Weekend West picks: Jan. 8-9

The first full weekend of games of the New Year has arrived and several good matchups are on the horizon, including a MIAC battle between St. Thomas and St. Mary’s.

St. Thomas (7-4-2, 5-1) vs. St. Mary’s (6-5-2, 3-2-1): The Tommies have won two of their last three and are playing for the first time since Dec. 12. Connor McBride and Michael Dockry lead the offense with five goals apiece. They have combined for nine assists as well. Joe Morris has been solid in goal, winning seven games and fashioning a 2.14 GAA.

The Cardinals are looking to get back on track as they come in on a three-game losing streak. Offensively, they have been impressive, scoring 61 goals, and Jay Heinle leads the way with 12 goals and two assists. Bob Kinne has tallied eight goals and 11 assists. Martin Gruse and Chad Cesarz have scored seven goals apiece. Phil Heinle has allowed 35 goals and has made 288 saves this season.

This series should end in a split. St. Mary’s 5-3; St. Thomas 4-2.

Bethel (1-8-1, 1-3) vs. Augsburg (7-4, 3-1): The Royals have dropped their last two games and are winless on the road. George Splichal has played well for Bethel, scoring four goals and dishing out three assists. Travis Payne has come through with three goals and three assists.

Augsburg is on a roll, winning its last three, and it hopes to ride that momentum through this series. Nate Flynn has stepped up in a big way, scoring eight goals and tallying eight assists. Eight other players have scored at least two goals for the Auggies, who have scored 41 goals.

If Augsburg plays up to its potential, it should pick up two wins. Augsburg, 5-2, 6-2.

St. John’s (4-7-2) vs. Wisconsin-River Falls (8-4-2): The Johnnies have won two of their last three and are playing their first game since Dec. 12. Huba Sekesi has fueled the offense with five goals and six assists while Saxton Soley is one of the top goaltenders in the conference. Although he has won only three games, he has made 331 saves on the year.

The Falcons are playing well, having won their last three, and having this game at home is a big deal. River Falls has won six times already on its home ice this season. Joe Drapluk and Kyle Gattelaro are first and second in points. Drapluk has scored five goals and tallied eight assists while Gattelaro has come up with six goals and six assists. Tanner Milliron owns a 2.12 GAA and has made 273 saves.

Give the edge to the Falcons. River Falls, 4-1.

Concordia (Minn.) (5-5-1) vs. Wisconsin-River Falls (8-4-2): The Cobbers are winless in their last three games and are looking to bounce back in a big way. Jake Zeleznikar and Jon Grebosky will be keys to the Cobbers’ success as they have scored five goals apiece. Alex Reichle will need to be ready to handle the Falcons’ balanced attack. He has a 3.01 GAA and has come up with 252 saves. River Falls, 5-3.

Milwaukee School of Engineering (8-3, 3-3) vs. Lake Forest (5-6, 3-5): The Raiders are one of the hottest teams in the NCHA at the moment, riding a five-game win streak into this series. Conner Enciso has paved the way offensively, racking up five goals and three assists, while Jerad Tafoya has been one of the top playmakers, dishing out seven assists. Nick Kohn has been solid at goaltender, winning seven games and making 276 saves.

Lake Forest will come in hungry for the upset. The Foresters have shown promise as of late, winning their last two, and they aren’t afraid of a challenge, having knocked off River Falls in November when it was ranked 13th in the country. The Raiders are ranked 15th. Billy Kent has been a key player for the Foresters, tallying seven goals and three assists.

This series could easily end in a split. Lake Forest, 3-2, MSOE 5-2.

Concordia (Wis.) (8-3-1, 5-2-1) vs. Lawrence (3-8, 2-4): The Falcons are playing great hockey right now and currently own a four-game win streak. They have not lost at home all season, fashioning a 6-0-1 mark on their own ice. Stefen Seel has played a key role in the team’s success, scoring six goals and dishing out nine assists. Connor Hogg has come up with six goals as well to go along with his four assists. Jack Romanulk and Andy Munroe have combined to play 11 games in goal, with each winning four times.

The Vikings are hoping to get themselves back on track after dropping their last three games. Generating offense will be key as they have scored just 25 goals this season. Renato Engler leads the way with four goals and seven assists. Mattias Soderqvist has started nine games at goaltender and has made 227 saves. He has to be on top of his game for the Vikings to have an opportunity to pull off the upset.

Look for the Falcons to get the job done. Concordia, 6-3, 6-2.

Weekend East picks: Jan. 7-9

The sprint that is the second half schedule has officially begun and there are several intriguing nonconference matchups that could have major implications come tournament selection time on the docket this week.

Of course, the conference battles are all there, too, so enjoy the great hockey that will dominate the schedule through the next couple of months.

The picks for the New Year’s slate of games was barely above the .500 mark at 4-3-0 (.571). That brings the season record to 25-16-6 (.596), which continues the slide in the wrong direction. There will be no crying from this prognosticator and no avoiding the challenging games.

Here are my picks for the East this week:

Thursday, Jan. 7

Plymouth State @ Curry
This nonconference battle screams trap game for the Panthers, who have made a concerted effort to produce far better results in nonconference games than last season. Curry doesn’t give up much defensively, but doesn’t score a lot either and that is just the way PSU wins a low-scoring affair – Plymouth State 3, Curry 1.

Friday, Jan. 8

Plattsburgh @ Norwich
The Cadets have a few key players back in the lineup and already adding value to a limited first-half offense. This game will be a track meet with speed on both sides and skill to match, so don’t be surprised to see a late goal decide the outcome in this rematch from the Primelink tournament in November – Norwich 4, Plattsburgh 3.

Oswego @ Utica
The Pioneers have got a good thing going at home and the Lakers are still in search of some consistency on a game-to-game basis. Like the home team in an offensive and entertaining game that should delight the home crowd – Utica 5, Oswego 4.

Geneseo @ Hobart
The Statesmen have a good thing going at home and the Knights represent a great challenge in this nonconference matchup of ranked teams. Expect a tight-checking, low-scoring game with a tie being a likely outcome, but I will give the edge on paper to the home team – Hobart 3, Geneseo 2.

Elmira @ Brockport
The Brockport formula has been timely goals and strong goaltending and they will need both if they expect to upend the Soaring Eagles. Look for the continued formulaic approach form the home team with the same result – Brockport 4, Elmira 3.

Saturday, Jan. 9

Trinity @ Williams
The Bantams may be able to leverage their Northfield Savings Bank tournament wins over Manhattanville and Norwich into some all-important conference wins starting with a tough Ephs squad in Williamstown – Trinity 2, Williams 1.

Westfield State @ Salem State
This MASCAC battle features two very opportunistic scoring teams, so don’t expect a low-scoring game. The Vikings got a big win last weekend against Amherst and look to build some momentum in league play – Salem State 5, Westfield State 4.

The games may not be for two points in the standings, but could mean much more come early March. No one should be taking any opponent lightly – drop the puck!

Weekend wrap: Jan. 4

Ryan Kangas’ offensive spark led Brockport to the Codfish Bowl championship Sunday (photo: Tori Langseder).

