ECAC East/NESCAC picks: Feb. 3

February is here, and the leap year that is 2012 isn’t going to help team that can’t get it going in the next three weeks. Last week I finished 3-1-2 for the weekend, which takes my season record overall to 41-16-8 (.692). Still not quite at that 70 percent success rate, and time is running out on me too in reaching my season goal in the prognostication department.
This week, I will add a couple of more games to the usual six-pack and see if that helps me improve the percentage. Not shying away from any of the key matchups, so as the intensity heats up on the ice, so too does the scoreboard watching for players, coaches and correspondents alike.
So here are the picks to start the final month of the regular season.
Friday, February 3, 2012
Southern Maine vs. University of New England
Losing streaks at any point in the season are not a good thing, and this game finds both teams struggling down the stretch and in strong need of some positive momentum to carry through February. This in-state rivalry is growing, and the first game of the home-and-home series is on the Nor’easters home rink, where the crowd will be a factor. The rowdy atmosphere is not quite enough of a factor, as the Huskies get two very valuable points. Southern Maine 5-2
Castleton vs. Massachusetts-Boston
There is a lot to play for both of these teams, who still have a chance to improve their overall position in the standings. The Beacons knocked off the previously-unbeaten Norwich Cadets just a few weeks ago on their home ice and are poised to spring another upset after two tough overtime games last week against Babson. This one goes to overtime too, but with a goal for the home team. Mass.-Boston 4-3
Bowdoin vs. Amherst
Since getting shellacked by the Polar Bears on January 6, Amherst has run the table in the league, going 6-0-0 leading into this weekend. The Polar Bears have a record of 5-0-1 over their last six league contests, so something has to give here. Amherst and Jonathan Larose just don’t surrender seven-spots, so the offensive outburst in Maine hurt more than a usual loss. It’s payback time for the Lord Jeffs, who look to put a stranglehold on the top spot in the conference this weekend with two more wins. Amherst 4-2
Connecticut College vs. Tufts
Both teams had very successful weekends on the road last week and would like to build on that positive momentum. Tufts is clearly fighting for a top four position, and Connecticut College played themselves back into contention for something higher than the eighth and final playoff spot. Both teams have been playing things tight. You can’t get much tighter than Tufts’ last three games, which have all gone to overtime and where the Jumbos are 2-0-1. This one may need the extra five minutes to settle things for the Jumbos again. Tufts 4-3
Saturday, February 4, 2012
Middlebury vs. Wesleyan
Following two-plus decades of futility where no Cardinals team had ever beaten the Panthers, this Wesleyan squad has a two-game win streak and would like to extend it to three on home ice. Middlebury is suffering at both ends of the ice. It has been shutout in three of the last six games, and is still trying to find a replacement in goal for the injured John Yancheck. With all of those issues, it’s still not an easy one in Middletown. Wesleyan 3-2
Norwich vs. New England College
This one has always had the rivalry stamp on it in the ECAC East, and the close confines of the rink in Henniker, N.H., add to the illusion of time and space that the Cadets like to create offensively and take away from you in their defensive end of the ice. Congratulations to coach Mike McShane on recording win 600 in last Friday’s victory over Southern Maine. Certainly an amazing milestone, and this one makes 603. Norwich 5-1
Williams vs. Trinity
The Ephs are just 2-2-1 in their last five games, and may be relying on the excellent goaltending of Ryan Purdy just a bit too much. The offense has not scored a lot of goals, and the power play has only produced eight for the entire season. The irony is that offensively, Trinity has the same challenges and also has produced just eight power-play goals this season to date. Even-strength goals decide this one. Williams 4-2
St. Michael’s vs. St. Anselm
This ECAC East matchup is also the likely NE-10 D-II championship round, and so far this season nothing has been settled between the two teams. The first game ended in a 2-2 tie, but momentum is favoring the Purple Knights, who come in with a two-game winning streak, whereas the Hawks have lost four in a row. While neither team is eligible for the conference playoffs, both want to send a message to the opponent and do everything possible to move up in the standings at the expense of their NE-10 rival.  Don’t see five losses in a row for the Hawks, especially at home. St. Anselm 4-3
Only six games remain in deciding playoff seeding and whether or not you get to sleep in your own bed for at least the first weekend of the conference tournaments. No sleeping this weekend or you’re definitely hitting the road.
Now things are really getting interesting — drop the puck!