Women’s D-III picks: NCAA first-round

Women’s D-III NCAA Tournament (First round)

Friday, March 14

St. Thomas (19-5-3, 14-2-2 MIAC) at Wisconsin-Stevens Point (19-5-4, 9-3-3 WIAC)
Wisconsin Stevens Point took both sides of a two-game set last December on St. Thomas Academy ice. The Pointers rely heavily on junior goalie Jenna Beilke-Skoug, as evidenced by her 23 games and 1,394 minutes played, which stands as the fourth most in the nation. Skoug made 66 saves on 68 total shots in the two-game series that the two clubs engaged in last December. Like her counterpart at the opposite end, Tommies senior goalie Alise Riedel fashioned a career-best campaign, forging a 17-1-3 record. In somewhat of a twist, both clubs possess the least effective power play, statistically, of the eight tournament teams. The Tommies, rank 30th with a 14.86 success rate, while the hosts reside near the tail end of the national rankings with a rate of 12.12 percent on 12-of-99 opportunities. WSP proved proficient in matchups with ranked teams, posting an 8-4-3 record. Home ice prevails. Wisconsin-Stevens Point 3-2

Saturday, March 15

Lake Forest (17-5-3, 13-3-2 NCHA) at Wisconsin-River Falls (21-4-3, 11-2-2 WIAC)
Lake Forest makes is program debut at the NCAAs, while the Falcons appear for the sixth consecutive year. The Foresters’ lone matchup against a WIAC team resulted in a 7-1 loss to Wisconsin-Stevens Point last month.Wis.-River Falls, in the midst of an eight-game winning streak, has outscored opponents by the tune of 41-9 in the run. Lake Forest sophomore Michelle Greeneway tops the nation in goals with 29, but the Falcons counter with both a top-five ranked offense as well as the fourth-ranked defensive unit in the nation.  Six players have notched 10 or more goals this season for the hosts. Wis.-River Falls goaltender Ashley Kuechle has seven shutouts to her credit, along with a career best 1.17 GAA. Kuechle, who has  a proven ability to alter the course of close defensive games with top-ranked opponents, will most likely play a major role advancing the Falcons to the next round. Wisconsin-River Falls 4-1

Williams (15-9-3, 9-4-3 NESCAC) at Plattsburgh (25-1-1, 15-1-0 ECAC West)
Momentum in hand, following a sharp second-half run, the Ephs are focused on offering up a mistake-free, highly disciplined effort this time out. But Plattsburgh, which outshot Williams 46-29 in 4-1 win in mid-January, has amassed a regular season of enviable proportions. The Cardinals defense has not been welcoming to opponents, allowing a skimpy 0.59 goals per contest. Plattsburgh has outshot opponents 1207 to 464.  Cardinals goalie Sydney Aveson, who leads the nation with a 19-1-1 record and 13 shutouts, was undefeated at Ronald Stafford Ice Arena this season. Plattsburgh 4-0

Elmira (21-5-1, 15-1-0 ECAC West) at Norwich (25-3-0, 16-0-0 ECAC East)
The defending champions, Elmira possesses a dynamic trio of high-scoring forwards in juniors Ashley Ryan (15-28-43), Ashton Hogan (17-14-31), and senior Tanis Lamoureux (13-24-37), while the Cadets, who are working on a 16-game win streak, answer with Tori Charron, who is among the all-time leading scorers in D-III history. Norwich defensemen are offensive-minded as well, as five blueliners have registered 10 points or more thus far. Norwich copped a 3-2 victory over the Soaring Eagles at Kreitzberg in the opening weekend of the season in the East-West Classic, while Elmira nabbed a 3-1 win at home in the third game of the 2014 portion of the schedule, the Cadets last loss. Norwich has forged a strong 8-3-0 record against ranked teams. In a matchup befitting a title game, it’s Norwich. Norwich 3-2