Happy New Year to all and what a way to welcome back the second half of play in the 2015-16 season!

There were holiday tournaments aplenty and several gracious hosts who allowed invited guests to skate off with the coveted championship trophy. Only Plattsburgh held onto the title in their hosted tournament, so there were upsets galore among ranked teams.

Here’s the recap:

WB Mason Winter Classic
The host Plattsburgh Cardinals had no problems in their opening game when they took down Fitchburg State by a 7-0 score with Pat Egan scoring twice in the first period to set the pace in the romp. Their opponent for the final was a pesky Colby squad who defeated Nazareth 6-4 behind EJ Rauseo’s first two goals of the season for the White Mules.

The final was hard-fought with a scoreless first period before the home team saw two goals in the second period from Ryan Chiasson and Egan to give the Cardinals all the cushion they would need. Rich Botting added a power-play goal in the third for the final 3-0 margin and Spencer Finney made 26 saves to earn the shutout.

Codfish Bowl
This is perhaps the “grand-daddy” of holiday tournaments with a legacy going back a couple of decades. Massachusetts-Boston has been the host, but their history has not been strong in winning the tournament, usually running into a hot goalie in the first round or final and history repeated itself this year with Brockport’s Jared Lockhurst making 48 saves and Ryan Kangas providing the offense in the 3-2 upset win over the fifth-ranked Beacons.

Brockport won the Codfish title on Sunday with a 5-1 win over Westfield State. Kangas again led the way for Brockport with another three-point game, giving him three goals and three assists and six points in the two-game tournament.

Middlebury Classic
The host Panthers earned their way to the championship game with a 6-3 win over Canton, while Neumann took down the Pilgrims of New England College behind goalie Tyler LeFebvre’s 33 saves and first win of the season.

The championship game was again the Tyler Levebre Show as he made 47 saves to earn tournament MVP as Neumann held on for a 2-1 win against the host Panthers on Sunday afternoon. Jon Low and Zac Larrazo provided all the offense for the Knights, who were outshot 48-29 in the game.

Babson/Salem State Tournament
The upsets continued in this tournament where Endicott avenged an earlier season loss against Salem State with two goals from Parker Wood in a 3-2 win in the first round. Kevin Aldridge made 29 saves in the win for the Gulls.

Babson knocked off Amherst 4-2 in the other first-round game, setting up the first-ever meeting between Endicott and Babson. The Gulls took the upset over the nationally-ranked Beavers by another 3-2 score with Cam Black scoring two goals, including the game-winner late in the third period on the power play. Aldridge outdueled Jamie Murray, making 41 saves in the title game.

In the consolation game, the Vikings earned some redemption and continuing a rare Amherst winless streak with a come from behind 5-4 win over the Lord Jeffs. Michael Chen scored twice and Derek Makimas had the winning goal for Bill O’Neill’s Salem State squad.

Northfield Savings Bank Tournament
The hosts from Norwich welcomed back William Pelletier to the lineup and he made every effort to make up for lost time playing by producing a six-point night in the Cadets first-round win over Wesleyan by an 8-0 score.

Trinity downed Manhattanville by a score of 4-3, which set up a marquee final on Sunday between the Bantams and Cadets.

The championship game did not disappoint as the defending national champions rallied to tie the game in the third period before winning in overtime on Anthony Sabitsky’s goal. Pelletier added another three points in the losing effort for the Cadets and another returning forward Dean Niezgoda chipped in with his first two goals of the season, the second giving the Cadets a 4-3 lead at the end of the second period. Alex Morin picked up the win in relief of Nathaniel Heilbron for Trinity making 10 saves and shutting out the Cadets for the final 31 plus minutes of play.

Weekly Biscuits

William Pelletier, Norwich – the senior forward came back to the Cadet lineup with a bang, scoring three goals and adding five assists for eight points in the two games against Wesleyan and Trinity over the weekend.

Ryan Kangas, Brockport – the forward scored twice and set-up the third in Brockport’s upset win over UMB in the Codfish Bowl and added another goal and two assists in the championship game against Westfield State for a six-point weekend.

Tyler Levebre, Neumann – the junior netminder stopped 80 of 82 shots in the Middlebury Classic in his first two starts of the season earning a pair of wins and the tournament MVP with the Knights 2-1 win over the Panthers.

WEST WRAP – Brian Lester

Augsburg continued its solid play as it defeated Lawrence 6-3 Saturday to pick up its sixth win in its last seven games. Drew Anderson and Mack Ohnsted scored two goals apiece to pave the way for the Auggies, who improved to 7-4 on the season. Augsburg has won its last three games overall. Brandon Boelter scored twice on the power-play to lead the Vikings. Jordyn Kaufer made 31 saves for the Auggies, while Mattias Soderqvist came through with 30 saves for the Vikings. Augsburg now shifts its attention to MIAC play as it will play a series against Bethel this weekend. Lawrence takes on Concordia (Wis.) in an NCHA series this weekend … Adrian nailed down a big win Saturday as it topped Williams 4-1 in a battle of nationally-ranked teams. The two teams squared off in the Pathfinder Bank Classic at Oswego. The Bulldogs are unbeaten in their last 10 games and improved to 9-1 with the win. Cameron Cooper, Mathew Thompson, Adam Davies and Bryan Yim all scored goals for the Bulldogs, who trailed 1-0 after the first period. A total of seven Adrian players scored points in the win. Connor Armour tallied two assists. Kevin Entmaa started in goal and made 25 saves as he improved to 7-0 on the year. Adrian stretched its unbeaten streak to 11 Sunday with a 5-1 win over Oswego State in the championship game of the tournament. Thompson scored a goal in the win and earned MVP honors. Entmaa picked up his eighth win of the season as he tallied 36 saves.

Weekend picks: Jan. 1-3

Johnson and Wales goalie Joey Ballmer and his teammates hope to steal the Codfish Bowl from nationally-ranked Massachusetts-Boston when the second semester action starts this weekend (photo: Erin Bumgardner/JWU Sports Information).

Happy New Year!

The semester break has come to an end and that means more great holiday tournament action to open 2016 in the East.

The picks entering the holidays saw one of my worst weeks of the season at 2-3-2 (.429). That brings the season record down to 21-13-6 (.600) so no time like the present to move that success rate up. There are some great tournaments to pick from and hopefully picking them right to start the all important second half.

Here are my picks for the East this week:

Friday, January 1, 2016

Skidmore @ Hamilton
The nonconference battle between teams from the NEHC and NESCAC should provide a lot of excitement for fans as both teams showed some flashes of brilliance in the first half. This one is likely a tie hockey game, even with overtime, but since I have to pick a winner, the home team gets the nod – Hamilton 3, Skidmore 2.

Nazareth @ Colby
Since this a first-round game at the Plattsburgh Tournament, formerly known as the Cardinal Classic, I fully expect the drama to come from a shootout after three periods of hockey and an overtime session can’t decide an outright winner. – Nazareth 4, Colby 3.

