ECAC East/NESCAC Picks: Nov. 18

Last week was a respectable 4-4-0 (.500) slate of picks to start the season. If anything, these two conferences have shown me that it is not easy to pick a favorite, and legitimately every team has a shot every night. Finally, everybody is playing games that count, and one nice thing about the new separate formats of the two conferences is you don’t have to wait around till January, or even February, to see some of the traditional conference heavyweights taking to the ice against each other. There are some great match-ups in both leagues this week, and here is a sampling of how I think a few will play out.
Friday, November 18, 2011
New England College at Norwich
NEC, and specifically senior Niko Uola (six goals, four assists, 10 points) are off to a strong 4-1-0 start, while Norwich enters the game at 2-0-0. This match-up has usually had some playoff implications late in the season in past campaigns, but this year, round one is early and will provide a good barometer for both teams. It is the first home game for the Cadets after a sluggish opener on the road last week. Norwich 4-2.
Hamilton at Amherst
It’s the first game as a head coach for Rob Haberbusch, with his Hamilton Continentals against Jack Arena’s Amherst squad.  Hamilton surprised everyone last year by climbing to the top position to end the regular season, so expectations will be high for this year.  Amherst always plays well at home, and special teams usually have a lot to do with the outcome. Power play is the difference in this one. Amherst 3-2.
St. Anselm at St. Michael
It’s a battle between the two pre-eminent D-II programs that will likely be battling in March for the NE-10 title. Freshman A.J. Pieprzak is off to a fast start for the Purple Knights, with four points in his first three games, while St. A’s has only 10 goals to show in their first four games this season. For some strange reason, I don’t think this is a low scoring affair. St. A’s 5-4.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Massachusetts-Boston at Castleton
The Beacons are heading into the lion’s den, where Castleton has outscored its opponents by two touchdowns, extra points included, this season. The Spartans are locked in on home ice for the month of November, and so far have taken advantage of it.  The good times continue. Castleton 5-1.
Bowdoin at Williams
With the NESCAC conference just getting under way, this is a match-up that traditionally has occurred in mid-January over the past three seasons. Both of these teams have the talent to win the conference, and the first game should have a lot of energy, as both teams love to move the puck quickly. Despite the tempo, this one is close, and the Eph’s Ryan Purdy is the difference.  Williams 3-2.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Bowdoin at Middlebury
It’s unusual for a Sunday game at any point in the season, but this one is a great match-up between teams that play the same system with customized variations on the theme. Both teams have some serious firepower, and playing on the big sheet in Vermont should create lots of scoring opportunities. I would like to say this ends in a tie, but somehow one team or the other always seems to score in the waning minutes or in overtime for the win. I like the home team in this one. Middlebury 5-4.
Enjoy a full slate of games — drop the puck!