 5-3 score, setting the stage for a decisive mini game. Craig Lindegard scored twice in the mini game to propel the Blue Devils to the win. Superior overcame a 3-2 deficit in game two of the series, getting goals from Jimmy Hughes, Daniel Litchke and Jordan Neduzak to earn the win. Neduzak scored twice for the Yellowjackets in the win. Stout is 10-12-5 on the year and will take on top-seeded Wisconsin-River Falls in the semifinal round on Feb. 26. In Friday’s series opener, Stout scored twice in the third to rally for a 3-2 win. Gavin Smith and Jake Useldinger both scored goals during the rally. Justin Moody also scored a goal, while Lindegard dished out a pair of assists. Eric Shand and Ian Ecklund came through with goals for the Yellowjackets.

Weekend picks: Feb. 18-21

The end of the regular season and first round of conference tournaments is here.

Yes there is much still to battle for in many of the conferences, NE-10 semifinals and for the NEHC teams in the quarterfinals, it is win or go home!

The picks from last week saw a playoff-like performance at 6-0-2 (.875) for the weekend. The season record now stands at 52-29-9 (.628), which puts the overall record at a season high. There are no easy games to pick because at this point in the season, there really aren’t any upsets anymore – if you aren’t playing good hockey right now, you don’t deserve to win!

Here are my picks (including all four NEHC quarterfinals and NE-10 semifinal games) for the East this week:

Thursday, Feb. 18

Framingham State @ Westfield State
The last game of the three-game season series finds the Owls in need of stepping up their game to be ready for playoff hockey. They better not look past the Rams, who would love to play the role of spoiler. Still too much offense from WSU – Westfield State 6, Framingham State 2.

Friday, Feb. 19

Manhattanville @ Neumann
This season has been a wild in-conference affair in the ECAC West and the home team usually gets the better of their opponent on the first night in a two-game series. Not deviating from the equation here as the hosts eke by the Valiants for an important two points – Neumann 4, Manhattanville 3.

Geneseo @ Potsdam
This game might go a long way in deciding the second, third or fourth seed in the SUNYAC tournament. Both teams are in a battle with Buffalo State and scoreboard watching is not the way to get it done. Geneseo takes care of business, but needs some extra time to get it done – Geneseo 3, Potsdam 2.

Saturday, Feb. 20

Southern Maine @ Massachusetts-Boston
The quarterfinal round of the NEHC conference tournament finds the top-seeded hosts hosting the Huskies – a team they beat twice in the regular season. Last time at Clark Center, the Beacons took the game by a 5-2 score and that sounds about right this time around – Massachusetts-Boston 5, Southern Maine 2.

Skidmore @ Babson
The No. 7 vs. No. 2 quarterfinal sees a Babson team with All-American goaltender Jamie Murray back between the pipes facing a Thoroughbred team that hasn’t scored on the Beavers in either game this season. Home ice plus Murray equals final four next week – Babson 3, Skidmore 0.

Castleton @ Norwich
The Cadets are in a very unfamiliar position as the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament and face an opponent who split the season series in two very close low scoring games. I am looking for a tight checking defensive battle in this one that goes to the home team, barely – Norwich 3, Castleton 2.

New England College @ University of New England
The dreaded No. 4 vs. No. 5 quarterfinal game is seriously not an easy choice. Both teams split the season series and won on the opponent’s home ice, so throw out that advantage for the Nor’easters. Who to pick? After tons of analysis, it comes down to gut and I like the home team in an overtime thriller – UNE 5, NEC 4.

Assumption @ Stonehill
The No. 1 vs. No. 4 game sees the Greyhounds entering as the four seed on the basis of a head-to-head tiebreaker with St. Michael’s, who they defeated. Stonehill was undefeated in conference play until the very final week of the season and definitely had Assumption’s number during the regular season. The Skyhawks keep the momentum going despite Brandon Bete’s prolific goal-scoring capabilities – Stonehill 4, Assumption 1

Southern New Hampshire @ St. Anselm
The No. 2 vs. No. 3 seeds play the battle for Manchester, N.H., when these two neighbor schools get together. The regular-season game went to the Hawks 3-2, despite outshooting SNHU by a 45-15 margin. Slatky against Joyce between the pipes and one of them decides the outcome – St. Anselm 3, SNHU 2

Sunday, Feb. 21

Amherst @ Middlebury
This is a game that likely has seeding implications for the conference tournament with both teams eyeing a possible five seed. It has been a tough year by Amherst standards, but they seem to peak at the right time and with Dave Cunningham back in goal, a late-season run is very possible – Amherst 3, Middlebury 2.

It already feels like playoff hockey, because it is – drop the puck!

WEST PICKS – Brian Lester

The regular season ends this weekend and several matchups have a lot riding on them, including a showdown between St. John’s and Augsburg in the MIAC. Adrian and St. Scholastica highlight the NCHA schedule.

St. John’s (10-9-4) vs. Augsburg (15-6-2, 11-1-2)

The Johnnies are in third place in the league standings, but are just one point out of second as they head into this series against Augsburg, which has already clinched the regular-season title.

St. John’s has won its last two games and will open this series on the road, where it is 7-2-1 on the season. Neal Smith leads the team in goals with nine and Saxton Soley is 7-8-4 on the year with a 2.50 GAA. The Johnnies have scored 68 goals while allowing 55.

Augsburg is unbeaten in its last eight games and wants to keep its momentum rolling in the right direction. Nate Flynn has been sensational offensively, scoring 15 goals while dishing out 12 assists. Augsburg has come through with 85 goals in all.

Jordyn Kaufer has been sensational in goal all season and has a 14-4-1 record. He is allowing only 1.88 goals per game and has come through with three shutouts in the last five games.