Fitchburg State @ Plattsburgh
A rare meeting between two coaches each owning 500-plus wins at the D-III level is on tap when Dean Fuller brings his Falcons to meet Bob Emery’s Cardinals. Don’t expect the hosts and No. 3-ranked team to be hospitable – Plattsburgh 5, Fitchburg State 1.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Canton @ Middlebury
The Panthers have remained unbeaten in conference play, but suffered their only two losses in the Primelink Tournament back in November. A nonconference win to open the second half for Neil Sinclair’s team will be a big confidence boost in this first-round game of the Middlebury Classic – Middlebury 4, Canton 1.

Neumann @New England College
Playing in the Middlebury Classic gives both teams the opportunity to open up their games on the big sheet, and that means a lot of offense from some very talented players on both sides. Mike Davis for the Knights and Cheyne Matheson for the Pilgrims will lead the way with the Knights having the edge – Neumann 5, NEC 3.

Brockport @ Massachusetts-Boston
The Codfish Bowl has a long history as a holiday tournament, but as the host school, the Beacons have struggled to win it. This first-round game brings a big challenge from the SUNYAC, so coach Peter Belisle’s team is going to have to earn a shot at the trophy – UMB 4, Brockport 3.

Johnson and Wales @ Westfield State
This is the classic battle of great offense for the Owls vs. great defense for the Wildcats. Jackson Leef and Dalton Jay are good, but the defensive corps and Joey Ballmer trump the offense and get the Wildcats to the final- Johnson and Wales 3, Westfield State 1.

Everybody should be refreshed and recharged for the second half and a chance to win hardware to open the semester is more incentive for teams to come out flying.

Catch some of the action at a rink near you – drop the puck!

WEST PICKS – Brian Lester

A new year is on the horizon and so is a light schedule for the first weekend of January. The slate includes Adrian playing in the SUNY Oswego/PathFinder Bank Hockey Classic Saturday and Sunday.

So here is a look at my predictions for the weekend ahead.

Lawrence (3-7) at Augsburg (6-4): Lawrence has lost its last two and is 1-3 on the road this year. Renato Engler leads the Vikings with four goals and six assists. Austin Frank and Josh Koepplinger have been key contributors as well, tallying three goals and two assists apiece. Mattias Soderqvist has started eight games in goal for Lawrence and owns a 3-5 record. He has allowed 33 goals and has racked up 97 saves.

The Auggies enter 2016 riding a two-game win streak. Eight players have scored two or more goals. Nate Flynn leads the way with eight goals and seven assists. Jordyn Kaufer is 5-3 on the year, allowing 18 goals and making 191 saves.

With Augsburg at home and momentum on its side, the Auggies should prevail. Augsubrg, 4-2.

Milwaukee School of Engineering at St. Mary’s (6-4-2): The Cardinals are looking to get back on track after dropping two to Concordia before the break. St. Mary’s has scored 57 goals on the season. The high-powered attack has been fueled by Jay Heinle, who has struck for 10 goals. Bob Kinne has tallied eight goals to go along with nine assists. Phil Heinle is 5-3-2 as the starting goaltender this season.

The Engineers are one of the hottest teams, winning their last four, and they have been impressive on the road, winning four of five. Conner Encisco has paved the way with five goals and three assists. Gage Christianson has been a solid play-maker, dishing out 11 assists. Nick Kohn is 6-3 in goal this year, anchoring a defense that has allowed just 19 goals all season.

This matchup should be tight but the edge goes to the Engineers. MSOE, 4-3.

Williams (5-2-1) vs. Adrian (8-1-1): The Ephs have been a solid defensive team, giving up more than a goal only once this season. They have allowed a total of nine behind the play of goaltending duo Noah Klag (2-1-1) and Michael Pinios. (3-1). C.J. Shugart leads the offense with four goals. The Ephs have scored 17 in all.

The Bulldogs have won five in a row and are unbeaten in their last 10. Adrian has been tough to stop, scoring 51 goals. Connor Armour and Jeremy Olinyk have been effective making plays, racking up 14 and 11 assists, respectively. Olinyk is also tied for second on the team in goals with six. Trevor Boyd leads the Bulldogs in goals scored, punching in seven on the year. Kevin Entma (6-0) and Tyler Parks (2-1-1) have both seen time in goal.

Adrian’s offense will be the difference in this one. Adrian, 5-2.

Dear Santa (West edition)

Dear Santa,

It’s almost Christmas and there are a handful of items I’d like to ask you to bring the teams in the MIAC, NCHA and WIAC.

I know you are a busy man at this time of the year, but if you could help out with the following requests it would be a great thing and the teams I am including on this list would be forever thankful for the gifts.

So without further delay, here goes nothing.

St. Olaf could really use a win or two in conference play. The Oles, who have dropped six in a row, are 0-4-2 in the MIAC this season and just 2-8-3 overall. They could use some luck on the road as well. St. Olaf is 0-5 away from home and their first three games of 2016 are on the road.

Concordia (Minn.) would love to remain unbeaten in conference play the rest of the season. The Cobbers are 4-0 in the MIAC and 5-4 overall. It will be next to impossible to stay perfect in a highly competitive conference, but hey, if anyone can deliver that, it’s you.

St. Thomas really wants to win another regular-season championship in the MIAC, and right now, things are looking pretty good for the Tommies. They are 7-4-2 overall and 5-1 in the conference. Seven players have scored three or more goals and Joe Morris has made 351 saves. There is no question the talent is there to win a title. But your help certainly would hurt the Tommies’ cause either.

St. Norbert would greatly appreciate a continuation of its unbeaten streak as it heads into the new year. The Green Knights are the No. 1 team in the nation and haven’t lost in their last 10 games. They have thrived off a high-powered offense that has cranked out 60 goals and a defense that has given up only 16 goals. With your help, they might not lose a game the rest of the year.

Adrian could use your help in keeping pace with St. Norbert in the NCHA title race. The Bulldogs are in second place, sitting only a point behind the Green Knights, and they are headed into the break riding a five-game win streak. They have been tough to slow down, scoring 51 goals, and they have been nearly as impressive on defense, having given up only 23 goals.

 (Mike Dickie   (517)263-4261  Adrian, MI/Adrian College Athletics)

Kyle Brothers needs to step up his game if Adrian is to contend with St. Norbert for an NCHA championship (photo: Adrian College Athletics).

Concordia (Wis.) has been one of the hottest teams in the NCHA and heads into Christmas on a four-game win streak. The Falcons have been one of the league’s surprise contenders and could use your help in keeping pace in the title chase. They would love it if you could give them wins over St. Norbert and Adrian when they play the two teams next month. The Falcons will play a home-and-home with the Green Knights and play two road games against the Bulldogs.

Wisconsin-River Falls has the early lead in the battle for the WIAC championship and the Falcons would love it if you could keep them in that position going forward. They have won four of their last five overall and have one of the more balanced teams in the country as 12 players have scored two or more goals. Kyle Gattelaro leads the way with five goals.

