MIAC picks: Jan. 18

January is flying by, and it’s time for another week of trying to look smart when it comes to making picks in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Four weekend series are on top in league play as teams continue to battle it out for the conference title and positioning for the postseason.
Four teams all have three losses or less, and all four still have a shot at being crowned the regular season conference champion.
I was just 4-5 last week, and now own a 41-37 record on the season. I’m still above .500, which is a good thing, but I’d really like to have a strong week so I can push my win total a little higher. We will just have to see how things play out.
Friday-Saturday, Jan. 18-19
St. John’s vs. Concordia
The Johnnies will play two games on the road against the Cobbers, and St. John’s would love nothing more than to put a damper on Concordia’s hopes for a title. Concordia has won three consecutive games, two by just one goal, and it has to be able to take advantage of the fact that it’s playing at home. The Cobbers have scored 53 goals and will be looking for big games from Andrew Deters and Ben Payne. Chris Neamontis needs another solid game in goal as well if the Cobbers are going to win. St. John’s has gone four games without a win, tying twice, and has struggled on the road. The Johnnies need to get their offense going early on both nights if they are going to be successful on the road this time. St. John’s 4-2, Concordia 5-2
Augsburg vs.Hamline
Augsburg will play the first game of this series on the road, and Hamline has a little more confidence coming in after earning a surprising win over St. Thomas last weekend. It was the Pipers’ first win of the year. Hamline isn’t going to score a lot of goals, but if it can step up defensively and make some big plays, it has a chance to get at least one win in this series. Augsburg is winless in its last five games, but should be fine when it returns home. The Auggies haven’t scored a lot either this season, but should find enough offense to earn a split. Hamline 2-1, Augsburg 3-1
St. Thomas vs. St. Mary’s
You talk about an important weekend series in the MIAC, this one is it. The Tommies have one more win than the Cardinals in conference play, but the Cardinals have one less loss. Both teams have a ton to play for, and for the Tommies, it could be tough to get a sweep. The key for the Cardinals is Mike Hill. He has 11 goals this season, and if he has a big game, St. Mary’s will get at least one win out of the weekend. Bobby Thompson will need to come up big as well. Michael Krieg has played a big role in the success of St. Thomas, and players such as Riley Horgan and Alex Altenbernd have come up big as well. Both offenses are good enough to put up goals. It comes down to which defense can take it to another level. St. Mary’s 5-3, St. Thomas 6-4

Bethel vs. St. Olaf
The Royals and Oles both have a lot on the line this weekend, and neither team can afford to be swept. I don’t expect it to happen. Bethel is in dire need of a win, having dropped five consecutive games, and it won’t be easy to get it on Friday, as it opens this series on the road. Garrett Windle needs to step up offensively and Colin Mayer, one of the better young defenseman in the league, will need to also play well. The Royals have given up 57 goals and need to play well defensively to be successful. St. Olaf hasn’t won in its last three games, skating to one tie, but it should get at least one win out of the weekend. The Oles have shown they have a lot of options on offense, with Jeff Harris and Dan Cecka tallying seven and six goals, respectively. If those two step up and get help from the players around them, they will be in good shape. St. Olaf 4-2, Bethel 3-2