Augsburg, 4-2 and 3-0

St. Thomas (11-7-5, 8-3-3) vs. St. Olaf (6-12-5, 4-6-4)

St. Thomas has lost only once in its last seven games and is looking to maintain its hold on the No. 2 spot in the standings. Connor McBride leads the offense, having scored 12 goals to go along with five assists. Michael Dockry has been a consistent contributor as well, tallying seven goals and eight assists. Joe Morris has won 11 games as the goaltender for the Tommies and ranks second in the conference in GAA (2.19) and save percentage (.924).

St. Olaf goes into this series fighting for its playoff life. The Oles are tied with St. Mary’s for fifth. They have won three of four games. Peter Lindblad has come through with nine goals and 11 assists for an Oles team that has scored 73 goals in all. Goaltender Erick Hancock has started 12 games this year and is 4-3-2 with a 3.47 GAA.

St. Thomas, 5-3 and 4-2.

Milwaukee School of Engineering (14-8-1, 9-8-1) at St. Norbert (19-2-2, 15-2-1)

The Raiders and top-ranked Green Knights will close out the regular season with a showdown in their series finale Friday night.

MSOE has won two in a row. Interestingly enough, the Raiders don’t have a player on the team who has scored 10 or more goals this season. The top goal scorer is Omar Mullan, who has come through with nine goals and nine assists. Gage Christianson leads the team in assists with 19. He has scored three goals as well.

St. Norbert takes aim at ending the regular season as the No. 1 team in the country. The Green Knights have won six of seven and haven’t lost since falling 5-4 to Adrian Jan. 22. St. Norbert features a high-powered offense that has cranked out 104 goals on 143 assists. The Green Knights have allowed only 31 goals. Four players have scored at least 10 goals, including Michael Hill and Pijus Rulevicius, who have come up with 12 apiece.

St. Norbert, 5-4

Adrian (19-3-1, 15-2-1) at St. Scholastica (14-6-3, 12-5-1)

The No. 3 Bulldogs close out the season against the No. 14 Saints in a matchup that will have a playoff-like feel to it. Adrian will be looking to wrap up the South Division title, while the Saints are hoping to close out the regular season on a high note. They are in second in the North Division.

Adrian has won its last two games and has scored 133 goals off 223 assists this year. Five players have scored 11 or more goals for one of the nation’s best offenses, including Mathew Thompson, who has struck for 16 goals. He has also dished out 17 assists. Connor Armour has been a phenomenal play-maker, racking up 29 assists. He has scored six goals this season.

The Saints have been led by Brandon Millin, who has tallied 13 goals and 14 assists. Dylan Nowakowski has also been an integral part of the offense, punching in 12 goals and dishing out 21 assists. St. Scholastica has 84 goals on the year.

Adrian, 5-3, St. Scholastica, 4-3

Weekend wrap: Feb. 15

Terry Meagher’s final regular-season home game at Sid Watson Arena was a gem as Bowdoin downed Trinity 2-1 last Saturday night (photo: Brian Beard/Creative Images Photography).

For one conference, everything is settled, while the top is clearer in one or two more.

The penultimate week for most was an opportunity to make a move in the standings and many teams did their best to gain home ice or solidify their game coming into the all-important conference tournaments.

Here’s the weekend East wrap:

ECAC Northeast
The battle for the top spot appears to be coming down to the very last week as Nichols couldn’t cash in their game in hand with points against a peaking Wentworth squad. The Bison knocked off Curry 2-1 on Wednesday despite being outshot 32-16 before dropping a 4-2 result to Wentworth on Saturday. The Leopards got 38 saves from Joel Miller and two points each from Adam Lane and Jake Flynn to move Wentworth above the .500 mark in conference play.

ECAC West
Manhattanville took an overtime thriller from league leaders Hobart on Friday night, but couldn’t gain more ground on the Statesmen, who won the return match on Saturday 4-2 behind two goals from Carl Belizario. A third-period rally from a 4-3 deficit was capped off by Caspar Dryssen’s second goal of the game in overtime for Manhattanville’s win on Friday night.

Elmira and Utica played two overtime games over the weekend with the hosts taking three of four points. A 2-2 Friday tie was followed up by a 3-2 win for Elmira with Brian Depp scoring the game-winning goal on a penalty shot in the extra session.

MASCAC
The showdown for first place went to Salem State on Thursday night as they downed Plymouth State by a 3-1 score behind goals from Michael Casale, Andrew Bettancourt and John Needham. Both teams won on Saturday, leaving just a one-point margin between the two heading into the final week of conference play. Salem State downed Fitchburg State on the road by a 6-4 score with Casale picking up two more goals and an assist for the Vikings. The Panthers matched the Vikings by downing Framingham State by a 5-1 margin with five different players scoring.

NE-10
Unfortunate news came out of New Hampshire as Franklin Pierce’s season was brought to a close by school administration following an investigation into a hazing incident. Two games over the weekend with Assumption were cancelled and the Greyhounds scrambled to schedule an exhibition game with the Boston University club team in order to complete their Senior Night festivities.

Stonehill finally fell from the ranks of the unbeaten in conference play as 54 saves from Ryan Slatky and a lone goal from Jay Sylvia gave Southern New Hampshire a 1-0 win over the Skyhawks. Stonehill finished 0-for-7 on the power play and outshot the home team by a 44-16 margin in the final 40 minutes, but couldn’t solve Slatky.

NEHC
For the first time in over a decade, there is a new regular season champion in the NEHC (formerly ECAC East) as Massachusetts-Boston took three of four points to hold off second-place Babson and earn the regular-season title and top seed in the conference tournament.

Babson saw the return of All-American Jamie Murray in goal and also recorded three points with a 3-1 win over St. Anselm and 2-2 tie with New England College.