Wisconsin-Stevens Point went into the season as the favorite to win the conference championship and still has plenty of time to live up to the hype. What the Pointers could use is continued success on the road. Stevens Point is 5-2 away from home and will play four of its first five games in the new year on the road. Success during that stretch would be a great present for the Pointers, who have visions of winning the national title (no offense to sugar plums) this year.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire has been a little up and down lately, going 2-2 in its last four, and consistency would prove to be a great gift for the Blugolds. Eau Claire has not won more than two games in a row this season and extended win streak would certainly make for a great gift. Eau Claire plays three of its first five games on the road in 2016 and if you could put consistency under its tree this Christmas, it could go a long way in helping it thrive in the second half of the season.

I’m not sure which Christmas wishes in my letter you will be able to honor, but I guess the most important thing is that you deliver an exciting and competitive second half of the season for all hockey fans.


Brian Lester

Dear Santa (East edition)

‘Tis the season to celebrate goodwill and good tidings to all and, of course, make a few requests of the jolly old elf for some presents since I am sure all of the teams and coaches have been “good boys” this year.

Well, even if some might be getting the list checked over twice by Santa, here is a top 12 list (starting with number 12, like the song) of presents that would be great to open before the second half of the season in the New Year.

So Santa, hope you’re listening, willing and able to deliver on all the goodies to ensure a great finish to an already great 2015-16 season.

Rumors abound about NCAA tournament expansion from the current 11 teams to adding a 12th team at the D-III level (more to follow in upcoming features from USCHO.com), so Santa, make sure this happens as there are worthy teams every year that go home too early and deserve a chance to play for the national title.

Eleven players for the new varsity program at Daniel Webster have accounted for all 22 goals scored by the team this season. Here’s hoping some magic tape from Santa helps to create more balance and production starting with their home series against Rhode Island to open the New Year.

Seeing five 10-goal scorers in the first half suggests there are some real skill guys that could have special seasons if they can match production in the second half. Norwich’s Kevin Salvucci, Potsdam’s Dylan Vander Esch, Geneseo’s Trevor Hills, Neumann’s Mike Davis and Assumption’s Brandon Bete all have surpassed the 10-goal mark in the first half and look for Santa to add that special goal scoring stick under the tree for the second half.

Nine teams in the SUNYAC all have aspirations of being champs and some familiar teams are positioned at the top of the ultra-competitive conference. Here’s hoping that top to bottom, Santa leaves that home-ice edge that teams seem to thrive on in the SUNYAC conference.

Bowdoin’s Terry Meagher enters his final second half as the Polar Bears’ head coach and will end a 30-plus year coaching career in the spring (photo: Bowdoin Athletics).

Count them up, oh you Bowdoin fans in Brunswick. There are just eight more regular-season home games on the docket before the legendary coaching career of Terry Meagher comes to a close and he takes his place among the best at any level of college hockey. Here’s hoping Santa brings a second-half run that takes the Polar Bears far in the always-tough NESCAC conference tournament.

Game No. 7 is where all of the ECAC West teams find themselves in conference play and only six points separate the top from the bottom in a league that has no auto-bid and face as many challenges in conference as seen in their aggressive nonconference schedules. Four-point weekends have been few and far between, so Santa, bring a couple to keep the drama level high in the second half.

Six teams could use some Christmas cheer, so Santa, how about a few more goals and offense for the teams still looking for their first conference win? The boys from Castleton, Connecticut College, Franklin Pierce, Wesleyan, Western New England and Worcester State have worked hard and deserve more for the effort.

Five teams are unbeaten in conference play including Babson, Massachusetts-Boston, Middlebury, Nichols and Plymouth State. May the coaches find a rear-view mirror in their stockings as a reminder that teams behind them are closer than they may appear.

Just four teams (Babson, Massachusetts-Boston, Plymouth State and Plattsburgh) have a single loss on their record this season and all but Plymouth State are nationally ranked. May Santa find some recognition for the hard-working Panthers who don’t quit until the final whistle.

Three periods in a game, three goalies in the East and three shutouts apiece for Wentworth’s Joel Miller, Babson’s Jamie Murray and Johnson and Wales’ Joey Ballmer that lead the nation in the category. I could throw in three first names beginning with “J,” but Santa doesn’t need to alphabetize his list where goaltending is concerned. Here’s hoping for more magic saves across the East in the second half.

Two in a row has become a rare feat in repeating as national champions as evidenced by St. Norbert being last to accomplish the double a few seasons ago. Trinity has aspirations of returning to the title picture, but will need some Christmas magic to win their first conference title under coach Matt Greason and obtain the all important auto-bid.

There is just one puck to play as the ultimate toy and focal point for players, coaches and fans alike. Here’s hoping that each team receives a few more favorable bounces from the one puck in the second half. No elves required, so … drop the puck!

Weekend wrap: Dec. 13

The first semester is in the books for everyone and the final weekend showcased some great nonconference matchups, along with some final conference upsets that set the tone for what will surely be a great second half run across all conferences to the national tournament in March.

It is always tough to stop playing when you are going well, but for most teams, the break comes at a good time to heal up and rest up for the stretch run in the New Year.

Here is a quick summary on some of the key East action over the weekend.


Seven seconds is all that separated Nichols from a road win over MASCAC-leading Plymouth State, but Caleb O’Brien’s goal with just three seconds left in regulation tied the game at 1-1 before freshman Matt Volonnino won it for the host school in overtime with an unassisted goal. The Panthers outshot the Bison 42-25, but needed the end of game drama to overcome Alex Larson and Nichols by the 2-1 final.

Trinity closed out the first half with back-to-back games against Hobart and Elmira. Goals were at a premium in both games as the Bantams and Statesmen tied 1-1 on Friday night before Trinity rallied to an overtime win against Elmira on Saturday by a 2-1 score. Ryan Cole, with an assist from Ross Mandigo just 30-plus seconds into the extra session, won the game for Trinity. Goaltender Alex Morin picked up the win to go to 3-0-0 on the season.

Utica took down upset-minded Salve Regina by a 4-1 score that featured a first-period penalty shot goal by Joel Wetmore that initiated an amazing barrage of teddy bears being thrown on the ice by the Pioneer faithful (video feed can be found on social media) following the first goal of the game for the home team. Kyle Moore scored for the Seahawks with less than five minutes remaining in regulation to break up Michael Fredrick’s shutout bid in the final game of the semester for Utica.

Three points each from Jonathan Hahn and Connor Mauro led Franklin Pierce to a 5-4 upset win over Suffolk. The win was just the second of the season for Bruce Marshall’s Ravens, who scored two power-play goals to seal the win.

Salem State spotted the hosts from Endicott a first-period lead, but scored four unanswered goals to take a 4-1 win in the first meeting of the two schools that reside in neighboring towns. Hoping this is a backyard rivalry that will grow in the future.

Geneseo then spotted Nazareth a three-goal lead and then reeled off five goals of their own, including a hat trick from Trevor Hills, in a key nonconference victory for the nights. Hills has 11 goals in the first half for Geneseo.

Potsdam blew a two-goal lead against Johnson and Wales when Brett Kangas scored his first goal of the season to tie the game at 3-3 for the Wildcats. Dylan Vander Esch had other thoughts for the Bears as he completed his hat trick with the game-winning goal late in the third period in Potsdam’s 4-3 win.


