MCHA, MIAC and NCHA picks for Feb. 11-12

After a 5-0 week, I’m feeling sassy. However, in reality, the superlative channeling performance was probably due more to a case of even a blind squirrel finding a nut once in awhile. The overall pick’s record is 30-19-4 with only a weekend or two – depending on the league – left to predict.
The clairvoyance chore does not get any easier as numerous teams in the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association, Northern Collegiate Hockey Association and Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference are jockeying for top seeds, playoff spots and home-ice advantage.
Feb. 11
Wisconsin-Stevens Point at Wisconsin-Stout: The Pointers (12-11, 8-8) and the Blue Devils (13-10, 8-8) are in a dead heat for third place, which guarantees home ice in the NCHA’s first playoff round. UW-Stout holds the season edge, beating UW-Stevens Point twice, 4-1 and 5-4, in the Pointers’ barn Nov. 19-20. The Blue Devils, who feature leading scorer Branden Gay (12 goals, 13 assists, 25 points), are a pedestrian 5-5 in the new year, having lost to Wisconsin-Rivers Falls, 4-2, Feb. 4. By contrast, the Pointers have been playing inspired hockey by winning seven of their eight during the same span, which included Coach Wil Nichol’s announcing his departure at season’s end Jan. 4. The reinvigorated Pointers knocked off second-place Wisconsin-Superior, 4-3, Feb. 5 with Nick Kenney notching the game-winner with 1:22 left. The Pointers continue their roll. UW-Stevens Point, 5-2
Feb. 11-12
Lawrence vs. Marian: This pivotal home-and-home series pits two evenly matched teams with the Sabres (15-6, 12-4) holding first place – and with it a crucial first-round playoff bye — in the MCHA’s Northern Division. The Vikings (11-9-1, 9-7) are only four points behind in second place, which means a sweep will lock the teams into a tie going into the final weekend Feb. 18-19. A sweep is unlikely, though. Marian has won 10 of its last 11. The 2-1 loss to Finlandia last weekend was an aberration as the Sabres bounced back to beat the Lions, 5-2, the following day. Sophomore Dakota Dubetz (12 goals, 22 assists, 35 points) and senior Brendan Hull (14-19-33) lead an offensive that is both potent (No. 5 nationally 4.33 goals-per game) and three-lines deep. By comparison, Lawrence has been inconsistent this season, stringing together both win and loss streaks with equal frequency. The Vikings come in having swept Northland, 5-0 and 4-2, last weekend, which snapped a four-game losing streak. Marian’s might should see the team tighten its vise-like  grip on first in the Northern Division. Marian 6-2, 4-2
Gustavus Adolphus vs. Hamline: With a win, a loss and two ties in the past two weeks, the No. 13 Pipers (12-4-5, 7-1-4) have hardly looked invincible as the MIAC’s first-place holders. Enter the Gusties (12-7-2, 6-4-2) who are determined to prove they are better than their fourth-place standing suggests. However, Gustavus is a nondescript 3-4-1 in the new year. Both teams could make a statement while also addressing their deficiencies in this home-and-home series. Hamline has to continue its dominance at home where the team is 6-2 overall and 5-1 at Warner Coliseum (The Pipers opened the season at Drake Arena where they beat St. Norbert, 4-3, on Nov. 5 and lost 5-1 to Wisconsin-Stevens Point Nov. 6). If Gustavus wants to secure home-ice in the first playoff round, the team has to come away with at least a split before traveling to Concordia (Minn.) to close the regular season Feb. 18-19. With much at stake for both teams, this series should see a split where home ice is a determining factor. Hamline 4-1, Gustavus 3-2