Norwich finished in third place following their 4-1 win over St. Michael’s and the University of New England took the final home-ice berth with a 4-3 win at Skidmore and a 5-5 overtime tie at Castleton. The Nor’easters rallied from a 5-2 deficit behind two goals and two assists from Brady Fleurent.

NESCAC
Williams took two hard-fought wins over travel partner Middlebury by 5-4 and 3-2 scores. Thursday’s game took an overtime session where Colby Cretella scored for the Ephs exactly one minute into the extra session. The sweep help to open up a three-point advantage over Trinity at the top of the standings.

Trinity could only gain a split in their two games in Maine winning Friday night at Colby before dropping a 2-1 decision to Bowdoin in Terry Meagher’s final regular-season home game behind the Polar Bears bench. With the weekend sweep of Wesleyan and Trinity, Bowdoin has vaulted into third place with just two games remaining on the conference schedule.

SUNYAC
Plattsburgh clinched the regular-season crown with a hard-fought win at Potsdam on Saturday by a 2-1 score. Anthony Calabrese scored the game winner with just over three minutes remaining in the third period and Spencer Finney made 30 saves for the Cardinals.

Buffalo State continued their torrid play with a pair of wins over Geneseo and Brockport. Friday night’s game went into overtime where the Bengals’ Jake Rosen scored the winning goal with just over 90 seconds gone in the extra session. Buffalo State left no doubt on Saturday as a four-goal second period built a 6-2 lead on the way to the 7-3 final. Taylor Pryce and Zach Nieminen each had two goals and two assists for the visitors.

Weekend Biscuits
Marcus Zelzer, Salem State – the Vikings goaltender made 19 saves in a 3-1 win over rival Plymouth State that pushed his team into first place in the MASCAC standings. He followed that up with a 6-4 win over Fitchburg State, making 22 saves. The wins were Zelzer’s 13th and 14th in a row covering a stretch from late November through the weekend.

Caspar Dyrssen, Manhattanville – the forward scored two goals, including the overtime game winner, as the Valiants downed conference leader Hobart by a 5-4 score on Friday night. The win helped Manhattanvile keep a hold on second place in the tight ECAC West standings.

Ross Olsson, Endicott – the forward recorded a goal and three assists in the Gulls’ 6-1 win over Becker, keeping the first-year NCAA team in the battle near the top of the ECAC Northeast battle. Olsson’s 13 helpers lead the Gulls, as do his 23 points on the season.

WEST WEEKEND WRAP – Brian Lester

MIAC

Augsburg clinched the MIAC championship Saturday with a convincing 4-0 win over St. Thomas. The Auggies got a huge lift from Jordyn Kaufer, who stopped 31 shots en route to recording his third shutout in the last five seasons. It’s the fourth shutout of his career. Kaufer is 14-4-1 on the season. Dylan Meier provided a big boost offensively, scoring twice, as the Auggies won the regular-season title for the first time since the 1997-98 campaign. Augsburg went on to play in the NCAA tournament that season. The title is the ninth in program history for Augsburg, which is now 15-6-2 overall and 11-1-2 in the conference. Augsburg has come a long way since starting 1-3. The Auggies are unbeaten in their last eight games. Friday’s game ended in a 1-1 tie but the Auggies won the shootout 2-1. Eric Brenk and Luke Dietsch scored the shootout goals, while Max Pernhem scored on the power play in the second period. Rory Vessel tallied an assist and has 13 on the year. Connor McBride scored the lone goal for the Tommies, who are now 11-7-5 overall and 8-3-3 in the MIAC … St. John’s swept St. Mary’s in a weekend series and is just one point out of second place. The Johnnies clinched a conference tournament berth with the sweep. St. John’s won the opener 5-4 and then earned a 4-2 in the finale. Huba Sekesi scored his seventh goal of the year Saturday while also dishing out an assist. He finished with a total of three assists in the two games. Mitch Fritz tallied two assists in Saturday’s victory. Fritz also scored the game-winning goal in Friday’s game. Saxton Soley came through with 26 saves to earn the win. The Johnnies improved to 6-0-1 on the road in conference games this year and have won 12 of their last 14 games against the Cardinals on the road. The Johnnies are 10-9-4 overall and 8-4-2 in the conference. Jonathan Elliott and Chad Cesarz both scored goals for St. Mary’s, which is now 9-14-2 overall and 6-9-1 in the MIAC.

NCHA

St. Norbert and St. Scholastica squared off in a battle of nationally ranked teams overthe weekend. The No. Green Knights and No. 15 Saints played to a 2-2 overtime tie Saturday after St. Norbert earned a 3-2 win in the opener. On Saturday, all four goals in the game were scored off the power play. Justin Krabben and Derek Sutliffe both scored for the Saints. St. Norbert got its goals from Pijus Rulevicius and Erik Cooper. Rulevicius has 12 goals on the year and also tallied an assist. Cooper has come through with at least one point in 15 consecutive games. He has scored in 22 of the Green Knights’ 23 games this year. St. Nobert is now 19-2-2 overall and 15-2-1 in the conference. The Saints are now 14-6-3 overall and 12-5-1 in the NCHA … Adrian capped a sweep of Concordia (Wis.) Saturday with a 6-1 win. The Bulldogs won the opener 12-2 Friday night. Austin Hervey and Taylor McCloy each scored a pair of goals to propel the Bulldogs to their latest win. Third-ranked Adrian held a 40-30 edge in shots. Josh Shellman scored his first collegiate goal. Cory Dunn tallied two assists in the win as did Jeremy Olinyk. Tyler Parks nailed down his seventh win of the season behind a 29-save effort. He is 7-2-1 on the year. The Bulldogs are 11-0 at home this year and have won 18 consecutive home games dating back to last year.