The only conference in the final weekend playing league games saw the Panthers from Middlebury end the semester atop the conference standings posting a 3-3 tie with Hamilton and downing Amherst by a 2-0 score on the road on Saturday to enter the break unbeaten in conference play at 3-0-3.

Williams also dropped its first conference game when Jon Stickel scored for Hamilton early in the third period for the only goal of the game as Evan Buitenhuis made 42 saves to earn the 1-0 shutout for the Continentals.

Colby leveled their record at 3-3-1 with a tie against Tufts on Friday night by a 2-2 score before downing Connecticut College 3-2 on Saturday behind a goal and an assist from Mario Benicky.

Weekend Biscuits

Trevor Hills, Geneseo – The forward’s hat trick led a comeback win over Nazareth from the ECAC West to close out the semester for the Knights, who finished the semester with a five-game winning streak.

Dylan Vander Esch, Potsdam – The DVE show continued for the Bears, who needed all three of his goals on Saturday in a 4-3 win over Johnson and Wales from the ECAC Northeast. The game-winning goal was his second of the first half and his 12 goals represent 27 percent of the team’s 43 on the season.

Matt Volonnino, Plymouth State – The freshman forward scored an unassisted goal to down nationally-ranked Nichols on Thursday night before adding a goal and an assist in the Panthers’ 4-1 win over Castleton to close out the semester and extend their win streak to nine games.

WEST ROUNDUP – Brian Lester

St. John’s pulled off a big-time upset at home Saturday, blasting St. Scholastica 7-2. Seven players scored goals for the Johnnies, who improved to 4-7-2 with the win over the 15th-ranked Saints. St. John’s came into the game having scored only 12 goals. The seven goals in a game is the most since putting up seven against St. Olaf in November 2013. Tyler Fulton and Connor Kelly each tallied a goal and two assists, while Huba Sekesi came through with his fifth goal of the year and also dished out an assist. Zach Glienke finished with one goal and one assist as well, while Tyler Nelson earned his first career win racking up 25 saves. St. Scholastica did manage to beat Gustavus Adolphus on Friday, earning a 4-1 win. Steven Phee scored a goal and dished out two assists while Brandon Millin came through with a goal and an assist.

Behind two goals from Riley Christensen, top-ranked St. Norbert skated to a 4-1 win over St. Thomas in a huge nonconference showdown Saturday. The Green Knights head into the holiday break riding an 11-game unbeaten streak and are 10-0-1 on the season. Michael Hill and Roman Uchyn also scored goals for St. Norbert, which held a 34-24 advantage in shots. Michael Dockry scored the lone goal for the Tommies, who fell to 7-4-2. Joe Morris made 30 saves in goal for St. Thomas. The loss marked the first time all season St. Thomas has lost on its home ice … James Ring scored with 16.7 seconds left in regulation to lift the Milwaukee School of Engineering to a 3-2 road win over Wisconsin-Superior Friday. Superior led 2-0 before Omar Mullan and Brandon Unser scored to tie the game at 2-2. The Raiders finished off the series Saturday with a 4-2 victory, scoring twice in the final minutes of regulation to extend their win streak to four. The Raiders have won their last six games against University of Wisconsin state schools and all of them have come on the road. They are 7-3 on the season. Christian Elsborg, Jordan Guth, Mullan and Gage Christianson all scored for the Raiders. It’s been an interesting week for MSOE, which has scored four goals in the final minute of play. Ian Ecklund and Viktor Salhag scored for the Yellow Jackets, who fell to 3-8-2.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire picked up its eighth win of the season Saturday with a 4-2 win over Hamline. The No. 11 Blugolds broke a 2-2 tie in the third period on goals by Jesse Tredinnick and T.J. Stuntz. Adam Knochenmus scored his 15th goal of the year in the first period to tie the game at 1-1. Garrett Clement assisted on that goal, pushing his assist total to 13 for the season. Patrick Moore also got credit for an assist. Tyler Green made big-time plays in the net, racking up 32 saves He improved to 5-2 on the season. Mitch McPherson scored both goals for the Pipers, who are now 4-6-3 on the season. Eau Claire is 8-3-2 … Wisconsin-Stout won a pair of games over the weekend, topping Concordia (Minn.) 3-1 before knocking off St. Olaf 5-3 on Saturday. Shayne McLaughlin scored twice for the Blue Devils and Joe Anderson came through with a goal and an assist. Tyler Cayemberg tallied two assists. Nick Schmit earned the win for the second night in a row. He racked up 22 saves. He is 2-0. Andy Jordahl, David Rath and Patrick Sivets all scored goals for the Oles, who trailed 3-0 early before cutting the gap to 4-3 in the third. The Blue Devils improved to 6-4-2 and the Oles fell to 2-8-3. Schmit started in goal for the first time on Friday and made 35 saves as Stout knocked off Concordia. Cayemberg, Austin Nelson and Karl Anderson all scored for the Blue Devils. Jon Grebosky scored for the Cobbers, who are 5-4-2.

Weekend picks: Dec. 10-12

This is the last weekend of games before the semester break and there are some great matchups in and nonconference play this weekend to delight any and all fans.

It’s the last chance to get in the holiday spirit by finishing with a win.

Last week, I stumbled again with my picks at 3-3-1 (.500), which brings the season record down to 19-10-4 (.636). End of the semester redemption is just a few good picks away, but the tough nonconference matchups do not make for an easy week to pick correctly.

Here are my picks for the East this week:

Thursday, Dec. 10

Nichols @ Plymouth State
The nonconference battle between the top teams in MASCAC and the ECAC Northeast is a great showcase for two national tournament teams from a year ago looking to go further this year. Both teams have been playing well, but the Panthers have had challenges with nonconference games so the advantage here goes to the visitors and a one goal win – Nichols 3, PSU 2.

Friday, Dec. 11

Williams @ Amherst
This is a rematch of last spring’s NESCAC conference championship game that went to the Lord Jeffs 1-0. Don’t think it is quite that low-scoring this time around, but it will be close and likely a one-goal game as it always seems to be between these two teams. – Amherst 2, Williams 1.

Hobart @ Trinity
If there is a thing called the national tournament hangover, then Trinity needs to find the remedy and a quality win over another nationally-ranked opponent like the Statesmen would help set the tone for the second semester. Nothing is easy and this game could be a tie, but will go with the home team in an entertaining affair - Trinity 4, Hobart 3.

Nazareth @ Geneseo
The Knights are coming off two big home wins last weekend and have momentum, but they will need to find a way to slow down the line of Morrissey, Mullin and Davis if they want to keep the winning streak intact – Geneseo 5, Nazareth 4.

Saturday, Dec. 12

Salve Regina @ Utica
Trap game alert! Trap game alert! Pioneers – do not underestimate the Seahawks or you too will fall to their upset-minded ways. Both teams finding their game late in the semester, so expect a battle that will likely be decided late – Utica 3, Salve Regina 2.

