This Week In Division III: Jan. 25, 2001

We’re Getting to the Good Part

While there have been some exciting conference matchups so far this season, believe it or not, this is the first weekend in which every conference is at play. And for most leagues, it’s a sprint to the finish as most will play nothing but conference games leading up to the playoffs.

Here’s a preview of the big games coming up in each conference, and what’s at stake:


The Main Event:

Middlebury at Norwich (1/23) – This one already took place, but it still rates as one of the best of the week. Hope you got to see it in person or on NESN. The Panthers (12-2-1) opened a 5-0 lead after two periods and then withstood a Cadet outburst of three goals in two minutes and 19 seconds midway through the third. Scott Goldman finally scored an empty-net goal with four seconds to play to clinch the 6-3 victory for Middlebury. Norwich (9-7-1) outshot Middlebury 36-26, including 18-5 in the third period, but Panther goaltender Christian Carlsson was outstanding.


Salem State at Middlebury (1/26) – The win at Norwich vaulted Middlebury into first place in the NESCAC. Now the Panthers host the first-place team in the ECAC East, the Vikings of Salem State. Salem stumbled a bit with a Tuesday tie at Fitchburg State (although they outshot the Falcons 48-14) but still have the third highest winning percentage in Division III at 10-1-3.

Salem State at Norwich (1/27) – Norwich currently trails Salem by two points in the standings, and hosts Southern Maine the night before. So the teams could be tied for first by the time Saturday rolls around, or the Vikings could be ahead by a four-point margin. Any way you look at it, this game will go a long way in deciding who will win the regular-season title in the ECAC East.

Hamilton at Trinity (1/27) – Less than two weeks ago, Trinity (10-3-2) was coming off a rare sweep of Norwich and Middlebury and sat atop the NESCAC. Last weekend ended in a devastating 10-1 loss to Babson, but the Bantams are only a point out of first and host a Hamilton team that’s lost three in a row, but is still a quality opponent. This will be the kind of close game the Bantams need to win if they want to keep pace with Middlebury, Bowdoin and Colby.

ECAC Northeast

The Main Event:

Lebanon Valley at Tufts (1/26) – Tufts was upset by Worcester State on Tuesday, 6-5 in overtime. That leaves the Jumbos (10-3) four points behind Johnson and Wales (13-5-1) with two games in hand. Lebanon Valley (9-4-2) is just a point behind Tufts, also with two games in hand on J&W. The loser will fall farther behind, perhaps too far to win the regular season title. The Flying Dutchmen have won five conference games in a row, while Tufts was a perfect 8-0 in conference before falling to Worcester.


Mass.-Dartmouth at Fitchburg State (1/27) – These two teams have ruled the Northeast for years, but both fell to Wentworth in last season’s playoffs. Now both are fighting to stay in the hunt: the Corsairs are tied for fifth (7-3-1 in conference) while the Falcons are tied for sixth (5-4-1 in conference). A must-win game for both teams.


The Main Event:

Fredonia at Plattsburgh (1/26) – The SUNYAC matchups aren’t as enticing as those in most of the other conferences, but this game is clearly the best of the bunch. The Blue Devils (9-6-2), coming off strong, albeit losing, performances against RIT and Elmira, take on the first place Cardinals (14-4) who hold a three point lead over Fredonia in the standings. The Blue Devils have allowed the fewest goals in the SUNYAC to date (just 16 in seven games) and will try to limit the powerful Plattsburgh offense, which leads the SUNYAC (47 goals in seven games).


Fredonia at Potsdam (1/27) – Things don’t get much easier for the Blue Devils the next night, when they hook up with Potsdam (10-4-2), which leads Fredonia by a point in the standings. A sweep would but Fredonia in great shape for home ice and possibly a first-round bye; dropping both games would leave them in the middle of the pack in the SUNYAC.


The Main Event:

RIT at Elmira (1/27) – Ahhhh, yessss. The one we’ve all been waiting for is round one for the 2000-2001 season, but round 57 for this long-time rivalry (Elmira leads 27-26-3), one of the very best in Division III. The Soaring Eagles (14-6) are looking for their 500th win overall. First place in the ECAC West is on the line. Number one in the Division III poll against number seven.

