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The weekend that was

Geneseo cele sized The weekend that was

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

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

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

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

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

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

ECAC East

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

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

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

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

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

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

ECAC Northeast

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

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

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

ECAC West

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

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

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

MASCAC

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

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

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

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

MIAC

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

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

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

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

NCHA

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

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

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

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

NESCAC

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

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

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

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

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

SUNYAC

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

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

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

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

WIAC

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

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

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

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

Playing the games that matter

UNE Colby Drost Playing the games that matter

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

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

Others start the playoffs.

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

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

ECAC East – Tim Costello

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

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

Saturday, Feb. 22

No. 8 Skidmore @ No. 1 Norwich

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

No. 7 Southern Maine @ No. 2 Babson

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

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

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

No. 5 Castleton @ No. 4 New England College

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

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

ECAC Northeast – Nathan Fournier

Saturday, Feb. 22

Becker at Curry

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

Western New England at Nichols

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

Wentworth at Suffolk

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

Sunday, Feb. 23

Johnson and Wales at Salve Regina

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

Tuesday, Feb. 25

Western New England at Becker

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

Curry at Johnson and Wales.

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

ECAC West – Dan Hickling

Friday, Feb. 21

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

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

Saturday, Feb. 22

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

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

MASCAC – Nathan Fournier

Saturday, Feb. 22

Framingham State at Plymouth State

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

Fitchburg State at Salem State

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

Westfield State at Worcester State

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

Tuesday, Feb. 25

Fitchburg State at Massachusetts-Dartmouth

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

Worcester State at Salem State

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

Plymouth State at Westfield State

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

MIAC/WIAC – Brian Lester

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

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

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

Here are my predictions for the weekend.

MIAC

St. Olaf vs. Augsburg

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

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

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

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

Ben McClellan leads Augsburg with 14 goals and five assists.

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

St. Thomas vs. St. John’s

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

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

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

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

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

WIAC

Wisconsin-River Falls vs. Wisconsin-Eau Claire

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

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

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

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

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

Wisconsin-Stevens Point vs. Wisconsin-Superior

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

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

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

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

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

NCHA – Katie Carito

Lawrence at St. Norbert

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

Milwaukee School of Engineering at Adrian

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

Concordia (Wis.) at St. Scholastica

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

Marian at Lake Forest

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

NESCAC – Tim Costello

Wow! Can I not pick them or what?

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

Friday, Feb. 21

Bowdoin @ Connecticut College

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

Wesleyan @ Trinity

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

Colby @ Tufts

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

Saturday, Feb. 22

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

Hamilton @ Williams

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

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

SUNYAC – Dan Hickling

Friday, Feb. 21

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

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

Saturday, Feb. 22

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

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

Champions getting crowned

Scorcia sized Champions getting crowned

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

The rundown from an exciting past weekend…

ECAC East

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

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

ECAC Northeast

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

Wentworth defeated Becker 5-3 on Saturday.

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

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

ECAC West

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

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

MASCAC

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

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

MIAC

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

Third-place St. Olaf had the weekend off.

NCHA

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

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

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

NESCAC

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

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

SUNYAC

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

Second-place Plattsburgh had the holiday weekend off.

WIAC

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

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

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.

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