WIAC

Wisconsin-Eau Claire snagged huge 2-1 win over Wisconsin-Stevens Point in a showdown of top 10 teams Saturday night in WIAC action. With the win, the Blugolds share the regular-season championship with River Falls. Eighth-ranked Eau Claire improved to 15-5-5 overall and to 5-2-1 in the conference. Third-ranked Steven Point falls to 19-5-1 overall and to 5-3- in the WIAC. Patrick Moore and Brandon Wahlin both scored goals for the Blugolds while Jono Davis came up with the lone goal for the Pointers. Stevens Point dominated the shots on goal category, taking 47 while limiting Eau Claire to 16. Jay Deo was ready for the challenge, however, and racked up 46 saves en route to his fourth win of the year. Eau Claire and Stevens Point will meet again in the semifinals of the conference tournament during the final weekend of February and NCAA tournament implications will be riding on it. Stevens Point, the preseason favorite for the conference crown, is the reigning national runner-up … Wisconsin-River Falls assured itself a share of the conference title with a 4-0 win over Wisconsin-Stout Saturday night. The Falcons will be the No. 1 seed for the WIAC tournament by virtue of a tiebreaker. Zach Schrotenboer and Mike Williams both scored goals, as did Joe Drapluk and Kyle Gattelaro. Taylor Burden came up with two assists. Tanner Milliron nailed down his fourth shutout of the year. River Falls improved to 15-6-4 overall and to 5-2-1 in the conference. Stout fell to 9-11-5 overall and is 1-6-1 in the WIAC. The win was the first for River Falls since Feb. 4 when it earned a 4-3 win over Stout … River Falls wins the No. 1 seed in the league and standings because of winning the tiebreaker with Eau Claire. River Falls will enter the playoffs as the league’s top team.

Weekend West picks: Feb. 12-13

The home stretch is here for D-III college hockey and several big games are on the schedule for this weekend, including a showdown of the top two teams in the MIAC as St. Thomas battles Augsburg.

In the NCHA, the featured matchup pits two nationally-ranked teams against each other as St. Norbert and St. Scholastica square off.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Wisconsin-Stevens Point play Saturday to highlight the WIAC schedule.

St. Thomas (11-6-4, 8-2-2) vs. Augsburg (14-6-1, 10-1-1)

The Auggies have an opportunity to move a step closer to the MIAC championship. But playing the defending conference champs won’t be a walk in the park.

Augsburg has won four in a row and Nate Flynn has been nothing short of phenomenal, scoring 15 goals and dishing out 12 assists. Goaltender Jordyn Kaufer is playing at the top of his game at the moment. In 17 starts, he has 13 wins and only four losses. He owns a 2.05 GAA and a .926 save percentage.

St. Thomas has a pretty good goaltender of its own in Joe Morris, who has fashioned a 2.17 GAA and a .924 save percentage while helping the Tommies win their last two games. Connor McBride is paving the way offensively, tallying 11 goals and five assists on the year.

Augsburg, 3-2, St. Thomas 2-1.

St. John’s (8-9-4, 6-4-2) vs. St. Mary’s (9-12-2, 6-7-1)

The Johnnies are hoping to remain in the top three in a tight MIAC race, but face the challenge of playing on the road against the Cardinals for a weekend series.

The Johnnies are unbeaten in their last five games, with the last two games ending in 2-2 ties against St. Thomas. Neal Smith leads the way in goals with nine, while Kevin Becker has tallied 11 assists. Saxton Soley has six wins on the year, a 2.43 GAA and a .919 save percentage.

St. Mary’s is currently in line for the fifth and final playoff spot and can solidify that spot with a strong showing against St. John’s. The Cardinals have dropped three of four and are 6-5 at home, which is where both of these games will be played. Martin Gruse is having a crazy successful year, scoring 13 goals and dishing out 17 assists. Jay Heinle has the most goals with 16.

St. John’s, 4-3, 4-2.

St. Norbert (18-2-1, 14-2) vs. St. Scholastica (14-5-2, 12-4)

The Green Knights are ranked No. 1 and face a late-season test against the 15th-ranked Saints on the road. St. Scholastica can move into a tie for first in the division with a sweep.

St. Norbert has won its last five, allowing only three goals during the streak, while Michael Hill, Pijus Rulevicius and Roman Uchyn lead the offense with 11 goals apiece. It’s worth noting that the Green Knights are unbeaten away from home, sporting a 12-0-1 record.

The Saints skate into this series as winners of five of their last six games. It will be the second time they have faced a ranked team in a series this season, splitting with the Milwaukee School of Engineering earlier in the year. Dylan Nowakowski has racked up 12 goals and 20 assists, while Brandon Millin has tallied 13 goals and 13 assists.

St. Norbert, 5-4, St. Scholastica 4-3.

Concordia (Wis.) (10-9-2, 6-8-2) vs. Adrian (17-3-1, 13-2-1)

The Falcons have dropped three of four and have struggled on the road, winning only twice in eight tries. It won’t be easy to turn things around against the third-ranked Bulldogs.

But Concordia is coming off a split against St. Scholastica and Braden Crone is playing well, having racked up eight goals and 11 assists. Stefen Seel has come through with six goals and 12 assists for the Falcons.

Adrian has won two of three and is hoping to keep its record at home unblemished. The Bulldogs are 9-0 on their own ice this season. Mathew Thompson has been instrumental to the success, scoring 16 goals and dishing out 16 assists. He is one of 10 players to score at least five goals. The Bulldogs have scored 115 goals in all while allowing only 45. They have given up three or more goals only five times this season, but one of those was in a 6-4 loss last Friday at Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Adrian, 5-2, 4-2.

