Picks for Jan. 18-20

There is a lot on the line this weekend with the top two teams in four out of the five conferences meeting each other. Three of the four matchups are two-game series and there is one solo matchup. Separation Saturday (Friday and Sunday as well) is upon us.

Norwich @ Manhattanville

Norwich and Manhattanville kick things off renewing their rivalry that seems to have escalated ever year since Norwich’s first varsity season in 2007-08. Lately, Norwich has gotten the better of Manhattanville, with wins in three of the last four meetings, including in last year’s ECAC East Championship. Due to damage at the Playland Ice Casino, Norwich will avoid having to play at Manhattanville’s home rink for another year. Norwich last played at Playland during the 2009-10 season. The game will take place at the Terry Connors Rink in Stamford, Conn. instead. Manhattanville is in the driver’s seat entering tonight’s game after Norwich dropped a 4-3 OT game to Saint Anselm. A Manhattanville win tonight will give it a firm grasp on the No. 1 seed and possible hosting rights for the ECAC East Tournament. Norwich on the other hand has picked up four straight victories since losing to Plattsburgh 4-2 on Jan. 6. The Cadets desperately could use this win to try and regain control of the ECAC East to try and host the tournament for the third straight season. Kaycie Anderson has started to regain her freshman season form for Norwich and the Cadets will need that to win tonight. I’ll go with Norwich 3-2 in OT.

St. Catherine/Gustavus Adolphus (2)

Gustavus Adolphus will look to cement its stranglehold on top of the MIAC standings again with a home and home series against second-place St. Catherine. The Gusties are perfect in 2012-13 and will be looking to secure head coach Mike Carroll’s 300th career coaching victory. St. Catherine will look to try and put a chink in Gustavus’ armour as they sit just two points behind GAC. I’m going with a split in this one, Gustavus 4-2 on day 1 at home and then St. Catherine steals a 2-1 (OT) victory at home the next night.

Middlebury @ Bowdoin (2)

Middlebury travels up to Maine this weekend for a pair of games facing a new foe as its chief challenger to the NESCAC crown after for years having to battle against Amherst and Trinity as well. Bowdoin has been the story of the season carrying a 12-1-1 record into this weekend. The Polar Bears only blemishes are a loss to Plattsburgh and a tie to Norwich. This weekend though they’ll get one of their stiffest tests to date with the perennial powerhouse Panthers. The Polar Bears have been blessed with a balanced attack and incredible goal play from Kayla Lessard. I think the Polar Bears scrounge up a victory and they split with Middlebury taking the first game 2-1 before Middlebury rebounds for a 3-1 win on day two. Bowdoin 2-1, Middlebury 3-1.

Elmira @ Plattsburgh

You can read my This Week in D-III Women column for all the info on this pair of games set to take place at Plattsburgh’s Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena on Saturday and Sunday. These two are about as good as it gets when it comes to rivarlies in women’s hockey. Will first-year head coach Dean Jackson be able to break the mold against Plattsburgh’s seasoned veteran and 10-year head coach Kevin Houle? Will Ashton Hogan be able to continue her torrid scoring pace for Elmira against the same Plattsburgh team she was a member of last year? Can Elmira deal Plattsburgh its first loss of the season? Can Elmira’s goaltending tandem continue their video-game like numbers? Or will Teal Gove, Jenny Kistner and the rest of the Cardinal Company spoil Elmira’s impressive start? Shocking, I’m taking a split in this one too with Plattsburgh winning 2-1 on Saturday and Elmira winning 1-0 on Sunday.