NCHA picks: Jan. 25

In a league as competitive as the NCHA, upsets aren’t too rare, even against St. Norbert, the defending Division III national champs and, as of last week, the top-ranked team in the country.
For the first time in almost four years, the Wisconsin-Stout Blue Devils knocked off the Green Knights on their home ice. The Blue Devils held off a late charge to top St. Norbert, 4-3, on Jan. 18.
I certainly didn’t see that one coming.
Last week in my picks, I looked at Wis.-Stout as an afterthought since St. Norbert was riding an eight-game winning streak and building a head of steam as NCHA teams dive into the last month of their season. Kudos to coach Terry Watkins and his squad for pulling off the upset. Well, the Green Knights did salvage the series, winning the finale on Saturday. They’ll need to play well this Friday when they travel to No. 6 Wisconsin-Eau Claire for a match-up that could decide the NCHA championship.
Friday, Jan. 25
St. Norbert at Wis.-Eau Claire
Both teams head into Friday’s clash with identical 9-2-1 records in the NCHA. However, the Blugolds hold the advantage, coming out of their first series in November with a win and a tie. The Green Knights have a chance to reaffirm themselves as the top dog in not only the NCHA, but also D-III. However, Wis.-Eau Claire is coming off two strong wins over a decent Wisconsin-Superior squad. I see the Blugolds jumping out to an early two-goal lead, with St. Norbert battling back. Three periods won’t be enough for this classic. Wis.-Eau Claire 5,-4 (OT)
Saturday, Jan. 26
Wis.-Superior at Wis.-Stout
The Blue Devils (9-8-2, 4-8 in the NCHA), riding high after last weekend’s shocker, have a shot at another (slight) upset on Saturday. The Yellowjackets (10-8-1, 5-6-1) are licking their wounds after dropping five straight games. They desperately need to break out of their funk. In an interview earlier this week, Watkins, the Blue Devils’ coach, mentioned that, despite losing the series finale to St. Norbert, his team had a chance to win in the final period. Big wins can motivate a struggling team, and I think Wis.-Stout’s outstanding play last week will carry over in a tight slugfest against Wis.-Superior. Wis.-Stout 4-3