Wisconsin-Superior (8-13-3, 2-4-1) at Wisconsin-Eau Claire (13-5-5, 3-2-1)

Superior is looking to play spoiler against No. 10 Eau Claire. The Yellowjackets lost 5-2 in the first meeting last month.

Ian Ecklund leads the offense of the Yellowjackets with nine goals and 18 assists. Anton Svensson is the top goal scorer with 12. He has also dished out 11 assists. All three of Superior’s goaltenders have played in at least eight games, with Cory Simons sporting a 4-3-0 mark, a 2.94 GAA and a .906 save percentage.

Eau Claire is unbeaten in its last five games, with four of those contests going to overtime. Three of the five games have ended in ties. Adam Knochenmus leads the way on offense with 18 goals and 15 assists. Patrick Moore has come through with 10 goals and 15 assists.

Eau Claire, 6-2.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire (13-5-5, 3-2-1) at Wisconsin-Stevens Point (18-4-1, 4-2)

The Blugolds will close out the regular season against the fourth-ranked Pointers. The first meeting was tight, decided by one goal in overtime, as Eau Claire won 5-4.

Stevens Point comes into the showdown as the hottest team in the league, winning its last six. The Pointers have scored at least six goals in four of those wins. While Eau Claire features a high-powered offense, having scored 89 goals, Stevens Point is even more potent, punching in 121 goals this year.

Four players have scored at least 11 goals, including 16 by Lawrence Cornellier and Kyle Sharkey. Each has 11 assists as well, while Joe Kalisz leads the team in points with 13 goals and 25 assists.

This is a game that could very well decide the conference title.

Stevens Point, 6-4.

Weekend East picks: Feb. 11-14

Salem State goalie Marcus Zelzer and his teammates have their eyes on first place in the MASCAC standings with Thursday’s home game with defending champion Plymouth State (photo: Salem State Athletics).

The end of the regular season is already upon some teams this weekend, while others have just two more weekends to control their destiny for playoff positioning.

Every game is critical, but the battles for home ice feel even more like it is already the playoffs.

The picks from last week saw a solid bounce-back week as I finished at 5-2-0 (.714) for the weekend. The season record now stands at 46-29-7 (.604), which lands me just above the 60 percent success threshold. No time to avoid the tough matchups or look for any easy games — there aren’t any in February!

Here are my picks (including a bonus eighth game) for the East this week:

Thursday, Feb. 11

Plymouth State @ Salem State
The Vikings and Panthers are in a neck-and-neck battle for the top spot and regular-season title. This game likely goes a long way in determining the top seed in the MASCAC tournament, so expect a playoff atmosphere at Rockett Arena. Both teams are worthy and a tie would not shock or disappoint, but I think the home team wants to send a message – Salem State 3, Plymouth State 2.

Friday, Feb. 12

Williams @ Middlebury
This is the back end of an unusual weekday home-and-home series between the travel partners. Both teams have a lot to play for with Williams looking to hold on to the top spot, while the Panthers are in a battle for a home-ice berth. These rivalry games always go to the final buzzer and this time the visitors eke it out – Williams 3, Middlebury 2.

Geneseo @ Buffalo State
This game might be a tie-breaker in who nails down the second spot behind Plattsburgh in the standings. The Bengals have shown great balance offensively and are getting good goaltending. Yeah, and did I mention they are the home team that doesn’t make the long bus ride? Home ice matters in this one – Buffalo State 4, Geneseo 3.

Utica @ Elmira
There seems to be a significant home-ice factor going on in the ECAC West this year, or maybe it’s just with some teams. The Pioneers took four huge points at home against Manhattanville last weekend and they could be for naught if they don’t keep the momentum going on the road – Utica 4, Elmira 2.

Saturday, Feb. 13

Plattsburgh @ Potsdam
The trip to play the Cardinals earlier in the season was a house of horrors for the Bears, who are in a battle for a top-four spot in the conference. Home ice is nice, but the Cardinals speed and balance is difficult for many teams to contend with at home or away – Plattsburgh 5, Potsdam 2.

Wentworth @ Nichols
The Leopards have found their game over the past few weeks and Joel Miller has been a key contributor in goal against the league’s best. Nothing easy about playing Nichols and All-American Alex Larson, but that is just the motivation this underdog Wentworth team seems to thrive on – Wentworth 3, Nichols 2.

New England College @ Babson
The Beavers are still in the hunt for the top spot and aren’t going to make it easy for Massachusetts-Boston to claim the regular-season title. To have a shot, they will need some help after they take care of the Pilgrims on home ice – Babson 4, NEC 1.

Sunday, Feb. 14

Trinity @ Bowdoin
This is just the kind of game head coach Terry Meagher would ask for in his final regular-season game behind the Polar Bears’ bench. Trinity is in a dogfight for top spot in the conference, while Bowdoin has quietly moved into contention for a home-ice playoff seed. Do you believe in storybook endings? I do, and in overtime to add a little extra drama – Bowdoin 4, Trinity 3.

Time is running out on teams still searching for their game. It isn’t about who played great all year, it’s about who is playing at their best now, when it matters most – drop the puck!

Weekend wrap: Feb. 7

Plattsburgh goaltender Brady Rouleau (above) picked up the 6-1 win on Saturday over Cortland, while teammate Spencer Finney backstopped the 4-3 overtime win against Oswego on Friday. The wins moved the Cardinals comfortably in front of the SUNYAC standings (photo: Angelo Lisuzzo).

If it is at all possible, the playoff picture with just a couple of weeks remaining got cloudier, not clearer, across many of the conferences this weekend.

