MIAC picks: Jan. 4

Welcome to 2013 everyone. It feels like forever since I’ve made predictions on games, but the wait is over and it’s time to dive back into the wonderful of world of trying to sound smart.
Several games are on the schedule this week as the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference teams get back into action.
I enter the New Year with a 31-28 record, so I guess I can be thankful for a winning record up to this point. Hopefully, I can build some momentum this week and carry it through the rest of the season, much the way MIAC teams are hoping to build a little momentum as they prepare for the stretch run of conference play.
Friday, Jan. 4
St. John’s at Wisconsin-Eau Claire
The Johnnies are one of the hottest teams in the league. They have won five consecutive games and have held four of those opponents to two goals. Now they will take their act on the road to battle the Blugolds, who are 2-0 against MIAC teams this season. Eau-Claire has been tough at home, going 5-1, and is averaging nearly five goals per game. St. John’s is allowing less than three goals per game, and it will need to step it up on the defensive end of the ice if it’s going to get the job done. If St. John’s thrives on defense, it will get out of here with a win. St. John’s 4-2
St. Mary’s at St. Norbert
The Cardinals face a tall order playing on the road against the two-time defending national champions. The challenge of winning on the road becomes even tougher when you consider St. Mary’s has lost its last three. The Cardinals have been one of the best offensive teams in the conference, and they have to be able to score quickly and often to have any shot at the upset. The thing is, St. Norbert has allowed only 20 goals all year, and is 10-2-1. The Green Knights haven’t been bad on offense either, putting up 57 goals. St. Mary’s won’t win, but it will benefit from the experience going forward. St. Norbert 6-2
St. Olaf at Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Beating Wis.-Stevens Point on the road is going to be difficult, especially when you consider the Pointers just earned a split with Adrian, one of the top teams in the nation. The Oles have found goals tough to come by at times, and have 29 on the season, but they have been solid defensively, allowing only 24 goals, and that is a credit to goalies Henrik Wood and Steve Papciak, along with the defense in front of them. The Pointers have eight players with at least three goals and have racked up 52 in all. It will be tough for the Oles to slow down that balanced offensive attack, but I do think they will gain a lot from the experience heading back into conference play. Wis.-Stevens Point 5-2
Augsburg at St. Scholastica
Augsburg has won once in its last six games and now faces the daunting task of playing a nonconference game on the road. Of course, the Saints have been in a slump as well, having lost four consecutive games. St. Scholastica also hasn’t won a home game. The Auggies have to be able to score early if they are going to capitalize on this opportunity, and if Justin Lochner can step up in goal as he has at times this season, Augsburg has an opportunity to get out of town with a win. St. Scholastica is 0-2 against MIAC teams this season. Look for the streak to continue. Augsburg 4-3
Concordia at Wisconsin-River Falls
The Cobbers have been one of the better offensive teams in the MIAC, having scored 40 goals, but they have allowed 36 and will be up against a Wis.-River Falls team that is similar in terms of goals scored and goals allowed. Wis.-River Falls’ last win was a 7-4 victory over Augsburg, and I can see this game being a high-scoring tilt as well. This game will come down to which team can defend the best, especially late, and I think Concordia will find a way to slip past the Falcons. Concordia 5-4
Saturday, Jan. 5
St. Olaf at St. Norbert
While the Oles have been a good defensive team, it will not be easy to slow down the defending national champions. The Green Knights are simply too good on both ends of the ice and will cruise to a convincing win. St. Norbert 5-1
St. Mary’s at Wisconsin-Stevens Point
The Cardinals will come in searching for momentum, and while they certainly have the offensive weapons to compete with the Pointers, they are going to have a hard time outscoring Wis.-Stevens Point. Wis.-Stevens Point 6-3
Gustavus Adolphus at St. Scholastica
Gustavus has lost just once in its last six, and the Gusties seem to have momentum on their side heading into a game against a team that has struggled at home. Gustavus has to be able to put some goals up early. A quick start is always key on the road, and if the Gusties can strike first, they will be in a position to nail down the win. Gustavus Adolphus 4-2
St. John’s at Wisconsin-River Falls
St. John’s will no doubt lean on its defense to get the job done on the road. The Falcons have proven they can score goals, but I think the Johnnies will come up big defensively to win a close game. St. John’s 4-2
Bethel at St. Thomas
The Tommies and Royals will play a nonconference game that will tell a lot about what to expect when these two teams hook up in MIAC play later this season. Both teams are tied for first in the conference standings, and either one is capable of winning the conference. Defense will be the deciding factor, and I give the edge to the Tommies. St. Thomas 4-2