Salem State @ Endicott
Two schools that are pretty match in the same neighborhood, so while the game is a nonconference affair, this backyard brawl could be the beginning of a new rivalry on the North Shore of Boston. Not far to travel for the visitors but the home team prevails – Endicott 4, Salem State 3.

St. Michael’s @ Assumption
Both NE-10 teams probably think they have played better than their records indicate and both would like the important two points in the conference standings to close out the semester. Chris Johnson has been terrific in goal for the Purple Knights, but doesn’t have a lot to show for yet. His teammates help him out with some offense in this one – St. Michael’s 3, Assumption 1.

There will be lots of time off to dwell on the outcomes of the weekend good or bad. Also lots of time for teams to get healthy and recharge the batteries for a second half run. Positive momentum is a key element so wins this final weekend of the semester will have lingering value – drop the puck!

WEST PICKS – Brian Lester

It’s almost time for Christmas break, but first, there are some hockey games to play.

The weekend is highlighted by a nonconference showdown between top-ranked St. Norbert and St. Thomas. The Green Knights will be on the road against the Tommies. Check out more about that game and others below.

Gustavus Adolphus (3-5-2) vs. St. Scholastica (5-2-1)

The Gusties wrap up the first half of the year with a road game against the Saints. They are 2-2-1 away from home this season. Tim Donohue and Colin Hernon have scored three goals apiece. Defense is where Gustavus needs to be sharp, having given up 27 goals on the year.

The Saints are 2-1 on the road and have won four of their last five. They are 1-0-1 against nonconference opponents and are led Brandon Millin, who has tallied seven goals and four assists. Goaltender Tyler Bruggeman owns a 4-2-1 record – St. Scholastica, 4-2.

St. Scholastica (5-2-1) vs. St. John’s (3-7-2)

The Johnnies host the Saints in their final game of the first half of the year. They have dropped three of their last four and want to close the month on a high note. Three players have scored four goals apiece in Huba Sekesi, Neal Smith and Tyler Dunagan. Saxton Soley has made 331 saves on the year.

The Saints will be playing their second MIAC opponent of the weekend and have fared well on the road, going 2-1 in away games – St. Scholastica, 3-2.

Concordia (Minn.) (5-3) vs. Wisconsin-Stout (4-4-2)

The Cobbers have momentum, having won two in a row, and they are 2-0 on the road. Jake Zeleznikar leads the offense with four goals. Goaltender Alex Reichle owns a 2.87 GAA on the season.

Stout has dropped two of three and is led by Jake Useldinger, who has racked up four goals and three assists. Chase Hollander has allowed 18 goals in six games. The Blue Devils are 2-1 against MIAC opponents – Concordia, 4-3.

Hamline (1-4-1) vs. Wisconsin-Eau Claire (7-3-2)

The Pipers have struggled this season, but want to head into the break with momentum. Brandon Zurn and Charlie Adams have been phenomenal despite the struggles, scoring 11 and 10 goals, respectively. They have combined for 28 assists as well.

Eau Claire has lost two of its last three, but still features one of the better offenses in the country. The Blugolds have scored 51 goals on 83 assists, with Adam Knochenmus coming up with 14 goals and five assists – Eau Claire, 6-2.

St. Norbert (10-1-1) vs St. Thomas (7-3-2)

It’s a matchup of two of the premier programs in the nation. The Green Knights, ranked No. 1 in the nation, have won their last two and are an impressive 8-0-1 on the road this season. St. Norbert has scored 56 goals already and Roman Uchyn leads the way with seven goals. The Green Knights have been tough on defense, allowing only 17 goals.

The Tommies are unbeaten in three home games and will be looking to make a big statement on their own ice. Connor McBride and Michael Dockry have scored five and four goals, respectively, while Joe Morris has started all 12 games and has made 321 saves – St. Norbert, 4-3.

Weekend wrap: Dec. 7

Trevor Fleurent’s shorthanded goal in the third period started the rally in the University of New England’s 3-2 win over New England College last Saturday night (photo: David Bates/Fotografix Studio).

The battles in every conference have been intense and this weekend saw an opportunity for some teams to make statements about key competitors in their respective leagues.

While some teams made some noise and asserted themselves, others let favorites know they aren’t going away.

The last of the unbeatens has fallen and for some teams going on break, the timing is perfect, while other teams look to end the semester this week on a positive note.

ECAC Northeast

Nichols broke into the national rankings and remains unbeaten in conference play following Saturday afternoon’s 5-1 win over Wentworth.

Endicott downed Stonehill 5-2 in a rematch of their 1-1 tie season opener. The Gulls used goals from five different players to break back in the win column and move to 6-2-2 overall.


Hobart took a pair of one-goal wins over NEHC opponent Skidmore at home by 2-1 and 4-3 scores while in league action, Manhattanville took an overtime thriller from Neumann despite a hat trick from the Knights’ Shayne Morrissey. Matt Lippa scored the game-winning goal for the Valiants after assisting on teammate Cory Anderson’s tying goal with the goalie pulled for an extra skater and just 58 seconds remaining in regulation.


Congrats to the newest coaching member of the 500-win club. Fitchburg State’s Dean Fuller achieved the milestone with the Falcons’ win over Franklin Pierce on Saturday afternoon. On Thursday night, Massachusetts-Dartmouth and its 500-win coach, John Rolli, delayed the celebration with a 3-3 tie at FSU.

The Corsairs also had the game of the weekend on Saturday in a wild 7-6 victory over Framingham State that saw a seesaw affair decided in the final six minutes of regulation by the Corsairs’ Brendan Gillmore. Both team surrendered two-goal leads in the game and Tyler Colacchio scored a hat trick in the losing effort for the Rams.


Southern New Hampshire was outshot 55-28 in its game with Assumption, but chased Chris Hemhauser from the net with four goals on just 12 shots and opened up the margin with two more goals in just over a 30-second span late in the third period to seal a 6-3 win. Ryan Slatky made 52 saves in the win for the Penmen.


The weekend battle among the top three teams ended well for Massachusetts-Boston and Babson, while Norwich recorded its first three-game losing streak since the 1995-96 season, coach Mike McShane’s first in Northfield.

The Beacons knocked off the Cadets in overtime on Friday night and then avoided the hangover effect by beating a game St. Michael’s team by a score of 3-0 behind the shutout from Zack Andrews. Goalie Chris Johnson made 57 saves in the loss for the Purple Knights.

Babson recorded a pair of 5-1 wins to remain undefeated in conference play. Rob Deveney scored two goals in the first period as part of a four-goal outburst for the Beavers that was enough to beat the offensively-challenged Cadets on home ice for the first time in coach Jamie Rice’s 12-year tenure behind the Beavers’ bench.

The University of New England built on its PAL Cup Tournament win with a solid three-point weekend in conference play. Friday saw a Nor’easter tie with St. Anselm 2-2 followed by a win at New England College by a 3-2 score that saw a third-period rally from a one goal deficit.


The annual Bowdoin-Colby weekend ended with both teams holding serve on their home ice. Colby took Friday night’s affair 3-0, while the Polar Bears returned the favor on Saturday by a score of 4-2.