Some teams with opportunity to create separation fell victim to upsets, while some other teams looking to make a late-season run made a statement about the fact they are still in the mix and aren’t going to go away anytime soon.

Here’s the East weekend recap:

ECAC Northeast
After conference leader Nichols stumbled earlier in the week against Western New England, the door was open for some contenders to make a move, but teams making a late-season run kept things very tight at the top. The Golden Bears got their first conference win by a 4-1 score behind two goals from Dane Genord and 43 saves from Kevin Gollmer in the 4-1 win over the Bison.

Wentworth is showing they are going to be a tough out down the stretch and into the playoffs with wins over contenders Endicott and Suffolk. Kyle Lebrun scored twice and Joel Miller made 38 saves in the 4-3 win over the Gulls, while Miller again showed he is among the best in the conference by making 37 saves in a 3-1 win over Suffolk.

ECAC West
Neumann finally figured out how to slow Hobart down with a 2-0 win on Friday night despite being outshot 42-27. Nick Perruccio had a goal and an assist, while Mitch Wiebe stopped all 42 Statesmen attempts to earn the shutout and two important points for the Knights. Hobart earned a split on Saturday with a 7-1 win powered by two goals from Andrew Silard.

Hobart has opened up a large lead in the standings, but Utica made a strong statement for second place with a weekend sweep over Manhattanville by scores of 5-2 and 2-1 in overtime. Adam Moody scored twice for the Pioneers on Friday, while Shawn Lynch figured in both Utica goals, including scoring the overtime winner on Saturday night.

MASCAC
The battle at the top continues to be tight with Plymouth State and Salem State both posting key conference wins heading into their head-to-head showdown this week. Both teams showcased the hallmarks of what makes them both successful this season. Salem State used goals from five different scorers to earn Marcus Zelzer his 12th win of the season, while Plymouth State used a similar formula in downing Massachusetts-Dartmouth by a 4-2 score. The Panthers got goals from four different players and Gordon Caesar picked up his 13th win, making 18 saves.

NE-10
Stonehill remains unbeaten in the D-II conference at 7-0-2, having picked up two wins over Franklin Pierce and Assumption. Kevin Airoldi picked up a goal and an assist in the 3-2 win over the Ravens, while Thomas DePaolo notched a hat trick in the Skyhawks’ 6-1 win over Assumption on Saturday night.

NEHC
Maybe it was the back-to-back losses in December before the break or not being nationally ranked for the first time in this millennium or maybe it was just home pride that found Norwich winning two crucial games against Babson and Massachusetts-Boston by 5-1 and 4-2 scores, respectively. Paul Russell scored four goals for the Cadets in the two games, including a hat trick in the win over the Beacons on Saturday. Braeden Ostepchuk picked up both wins in goal with a combined 52 saves for Norwich, who solidified their hold on third place in the standings.

NESCAC
What many thought might be a defensive duel for the top spot in the conference standings turned into a wild offensive showcase as Williams used an overtime goal from Zander Masucci to down Trinity 5-4. The Ephs overcame 2-0 and 3-2 deficits before the Bantams used a late extra-attacker goal tie the game at 4-4. Masucci just needed 27 seconds to settle the affair and Williams capped off the weekend with a 4-3 win over Wesleyan to match Trinity’s 4-1 over Middlebury.

Bowdoin appears to be making a late-season run as they took four points with road wins over Amherst and Hamilton to move into fifth place in the standings. Matt Rubinoff had two goals and an assist in the Polar Bears’ 6-2 win over Hamilton, who have lost three of their last four games.

SUNYAC
Connor Gorman scored twice, including the game winner with just two seconds left in the five-minute overtime session, to give Plattsburgh a 4-3 win over archrival Oswego on Friday night. The Cardinals moved to moved to 11-1-1 in the conference with a 6-1 win over Cortland on Saturday. Six different Cardinals scored and Brady Rouleau picked up his seventh win of the season.

While the Cardinals opened up some space at the top of the standings, the battle for the remaining top four places is wide open amongst Geneseo, Potsdam, Oswego and Buffalo State, who picked up a big four points with a weekend sweep over Morrisville.

The 4-0 and 5-1 wins moved the Bengals into the thick of the battle for a home-ice berth. In both games, Buffalo State exhibited great balance with four different goal scorers on Friday and five different goal scorers on Saturday.

Weekend Biscuits

Tyler Stepke, Becker – the Hawks’ goaltender had quite the week, making 58 saves and recording an assist in Becker’s 4-1 win over Salve Regina that was ultimately decided by two empty-net goals. Stepke also made 46 stops on Friday in a 3-1 loss to conference leader Nichols.

Bryce Nielsen, New England College – scored all three of his goals to complete a hat trick in an eventful second period that saw seven goals total between the two teams in the Pilgrims’ 6-4 win over the University of New England on Friday night.

Zander Masucci, Williams – after yielding the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation, the Ephs defenseman wasted no time in OT scoring the game winner against Trinity. The 5-4 win put Williams atop the NESCAC standings.

