Men's D-III MCHA, MIAC and NCHA picks for Jan. 21-22

Two ties last weekend – Adrian and Milwaukee School of Engineering’s 2-2 stalemate and Hamline and Bethel’s 4-4 draw – overshadowed an otherwise 4-0 week in the pick’s department. The overall mark stands at 19-17-2, or 19-19 if the ties count as losses. Either way, I won’t quibble.
The MCHA, MIAC and NCHA slate this weekend poses no less a challenge as there are some vexing match-ups interspersed with some low-hanging fruit.
With No. 2 St. Norbert and Wisconsin-Superior’s series moved up to Thursday night and Friday afternoon, here are the top games in the respective D-III West circuits.
Jan. 21-22
Adrian at Lawrence: Fresh off a pair of wins at Finlandia, the Vikings (9-5-1, 7-3) pose a serious threat to the No. 9 Bulldogs with their Jekyll and Hide personna this season. Lawrence beat Wisconsin-Stevens Point, among others, to win six of its first seven games before hitting a three-game skid. The nadir of that downturn came in a 10-2 pasting at home to Marian Dec. 3. The Vikes, who are led by junior Matt Hughes’ 19 points on 7 goals and 12 assists, have won three of four in the new year. While a Top-10 team, Adrian has its demons, namely taking bad penalties as it did in last Saturday’s 2-2 tie with No. 11 MSOE. The Bulldogs held a 1-0 advantage before the Raiders scored twice on the power play. Zach Graham’s whirlwind goal to open the third period salvaged the draw. Speaking of draws, this Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association match up has the makings of a split. Lawrence 3-1, Adrian 5-2
Hamline vs. St. Thomas: This home-and-home series will decide who gets top billing in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Association, at least temporarily. The two teams are locked in a three-way tie for first with No. 15 Gustavus Adolphus, which has a home-and-home series with St. John’s this weekend. The No. 12 Pipers displayed the guile of a first-place team with Jordan VanGilder snatching a goal with 18 seconds left in regulation to grab a 4-4 tie with Bethel at home last Saturday. Hamline is unbeaten in the new year (3-0-2) and has four scorers on fire with Brian Arrigoni (9-11-20), Chris Berenguer (9-10-19), Ryan Kupperman (4-13-17) and VanGilder (5-12-17) finding the net with increasing frequency. The Tommies (10-7, 5-3) are 2-2 in 2011 and are coming off a 3-2 home loss to Concordia (Minn.) last Saturday. To stave off the Pipers, St. Thomas will need a lock-down performance as the team displayed in its 3-0 victory ove the Cobbers last Friday. Otherwise, Hamline continues its surging second-half form to prevail in a sweep. Hamline 4-2, 3-1
Wisconsin-Eau Claire at St. Scholastica: Both teams are eager to shake the new year doldrums. The visiting Blugolds are 2-2 in January while the host Saints are a tad better at 2-1-1. Last weekend, St. Scholastica secured a split at Wisconsin-River Falls, winning the series’ opener 3-2 on Alex Valenti’s game-deciding goal. Then the Saints (8-8-1, 3-7) dropped the finale 3-1, which has been emblematic of their inconsistent season. UW-Eau Claire (10-7, 4-6) is looking to rebound from a pair of tough losses at No. 2 St. Norbert, 6-3 and 3-2, last weekend. In Saturday’s finale, Blugolds clawed back on Isaish Bennis’ short-handed goal with 51 seconds left to shave the deficit to one. UW-Eau Claire’s fight-back spirit is the reason this series will likely end in a split. St. Scholastica 3-1, UW-Eau Claire 5-2