Amherst and Trinity faced off on Sunday with the Lord Jeffs taking the game by a 4-2 score. Topher Flanagan’s empty-net goal sealed the win for Amherst, which was backed by Dave Cunningham’s 34 saves.

Williams was the only team to sweep a pair of weekend games, posting a 2-0 win at Tufts followed by a 3-1 win over Connecticut College. The sweep keeps the Ephs unbeaten and untied in conference play.


Plattsburgh was the last team to fall from the ranks of the unbeatens as the Cardinals tied Brockport on Friday night before falling to Geneseo on Saturday night by a 5-4 score. The Knights also took down Potsdam on Friday night to secure four big points in the SUNYAC standings.

Oswego took a pair of games, as well, posting a 4-2 win over Buffalo State where the Lakers amassed 62 shots on goal. Saturday night, the Lakers eked out a 3-2 overtime win over Fredonia as Alex Botten scored just 40 seconds into the extra session for the win and a big four-point weekend that moved the Lakers to 5-3-1 in league play.

Weekend Biscuits

Rob Deveney – Babson – The freshman forward netted two first-period goals for the Beavers who knocked off Norwich on home ice for the first time in more than 12 years.

Shayne Morrissey – Neumann & Tyler Colacchio – Framingham State – Both forwards picked up a hat trick in a losing effort. Neumann fell in OT to Manhattanville, while the Rams lost a heartbreaker to UMD.

Dean Fuller- Fitchburg State- The veteran coach achieved an elite milestone with the Falcons in reaching his 500th career win as a coach in his 32nd season with the school.

WEST WRAP – Brian Lester


St. Thomas swept a weekend series against Hamline, completing the weekend with a 5-3 come-from-behind win over the Pipers in a pivotal MIAC matchup Saturday. Five players scored goals and a total of nine players tallied points as the Tommies improved to 7-3-2 overall and to 5-1 in the conference. Johnny Rosium’s goal off the power play with 2:07 left in the third broke a 3-3 tie. Connor McBride scored three times in the two game, including once on Saturday. Chris Benson and Ben Vikich also scored goals in Saturday’s win. One of the keys to success for St. Thomas was ability to kill off penalties. The Pipers were just 1-of-8 on power-play opportunities against the Tommies. Hamline dropped to 4-5-2 overall and 1-4-1 in the conference. Brandon Zurn scored two goals on Saturday for Hamline and Charlie Adams dished out two assists … Augsburg took advantage of a balanced attack to to knock off St. Olaf 5-3 Saturday and complete a sweep of the Oles in MIAC action. Five Auggies scored goals and a total of 10 players figures into the scoring. Nate Flynn and Drew Anderson each scored a goal and dished out an assist in the win, while Jordyn Kaufer made 32 saves. Augsburg improved to 6-4 overall and 3-1 in the conference. St. Olaf is 2-7-3 overall and remains winless in conference play with an 0-4-2 mark. Patrick Sivets, Drew Otto and Peter Lindblad all scored goals for St. Olaf. Augsburg won 6-2 in the series opener as six players scored goals in the victory. Anderson scored his first goal of the year in the win as did Andy Faust, a transfer from Army. Kaufer made 26 saves.


Marian pulled off an upset of No. 11 St. Scholastica Friday night as it improved to 3-2-2 against nationally-ranked opponents this season. The Sabres went up 2-0 early on goals by Scott Milnthorp and Mike Zajac. The goal by Milnthorp was his third of the year. Zajac’s goal was his first of the year. The Sabres were outshot 21-14 gut forced the Saints into an 0-for-4 performance on the power play. Jack Howie scored his fifth goal of the year and Gianni Mangone tallied his fourth goal. Mike Baldwin won his third game of the year as she stopped 20 shots in the win. St. Scholastic bounced back the following night with a 2-1 win in overtime. Brandon Millin tallied the game-winning goal for the Saints, who improved to 5-2-1 overall and 4-2 in the conference. Marian fell to 5-4-3 overall and 3-4-1 in the league. Marian led 1-0 until the third period. Howie gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead before Joel Paiement tied the game … Northland knocked off Lake Forest 5-1 Friday for its second conference win of the year. The Lumberjacks are 2-8 overall and 2-6 in the NCHA. Chris Belhumeur, Lucas DeBenedet, Josh Racek and Darius Cole and Anthony Stempin all scored goals for the Lumberjacks. Lake Forest bounced back on Saturday with a 5-2 win as Billy Kent came through with the first three-point game of his career. Kent scored two goals in the victory. He has five goals on the season. Jack Lewis struck for his fourth goal, while Robert Wiener and Bron Loiselle also scored goals for the Foresters. Lake Forest improved to 4-6 overall and to 3-5 in the conference.


Wisconsin-River Falls had the upper hand in both of its weekend games in the WIAC, defeating No. 6 Wisconsin-Stevens Point 3-2 and topping 10th-ranked Wisconsin-Eau Claire 2-1. The Falcons and Pointers were playing for the first time since the conference tournament championship. Jeff Bergh scored the first goal for the Falcons and River Falls went ahead 2-1 on a goal by Zach Schrotenboer. Christian George scored the game-winner with less than 10 minutes to play in the third. River Falls held a 31-29 edge in shots en route to the victory. The Falcons scored twice in the opening period against Eau Claire and never looked back in a 2-1 win. Kyle Gattelaro and Mike Fazio both scored for River Falls while Tanner Milliron tallied 30 shots to help the Falcons get an early jump on the race for the conference championship. River Falls is 5-4-1 overall and 2-0 in the conference. River Falls came into the game having lost three in a row, all but one goal, but now come out of the weekend with a wave of momentum after wins over two of the better teams in the country … Wisconsin-Stout picked up first conference win of the year Saturday with a 6-2 victory over Wisconsin-Superior. The Blue Devils pushed their record to 4-3-2 overall and 1-1 in the WIAC. Six players scored goals in the win while Chase Hollander stopped 24 shots. Justin Moody scored a goal and dished out three assists while Jake Useldinger came through with a goal and two assists. The Blue Devils were blanked 7-0 by Eau Claire the night before thanks to a remarkable performance by Adam Knochenmus, who scored five goals in the victory. Knochenmus set a school record with the five-goal effort. He scored all of his goals in the first two periods, scoring on every shot he took in that stretch. Knochenmus has scored a team-best 14 goals on the year and has also dished out four assists. He has 18 points in 12 games for Eau Claire, which is 7-3-2 overall and 1-1 in the conference.

Weekend picks: Dec. 3-5

Nichols goalie Alex Larson is one of the top netminders in D-III and will have to be as the Bison play Wentworth this weekend (photo: Dan Hickling).

The games are winding down in the semester, but the importance of the matchups seems to be ramping up as we enter December hockey.

Last week, I stumbled with my picks at 3-3-1 (.500), which brings the season record down to 16-7-3 (.673). Like a lot of teams on the ice, I, too, am in search of some consistency, but the schedule isn’t making the picking of games any easier.