WEST WRAP – Brian Lester

MIAC

Augsburg maintained its hold on first place in the MIAC with a sweep of Hamline over the weekend. The Auggies, who topped the Pipers 8-2 and 2-0, have a four-point lead (31-27) over second-place St. Thomas in the conference standings. Jordyn Kaufer made a season-best 43 saves in Saturday’s 2-0 win to help the Auggies clinch a MIAC playoff berth. It was his second shutout of the year and the third of his career. Kaufer has won five consecutive games and has allowed only six goals during the impressive stretch. Trevor Stewart and Mack Ohnsted both scored goals in the win. In Friday’s opener, Nate Flynn and Drew Allen scored two goals apiece to pave the way in an 8-2 victory. The win marked the 11th time this year that Augsburg has scored at least four goals in a game. Flynn stretched his point streak to four games and came through with his fourth multi-point game of the season. Andy Faust dished out three assists, the first time in his collegiate hockey career that he has tallied that many assists in a game. Augsburg is now 14-6-1 overall and 10-1-1 in the conference … St. Thomas kept pace in the title chase as it swept Concordia (Minn.) over the weekend. The Tommies defeated the Cobbers 5-3 and 4-3 and are unbeaten in their last five games. Michael Dockry, Thomas Williams, Connor McBride and Wille Faust all scored goals for the Tommies, who improved to 11-6-4 overall and to 6-5-1 in the MIAC. Faust also came through with an assist in the win, while Joe Morris made 28 saves. St. Thomas fell behind 2-0 in the opener Friday, trailed 3-0 after two periods before exploding for five goals in the third to secure the win. McBride delivered the game-winning goal for the Tommies. Jon Grebosky played well for Concordia, scoring his 11th goal of the year. Jordie Bancroft scored his eighth goal of the season for the Tommies. St. Thomas and Augsburg battle next weekend in a home-and-home series that could very well determine the regular-season championship in the MIAC.

Dylan Nowakowski scored two goals in St. Scholastica’s 5-1 win over Concordia (Wis.) last Saturday to gain a weekend split (photo: CSS Athletics).

NCHA

In a showdown of two nationally ranked opponents, Wisconsin-Stevens Point prevailed in a battle with Adrian. The Pointers took down down the Bulldogs 6-4. Stevens Point scored four unanswered goals to earn the big nonconference win. The fifth-ranked Pointers capitalized on two power-play goals as Joe Kalisz and Kyle Sharkey both scored on those opportunities. Kalisz also dished out two assists. Sharkey and Lawrence Cornellier both tallied a goal and an assist. Taylor McCloy led the Bulldogs with a goal and two assists. Top-ranked Adrian fell to 17-3-1 on the year. The six goals are the most given up by Adrian in a road game under second-year head coach Adam Krug. Adrian had its two-game win streak snapped. The Pointers avenged a 3-2 loss they suffered to the Bulldogs back in November. Stevens Point has won its last six games … Concordia (Wis.) pulled off an upset of No. 13 St. Scholastica Friday night, knocking off the Saints 3-2 in overtime. The Falcons won on a goal by Braden Crone with 8.9 seconds left in the extra session. It was their third OT win in program history. The Falcons trailed 2-0 before Connor Hogg and Taylor Gauld both scored to tie the game at 2-2. Prior to this season, the Falcons had beaten a ranked opponent only once. They have three wins over ranked opponents this year. The win was their 10th of the year, tying a single-season record. Concordia won 10 games two years ago as well. The Saints bounced back on Saturday with a 5-1 win. Dylan Nowakowski scored twice in the win as St. Scholastica improved to 14-5-2 overall and to 12-4 in the conference. Concordia fell to 10-9-2 overall and to 6-8-2 in the NCHA. The Saints are in second in the North Division, while Concordia is third in the South. Bruce Keegan played well for the Falcons, scoring one goal and dishing out four assists.

WIAC

Wisconsin-Superior turned in one of its best offensive performances of the year in a game against Wisconsin-River Falls, knocking off the No. 10 Falcons 5-2 Friday night. The Falcons had allowed only 37 goals all year. Superior scored five goals en route to the win, their first over a nationally ranked opponent this season. Jimmy Hughes, Daniel Litchke, Beau Browning, Viktor Sallhag and Jordan Neduzak all scored goals for the Yellow Jackets. Litchke also came through with an assist in the win. Bryce Fink earned the win as he made 24 saves. The Yellow Jackets weren’t as fortunate in Saturday’s game against nationally ranked Stevens Point. The Pointers struck for six goals in the third to secure the 9-1 win. Joe Kalisz played a key role in the win as he dished out four assists. Jacob Barber punched in two goals and dished out an assist while Lawrence Cornellier came through with a goal and two assists. Jono Davis also came through with a goal and two assists. Stevens Point improved to 18-4-1 overall and to 4-2 in the WIAC. Superior fell to 8-13-2 overall and to 2-4 in the conference. Litchke scored the lone goal for the Yellow Jackets.

Weekend West picks: Feb. 5-6

February is here and that means we’ve reached the final month of regular-season action in NCAA Division III hockey.

Here are my picks for key games in the West this weekend:

St. Thomas (9-6-4, 6-2-2) vs. Concordia (Minn.) (8-9-2, 6-3-1)

The Tommies are tied for second in the conference and have seen their last two games end in a tie. The road hasn’t been kind to St. Thomas this year as it is 2-4-2 away from home. Connor McBride will be a key offensively, having tallied nine goals and five assists. The defense will need to be sharp and goaltender Joe Morris will be a key to that success. He has nine wins and a 2.08 GAA.

The Cobbers are right on the heels of the Tommies, sitting one behind them in third place. The Cobbers have struggled at home, winning only twice in six games. They are also looking to get a little momentum back after winning only once in their last four outings. Jon Grebosky leads the offense with 10 goals and 11 assists. Alex Reichle has eight wins this year and has a 2.99 GAA.

The team that plays better defensively will win – St. Thomas, 4-2, Concordia 3-2.

Hamline (8-9-4, 5-6-1) vs. Augsburg (12-6-1, 8-1-1)

The Pipers are right on the cusp of being in a position to be a MIAC playoff team, sitting in sixth place. They have won their last two games and four of their last six overall. Charlie Adams and Brandon Zurn have been phenomenal all year. Adams has 19 goals and 24 assists, while Zurn has come through with 16 goals and 26 assists. If those two are on, Hamline will be in good shape.
Augsburg is looking to stay atop the conference and will start this home-and-home series on its own ice. The Auggies have won two in a row and are unbeaten in their last four games. Nate Flynn leads the way with 13 goals and 11 assists while Eli May has come through with nine goals and eight assists. Jordyn Kaufer anchors the defense, having won 11 games. He has a 2.19 GAA.

