Lots of good matchups to get to this week and none are bigger than the game I previewed for my column this week between Plattsburgh and Norwich.
Plattsburgh @ Norwich
Two top five teams collide at Kreitzberg Arena for the very first time with a combined 12-1-0 record coming into Friday night’s game. Plattsburgh and Norwich have split the only two meetings in the two program’s histories so far. Plattsburgh won the regular season meeting 7-2 last year, but Norwich won the more important of the two matchups with a 3-2 win over the Cardinals in the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals. Plattsburgh gets its first crack at revenge tonight and the Cardinals been rolling so far this season, outscoring their opponents 34-2 so far through five games. Given the way Norwich ended the Cardinals’ season last year, I’m going with Plattsburgh 4-2.
St. Catherine’s vs. St. Mary’s
These two MIAC schools have both been great stories to follow over the last two seasons. St. Catherine’s won a program best 18 games last season and have picked up right where it left off last season with a solid 5-1 record so far behind the play of Michaela Michaelson and Mel Gerten. St. Mary’s is 5-1-2 so far this season, which is the best start the Cardinals have had since back-to-back 20 win seasons in 2001 and 2002. This series is a battle for second place in the MIAC standings behind conference powerhouse Gustavus Adolphus. I like a split with each team taken a win at home. St. Mary’s 3-2 the first night and then St. Catherine 4-1 the next night.
Gustavus Adolphus vs. St. Thomas
Since the NCAA started sponsoring a Division III championship in 2001-2002, these two programs have seemingly always been the final two left standing at the end when it came to the MIAC. Gustavus Adolphus continued each streak of MIAC Tournament titles last season and they haven’t skipped a beat so far this season with a perfect 6-0-0 record so far this season. The Tommies have regressed a little bit over the past season and half, but Tom Palkowski’s bunch can never be counted out. After dropping two games to start the season to Stevens Point, the Tommies are unbeaten over their last four games, however, the Gusties are a whole different ball game and I like Gustavus Adolphus to sweep by scores of 2-1 and 5-0.
Amherst @ Trinity
After being swept by RIT last weekend in Rochester, the road doesn’t get all that easier for the two-time defending national champion Amherst. The Lady Jeffs have to to turn around and travel to Connecticut to take on a tough Bantams squad that turned a few heads last week after beating Manhattanville 3-2. Trinity has started of the 2010-2011 season just fine even after losing 2010 Laura Hurd (National Player of the Year) award winner in goaltender Isabel Iwachiw. The Bantams are 3-0 and still have forward Kim Weiss wreaking havoc in the offensive end. I’m taking a split this weekend with Amherst winning 4-1 the first night and then Trinity responding with a 3-2 win in the second game.
Wis.- Eau-Claire vs. Wis.- River Falls
River Falls has all but asserted its dominace so far in the NCHA. The two-time defending NCHA Tournament champions have been flying high early, off to a 6-0-0 start so far. Eau-Claire is off to a strong themselves with a 5-2-0 record so far behind returning All-American forward Kristin Faber. River Falls just looks to strong right now to pick against them. I’m taking the Falcons in a home and home sweep by scores of 5-3 and 4-1.
Elmira @ Utica
For the longest time Utica has been trying to assert their name among the powerhouse trio in the ECAC West with Elmira, RIT and Plattsburgh. From time-to-time the Pioneers have been able to steal a game or point here and there but for the most part they have been unsuccessful in their attempts to dethrone the power three. With Elmira’s struggles to find scoring outside of freshman Tori Charron, the Soaring Eagles will be quite vulnerable on the road against the Pioneers this weekend. EC has already lost a precious point against Oswego this season and it can’t afford anymore slipups if the Soaring Eagles want to stay in contention for the ECAC West title. I’m taking Elmira in a sweep, but it will be two tough wins. 3-2 and 2-1.