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Weekend Rewind: Early returns on conference races

This past weekend didn’t really feature any marquee matchups across the country. There were no top 10 matchups and every single one of the top 10 teams in the latest USCHO.com Poll rolled to victories.

Since it was a rather predictable weekend, let’s take a look at the early returns on conference races.

ECAC East: Defending national champion Norwich is off to a blistering start in conference play as the Cadets are 4-0-0 and have outscored their opponents 36-1 in legaue games so far this year. Manhattanville is the odds on favorite to be Norwich’s chief competitor for the ECAC East title and the Valiants have already fallen a game behind as they dropped a game to Saint Anselm two weeks ago. Saint Anselm will take a crack at Norwich on Saturday in the Cadets’ toughest ECAC East test to date on Saturday afternoon.

ECAC West: Once again the race figures to come down to Elmira, RIT, and Plattsburgh this year. Elmira took a one-year hiatus from the powerhouse trio but the Soaring Eagles look to have rebounded early this season and should be right back in the thick of things with Plattsburgh and RIT. The one shocking result so far in the ECAC West was Neumann tying Plattsburgh two weeks ago. Neumann led 5-1 but a ferocious third period comeback helped Plattsburgh salvage a point. That tie could come back to haunt Plattsburgh in the long run if Elmira and RIT both sweep the Knights. Plattsburgh is the de-facto leader currently since they’ve played five leagues games and are 4-0-1. RIT has swept Potsdam and Utica so far while Elmira is coming off two convincing wins against Cortland this past weekend in its only two league games to date.

MIAC: The question coming into every season when it comes to the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is who can finally be the one to dethrone Gustavus Adolphus? The bad news for the conference so far is the Gusties haven’t shown any signs of slowing down so far this season having outscored their opponents 26-6 in four games. Coach Carroll’s squad once again looks to be the class of the league and the legendary coach currently sits just 23 wins shy of 300 wins in his career. GAC will face its old nemeis St. Thomas this weekend in a home and home series. The Tommies and Gusties split their regular season matchup last season and if one team can be a thorn in Gustavus’ side this year, UST is most likely the team to do it.

NCHA: The most interesting conference top to bottom almost every year turns out to the NCHA. This year shouldn’t be too much different. Wis.-River Falls has once again asserted itself early as the team to beat with a perfect 4-0-0 record and sweeps over Adrian and St. Scholastica. The Falcons are still stacked once again this season and they’ll be looking to avenge last season’s disappointing end after running the gauntlett in the regular season undefeated and then losing in the NCHA finals to Adrian and the NCAA Tournament First Round to Gustavus Adolphus. After UWRF, I expect things to be extremely tight all season from second to ninth place. At this point its a crap shoot to try and predict who will emerge. Wis.-Stevens Point is 3-0-1 so far but they’ll get UWRF this weekend in the toughest two games they’ll face all season. My sleeper in this league this year is St. Scholastica. The Saints are coming off two losses to UWRF but a 5-2 and 6-2 loss with the shot counts relatively close is nothing to hang your head about. CSS has four straight games against the the two teams at the bottom of the conference to get back to their winning ways and establish a foothold in the top four of the NCHA.

This weekend the NESCAC teams finally hit the ice for their first games of 2011-12 which will finally give us all 49 D-III teams in action.

Next week I’ll be getting back to the Player, Rookie, and Goalie of the Week selections I used in this blog last season. I’ll also be getting back to my weekly predictions in Friday.

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