Augsburg, 5-2, Hamline 4-3.

Adrian (17-2-1) vs. Wisconsin-Stevens Point (16-4-1)

The top-ranked Bulldogs head out on the road for a huge nonconference showdown that will have a playoff-like feel to it. Adrian has won its last two and is 7-2-1 on the road this season. Mathew Thompson leads the Bulldogs in goals with 15, while Connor Armour has dished out 27 assists. Adrian is very good at sharing the puck as nine players have tallied 10 or more assists on the season.

The fifth-ranked Pointers have only one loss at home and skate into this showdown on a four-game win streak. They have struck for 106 goals on the season and Kyle Sharkey leads the way with 15 goals. Lawrence Cornellier has come through with 14 goals. Joe Kalisz leads the team in points with 12 goals and 20 assists. The Pointers share the puck efficiently as well, tallying 174 assists.

Stevens Point, 4-3.

St. Scholastica (13-4-2, 11-3) vs. Concordia (Wis.) (9-8-2, 5-7-2)

The nationally-ranked Saints are on a roll, winning their last four games, and they hope to keep that momentum going in a road series against the Falcons. St. Scholastica is 6-2-1 away from home. Brandon Millin has helped fuel the offense, scoring 13 goals and dishing out 11 assists. The Saints have scored 73 goals in all while Tyler Bruggeman has 11 wins on the season. He owns a 2.05 GAA.

The Falcons are looking to get back on track after dropping their last two. They have only one win in their last six games. But they have played well at home, going 7-2-2, and perhaps that will make a difference this weekend. Braden Crone has helped fuel the offense with seven goals and 10 assists and will need a big series for the Falcons to steal a game. Stefen Seel has come through with six goals and 12 assists on the season. Concordia has 50 goals as a team.

Concordia, 6-3 and 4-1.

Wisconsin-Superior (7-12-2, 1-3) vs. Wisconsin-River Falls (13-5-3, 3-1)

The Yellow Jackets have won two of three and are led by Ian Ecklund, who has come through with nine goals and 17 assists. Anton Svensson leads Superior in goals scored with 12. He has also dished out eight assists.

The Falcons have won three of four and are looking to remain in contention for the conference crown. Balance has been key to their success as 10 players have scored at least 10 goals. Kyle Gattelaro leads the way with eight goals and seven assists. River Falls is 10-3-1 at home this sesason.

River Falls, 5-2.

Stevens Point (16-4-1, 3-2) vs. Superior (7-12-2, 1-3)

The Pointers are one of the best offensive teams in the nation and will be tough to slow down. Max Milosek has been solid in goal, giving up an average of 2.05 goals per game.

Superior has allowed 68 goals. Cory Simons has played in eight games, including the last three, and allows 2.94 goals per outing. The Yellow Jackets will need to have their best defensive effort of the year to survive this test.

Stevens Point, 6-2.

Weekend East picks: Feb. 4-6

The road into February just got bumpy again and teams looking to be playing at their best when it matters most are now focused on the stretch drive.

That is good advice for my prediction skills as well.

The picks for last week regressed coming into February as I finished at 4-3-0 (.571) for the weekend. That brings the season record to 41-27-7 (.593), which finds me still chasing the 60 percent success threshold. The sprint to the end of the regular season is on.

Here are my picks for the East this week:

Thursday, Feb. 4

Salem State @ Westfield State
The Vikings are hot on the trail of league leaders Plymouth State and can ill afford a stumble against an always-dangerous Westfield squad that needs to kick their game into high gear down the stretch. No mid-week doldrums for the Vikings in this one – Salem State 5, Westfield State 2.

Friday, Feb. 5

Babson @ Norwich
The Beavers caught a depleted Norwich squad flat in the first meeting back in December, so Mike McShane will have his team ready to go for two important games with teams above the Cadets in the standings. Injuries are a factor for both teams. It is a close game and a tie would not surprise, but the Beavers like playing at Kreitzberg and eke out the season sweep – Babson 3, Norwich 2.

Oswego @ Plattsburgh
The Cardinals are not taking any conference foe lightly and this rivalry usually has big stakes on the table when they meet late in the season. The Lakers have struggled with inconsistency and the Cardinals would like to keep them struggling for a full 60 minutes – Plattsburgh 3, Oswego 1.

Williams @ Trinity
This game may showcase two of the best up-and-coming goaltenders in D-III. Both Michael Pinios from Williams and Alex Morin from Trinity have been key elements in their teams’ success this season. Both might show off their skills here, but the Ephs pull out the win in dramatic fashion – Williams 1, Trinity 0.

Saturday, Feb. 6

Skidmore @ Castleton
The games between travel partner schools always seem to carry a bit more excitement, especially when played as a home-and home event. Home ice does matter for the Spartans, as do the two important points in the standings – Castleton 4, Skidmore 2.

Manhattanville @ Utica
The back half of the two-game weekend set will certainly feature two teams that can score goals in bunches, but something tells me after Friday’s raucous affair this one is going to be a close one – Manhattanville 2, Utica 1.

Assumption @ Stonehill
These two teams just met a week or so ago and the Skyhawks had their way with Assumption. Only four teams qualify for the end-of-year tournament and while Stonehill is in a good spot, both teams need the win and opportunity for points. The home team takes advantage of both – Stonehill 4, Assumption 3.

Playoff seeding is on the line in every game in February and results have an impact on the all-important tiebreakers as well – drop the puck!

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