Here are my picks for the East this week:

Thursday, Dec. 3

Massachusetts-Dartmouth @ Fitchburg State
This rivalry goes years back with two legendary D-III coaches at the helm. Both would like to see more consistency in their teams’ game on the ice and both coaches have likely wondered which team is showing up on any given night. The home team has the motivation of earning head coach Dean Fuller his 500th career win and that is strong enough motivation for the Falcons to fly – Fitchburg State 5, UMD 4.

Friday, Dec. 4

Bowdoin @ Colby
This is one of the oldest rivalries in all of D-III and one that carries a lot of passion from the players, coaches, students and alumni. This is the last time around in this historic rivalry for Bowdoin coach Terry Meagher, but don’t expect the hosts to be gracious and let the Polar Bears walk away with a win – they have to earn it in OT – Bowdoin 4, Colby 3.

Neumann @ Manhattanville
The ECAC West is a battle on any weekend and this game is no different. Neumann has seen prolific point production form Mike Davis and Jory Mullin early in the season and the Knights will need to produce to beat Manhattanville at the Playland Ice Casino – Neumann 5, Manhattanville 3.

Skidmore @ Hobart
Hobart had the Thanksgiving weekend off and invites the Thoroughbreds in for a two-game weekend series. There might be lots of pent-up energy for the Statesmen, who look to start a new winning streak, but are very aware of Skidmore’s giant-killer capability – Hobart 5, Skidmore 2.

Saturday, Dec. 5

Norwich @ Babson
The winner of this series has essentially gone on to win the regular-season title and those have all gone the way of the Cadets. These games are always one-goal affairs and usually low scoring. No difference in this one as defense will dominate and special teams likely decide things beyond regulation – Babson 2, Norwich 1.

Plattsburgh @ Geneseo
The new No. 1-ranked team will be putting its unbeaten record on the line on the road this weekend and if they survive a Friday battle with Brockport, Saturday’s game will be a major battle with a Knights team determined to show they are contenders. This one very well could end up in a tie, but I will go with the team with the ability to score goals in bunches – Plattsburgh 3, Geneseo 2.

Nichols @ Wentworth
The Worcester City Shootout winners get back to league action and a Wentworth team that is dangerous on home ice backed by goalie Joel Miller. The Bison just have too much firepower and one of the nation’s best in goal in Alex Larson to keep the Leopards at bay – Nichols 4, Wentworth 1.

Big conference matchups abound this weekend and opportunities for teams to make a statement in the conference standings are there for the taking. Nothing comes easy, but the two points from beating an archrival are truly huge at this point in the season – drop the puck!

WEST PICKS – Brian Lester

December has arrived and conference action is heating up in the Division III hockey world. This is the time of the year where the conference races begin to take shape and we begin to see separation between the best and the rest. Check out this week’s predictions below.

St. Mary’s (6-2-2, 3-0-1) vs. Concordia (Minn.) (3-3, 2-0)

Two of the top teams in the league will go at it this weekend in this series. The Cardinals have won their last three and are led by Bob Kinne, who has come through with eight goals and nine assists. Martin Gruse continues to make big plays and has dished out 13 assists. He has tallied six goals as well. Phil Heinle is 5-1-2 in net this season.

The Cobbers are looking to get back on track after dropping two consecutive games. Concordia isn’t a high-scoring offense, having tallied just 14 goals, and Jon Grebosky leads the way with three goals and two assists. Alex Reichle is 3-3 on the year and has given up 19 goals.

Concordia is at home, but considering how competitive the MIAC is, it will be a surprise if one team gets the sweep. St. Mary’s 5-2, Concordia 3-2.

Hamline (4-3-2) vs. St. Thomas (5-3-2, 3-1)

This series pits the reigning regular season conference champion and the defending conference tournament champ.

Hamline begins this series at home and is led by the one-two punch of Charlie Adams and Brandon Zurn. Both players have dished out 10 assists apiece. Zurn has scored nine goals and Adams has tallied eight. Those two give the Pipers a chance to win every game they play.

The Tommies have plenty of balance on offense as nine players have scored two or more goals. Jordan Lovick is the top goal scorer with four. He has also racked up four assists. Joe Morris is one of the top goaltenders in the league, fashioning a 5-3-2 record. He has allowed 20 goals. Hamline, 3-1, St. Thomas 5-2.

Marian (4-3-3, 2-3-1) vs. St. Scholastica (4-1-1, 3-1)

Marian has won two in a row as it prepares for a battle with the nationally-ranked Saints, who have been off since before Thanksgiving.

The Sabres are led by Devin Stuermer, who has come through with five goals and five assists. Derek Thorogood has racked up four goals and eight assists. Marian has been effective on offense, scoring 32 goals, including eight off the power play. Mike Gudmandson and Mike Baldwin have split time in goal and have each won two games. The Sabres have allowed 23 goals this year.

The Saints are eager to play again after being off since Nov. 21. They have won their last three games and are led by Brandon Millin, who has tallied six goals and four assists. Dylan Nowakowski has been solid as a playmaker, dishing out eight assists to go along with his two goals. He is one of 11 players on the team with at least two assists on the season. Tyler Bruggeman is 3-1-1 as a starter this year. St. Scholastica 4-3, Marian 3-2.

Concordia (Wis.) (6-3-1, 3-2-1) vs. Aurora (1-6-1, 1-2-1)

The Falcons come into this series riding a two-game win streak and are unbeaten on their home ice, sporting a 5-0-1 mark. They have scored 27 goals, with Stefen Seel racking up four to go along with six assists. Andy Munroe and Jack Romanuik have combined for nine starts and each goaltender has won three games.

Aurora is in dire need of a win after dropping its last four and generating offense will be key. Aurora has managed to score just 19 goals this season. Tom Greene leads the team in goals with three. Concordia should be able to get the sweep. Concordia 6-2 and 4-0.

Wisconsin-Stevens Point (6-2-1) at Wisconsin-River Falls (3-4-1)

It’s the conference opener for both teams and the Pointers are determined to bounce back after going winless in its last three games. Stevens Point has scored 40 goals this season and has been impressive on the road, fashioning a 4-1 record. Four players have scored five or more goals, with Joe Kalisz, Lawrence Cornellier and Kyle Sharkey coming through with six apiece.

River Falls has lost three consecutive games and is also in need of a big win. The Falcons have managed to tally only 20 goals and Mitch Kotny leads the way with four. But they have a solid goaltender in Tanner Milliron, who is 3-4-1 and has come up with 161 saves. If he is on top of his game, the Falcons have a chance to come out on top. Stopping the Pointers’ high-powered attack will be the challenge. Stevens Point, 4-2.

Wisconsin-River Falls (3-4-1) at Wisconsin-Eau Claire (6-2-2)

River Falls heads on the road to play a strong Eau Claire squad. The Blugolds have racked up 43 goals this season and are led by Adam Knochenmus, who has struck for nine goals. He has tallied four assists as well. Garret Clemment has tallied five goals and nine assists. Eau Claire also has two solid goaltenders in Tyler Green and Jay Deo. Green has won three games this year. Being at home should be an advantage for the Blugolds, who have won two of their last three games. Eau Claire, 5-2.

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