MCHA, MIAC and NCHA picks for Feb. 18-19

I was a less-than-superlative 2-3 in last week’s picks, which I blame on Valentine’s Day. I had love in my eye instead of the requisite analytical lens that enables me to critically size up teams in their respective encounters. The end result included missteps in picking a surging Wisconsin-Stevens Point beating Wisconsin-Stout at home Feb. 11 (UW-Stout won 5-4). I also botched the call on the home-and-home Hamline-Gustavus Adolphus series, predicting the host team would prevail. The visitors won. That leaves me at 32-22-4 in the pick’s department.
So, I tread cautiously while wading into this week’s prognostication pool, which includes three Northern Collegiate Hockey Association playoff games as well as the pivotal Midwestern Collegiate Hockey Association tussle between No. 5 Adrian and No. 8 Milwaukee School of Engineering.
Feb. 18-19
UW-Eau Claire at UW-Stevens Point: The No. 5-seed Blugolds (14-10-1, 8-9-1) enter the playoff fray fresh off a pair of back-to-back 3-0 shutouts – courtesy of netminder Brandon Stephenson — over St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior. Coupled with sophomore snipers Jordan Singer (13 goal, 16 assists, 19 points) and Kurt Weston (10-12-22), UW-Eau Claire is a potent foe for No. 4 seed and hosts UW-Stevens Point. The Blugolds have been hot and cold in the new year while the Pointers amassed a 7-2-1 record. Yet the Blugolds have the firepower and goaltending to prevail in an upset. UW-Eau Claire 4-3, UW-Stevens Point 4-2, UW-Eau Claire, 1-0 in mini-game.
St. Scholastica at UW-Superior: The No. 2-seed Yellowjackets (13-11-1, 10-8) would otherwise have nothing to fear in the No. 7-seed Saints (9-15-1, 4-14), who lost eight of their last nine, except for one puzzling trend: UW-Superior has been shutout four times in its last seven contests. The ‘Jackets’ lone win in the seven-game downturn was against St. Scholastica, 4-1, on Feb. 10. Home hasn’t been an advantage, either, where UW-Superior is 5-7 at Wessman Arena (and Duluth Entertainment Convention Center where the team played a handful of games due to ice equipment problems at Wessman). That said, the ‘Jackets still have the ways and means – namely forwards Justin Faryna (11-10-21) and Talon Berlando (8-13-21) along with freshman goaler Drew Strandberg (7-8, 2.30 goals-against, .913 save-percentage) to step it up in the post-season. UW-Superior, 5-2, 3-1
UW River Falls at UW Stout: The No. 3-seed Blue Devils (15-10, 10-8) enter the NCHA playoffs having won four out of their last five as senior Brendan Gay (16-16-32) continues his sparkling season. Goalie Tom Lescovich (12-6, 2.74 GAA, .924 save-pct.) is apparently over an undisclosed upper-body ailment that limited his playing time. The sophomore netminder announced his clean bill of health with consecutive shutouts on the road over UW-Superior, 1-0, and UW-Eau Claire, 2-0, Jan. 29 and Feb. 3. Enter the No. 6-seed Falcons (11-12-1, 7-10-1), who are unbeaten in five of its last six contests (4-1-1). The team’s two-prong scoring attack of Justin Brossman (12-11-23) and Josh Calleja (8-12-20) along with freshman goalie Scott Lewan (8-9-2, 2.24 GAA, .933 save-pct.) continue to shine. Despite the disparity in seeding, these two evenly matched sides will need a mini-game to settle their account. Stout possesses a more offensive weapons needed to advance. UW-Stout 4-3, UW-River Falls, 3-2, UW-Stout 1-0 mini-game.
Adrian at MSOE: This regular-season finale pits MCHA powerhouses in a battle for No. 1 overall and, with it, a first-round bye in the Harris Cup playoffs. The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (19-3-1, 16-1-1) are loaded upfront as Shawn Skelly (15-19-34), Brad Houston (13-20-33), Eric Miller (14-017-31) and Mike Dahlinger (12-19-31) pilot an offense that has outscored opponents,116-53, and whose 5.04 goals-per game leads the nation. No. 8 MSOE (19-3-1, 16-1-1) boasts its own sizeable arsenal in Jordan Keizer (22-11-33), Todd Krupa (17-13-30) and Bradley Tierney (8-18-26). Though not as prolific as Adrian, MSOE’s 3.96 GPG ranks No. 10 nationally. So, it’s up to the goaltenders to settle things. And that edge goes to the Raiders and Connor Toomey (16-3-1, 1.68 GAA, .933 save-pct.), who is tied with UW-Stout’s Tom Lescovich for the nation’s lead in shutouts with four. When weighing all the variables, this two-game series points to a split, which will require the MCHA folks to employ a tiebreaker to determine the overall regular-season champion. In head-to-head competition, Adrian holds a 1-0-1 edge. MSOE 3-2, Adrian 5-2.
Hamline at Concordia (Minn.): At stake is first place overall in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in this crucial matchup.The No. 12 Pipers (13-5-5, 8-2-4), who are tied for first on 20 points with idle St. Thomas (14-9-2, 9-5-2), hold a four-point lead over the Cobbers (10-9-4, 6-4-4), who are tied for third with Gustavus Adolphus (13-8-2, 7-5-2) on 16 points. The Gusties have a home-and-home with Saint Mary’s this weekend. Hamline only needs a point to secure top spot while Concordia and Gustavus have to pull off a sweep to create a four-way deadlock for first. Surely, the Pipers are capable of scratching out a point on the road where they are 5-1-4 this season. After all, the team features a balanced attack with Brian Arrigoni (13-16-29), Ryan Kupperman (9-19-28) and Chris Berenguer (12-15-2) at the helm and has dependable Beau Christian (11-3-2, 2.37 GAA, .924 save-pct.) in net. Hamline 4-3, Concordia 5-2.