And that’s not all, of course. According to the current NCAA selection process, one and only one of these teams will make the nationals, and the first criterion is head-to-head play. RIT (17-0-1) has the better overall record and has done slightly better against common opponents, so this is a must-win for Elmira. The Soaring Eagles don’t want to have to go into Ritter Arena on February 17 needing a win to keep their NCAA hopes alive. RIT is banged up, but has found a way to win in recent weeks, while Elmira has won 11 in a row.

It doesn’t get any better than this.


The Main Event:

Wis.-River Falls at St. Norbert (1/26) – St. Norbert sits atop the NCHA by a slim two points. Behind the Green Knights, all tied for second place, are Wis.-Stevens Point, Wis.-Stout, Wis.-Superior, and Wis.-River Falls. The Falcons (13-5-1), who had led the NCHA the entire season, were swept last weekend, including a 4-2 loss to St. Norbert (12-5-2) on home ice. Payback could come just six days later, or the Falcons could fall further behind.


Wis.-Stevens Point at Wis.-Superior (1/26) – It was a tough call picking this as the undercard, because it’s going to be an awesome game. The YellowJackets (16-3), currently ranked second in the nation, beat the sixth-ranked Pointers (13-6), 4-1 last weekend to move into a tie for second. A win for either team, coupled with a St. Norbert loss puts them into a tie for first. The loser could come out of the weekend in sixth place.


The Main Event:

St. John’s vs. Concordia (1/26 and 1/27) – There are no really compelling games in the MIAC this weekend, but this series looks to be the best of the bunch. The Cobbers (9-6-2) hold a two point lead over Bethel in the standings, while the Johnnies (7-9-1) sit in fourth place, six points behind Concordia with a pair of games in hand. Bethel has an easier challenge with a series against St. Olaf, so the Cobbers need to do well to keep pace.


The Main Event:

MSOE at Northland (1/26 and 1/27) – Minn.-Crookston wrapped up the regular-season title last weekend, and Marian has the inside track on second place, so that leaves MSOE, Northland and Lawrence to fight over the final two playoff spots. A sweep by either the Raiders or the Lumberjacks gives them a hold on third.


Last week: 3-2-1
On the season: 33-17-2 (.654)

Well, I may as well go ahead and pick all of them:

No. 5 Salem State at No. 2 Middlebury (1/26) and Norwich (1/27) – As improved as the Vikings are this season, I can’t see them taking any points in what has become the toughest road trip in Division III. Middlebury 3, Salem 1; Norwich 5, Salem 4

Hamilton at Trinity (1/27) – The Bantams look to recover from a blowout loss, while Hamilton ties to stop a three-game skid. I think the former. Trinity 5, Hamilton 3.

Lebanon Valley at Tufts (1/26) – The Jumbos are also looking to rebound from an upset loss, and I think they will. Trinity 6, Lebanon Valley 5

Mass.-Dartmouth at Fitchburg State (1/27) – Both teams have dropped off a bit from recent years, but the Falcons have fallen farther. Mass.-Dartmouth 4, Fitchburg State 2

Fredonia at No. 4 Plattsburgh (1/26) and Potsdam (1/27) – If the Blue Devils can keep the score down, they’ll have a chance. But I can’t see them taking more than a point this weekend — probably less. Plattsburgh 4, Fredonia 1; Potsdam 3, Fredonia 1

No. 1 RIT at No. 7 Elmira (1/27) – As usual, this one will be close, and may turn on a funny bounce or, as last year, a broken stick in overtime. Elmira has the home ice, and probably more of the momentum at this point. The Soaring Eagles also need this one more than RIT does. Elmira 6, RIT 5

No. 8 Wis.-River Falls at No. 10 St. Norbert (1/26) – St. Norbert is behind the polls but ahead in the standings. The Green Knights come out ahead in this one as well. St. Norbert 4, UWRF 3

No. 6 Wis.-Stevens Point at No. 2 Wis.-Superior (1/26) – The YellowJackets won last weekend at Point, but I don’t think the Pointers can return the favor. Superior 4, Point 3.

St. John’s at Concordia (1/26 and 1/27) – Concordia looks to be the class of the MIAC this season, and should sweep. Concordia 4, St. John’s 1; Concordia 5, St. John’s 4

MSOE at Northland (1/26 and 1/27) – Northland was swept by MSOE earlier in the season, but is coming off a big win against Marian. That should give the Lumberjacks enough momentum for a split. Northland 5, MSOE 4; MSOE 7, Northland 4