The. Weekend. Is. Here.
Those are four words most people love to hear this time each week.
And for the college hockey fans, those words mean action, goals, saves and weekend picks from our two columnists, so fire away, Brian and Dan.
BRIAN LESTER – West
Most of the hockey teams in the west region are full-go into conference play this weekend, and one of the matchups features a pair of nationally ranked teams as Wisconsin-River Falls and Wisconsin-Eau Claire square off in a pivotal WIAC showdown.
The Blugolds, ranked No, 13 in the country make the trip to take on the fourth-ranked Falcons, who are in a tie with Wisconsin-Stevens Point for first place in the conference.
Eau Claire (9-4-2, 1-1 WIAC) has won five of six and has racked up 55 goals on the season. It has allowed 31. Ethan Nauman leads the Blugolds offense with 12 goals and seven assists.
River Falls (14-2-1, 3-1) has won only once in its last four and is looking to turn things back around. Its offense has produced 57 goals, including 20 off the power play, and Tanner Milliron has been impressive, fashioning a 13-2-1 record for a Falcons team that is 8-0-1 at home. This series will be a tight one for sure. River Falls, 3-2; Stevens Point 4-3.
Below are a look at some of the other games on tap for the weekend.
No. 13 St. Thomas (9-3-3, 3-1-2 MIAC) vs. Hamline (7-4-4, 3-0-3): When the season began, this wasn’t really a matchup to keep an eye on. It is now. The Tommies are actually a point behind the third-place Pipers in the standings. Hamline comes in on a three-game win streak and has been fueled by the play of Kevin Novakovich, who has tallied 10 goals and five assists. John Sellie-Hanson is 6-2-2 in goal this season.
The Tommies are hot as well, winning their last five, and have scored 39 goals while allowing only 21. St. Thomas has been balanced, with no one on the team scoring more than six goals. Jordan Lovick leads the team in points with three goals and 13 assists.
This one is going to be interesting, and I can’t imagine either one sweeps the series. I could see at least one of the games ending in a tie but I’m picking straight up wins both nights. Hamline 3-2; St. Thomas, 4-2.
Concordia (Minn.) (9-5-3, 4-2-2) at Augsburg (7-8, 4-2): The Cobbers are atop the MIAC standings entering the weekend and they have no intentions of letting go of first place. Concordia is riding a three-game win streak. Andrew Deters has tallied nine goals and 11 assists to help pace an offense that has racked up 53 goals in all.
Augsburg is only a point out of second place, which means a lot is riding on this series for the Auggies. It has been a struggle for Augsburg at home — the Auggies are 2-5 — but if Augsburg is going to take a step forward in the standings and contend for a playoff spot, taking care of business at home is key.
At the moment, it’s too tough to bet against the Cobbers. Concordia, 4-1, 5-3.
No. 6 Wisconsin-Stevens Point (12-4, 3-1 WIAC) at Wisconsin-Superior (7-10, 0-4): The Pointers have an opportunity to maintain a share of first place if they can take care of business on the road. Stevens Point has won five of seven away from home. Behind an offense that has cranked out 65 goals and a solid goalie in Brandon Jaeger (12-3) I’m guessing that trend will continue.
Superior has lost three in a row. The Yellow Jackets have scored 46 goals and Tanner Dion has paved the way, racking up nine goals and five assists. Superior will need to cash in on opportunities and make plays on defense to have a chance at pulling off an upset. Stevens Point, 5-1, 4-1.
Concordia (Wis.) (6-11, 2-8 NCHA) vs. No. 15 Lake Forest (9-3-5, 7-2-1): The Falcons open this home-and-home series on the road and will be looking to end a four-game losing streak. The defense will need to step up as Concordia has allowed four or more goals in each of its games during the streak.
The Foresters are nationally ranked and riding a two-game win streak. Luke Swardenski anchors a dangerous offense as he has come through with nine goals and five assists. Jack Lewis has tallied five goals and 12 assists. Leo Podolsky has been impressive in goal, fashioning a 9-2-3 record. Lake Forest 5-2, 6-2.
Milwaukee School of Engineering (10-8, 5-6) at No. 1 St. Norbert: The Raiders fell 4-1 to the Green Knights on Thursday at home and have dropped their last two. MSOE will need to be better on offense to have a shot at the upset this weekend. Omar Mullan leads the Raiders with 12 goals and 16 assists.
The Green Knights have won four in a row and are clicking offensively. Michael Hill has scored 16 goals and dished out seven assists for an offense that has racked up 89 goals on 136 assists. St. Norbert has given up just 23 goals and its ability to get the job done on both ends of the ice will be tough for the Raiders to match. St. Norbert 5-2.
DAN HICKLING – East
Bowdoin (9-4-2, 4-4-2) @ Middlebury (6-6-2, 3-3-2) – Bowdoin 3, Middlebury 2
Middlebury’s ambush of No. 2 Norwich last week may have sent a cautionary shudder throughout country. You can bet that Bowdoin took notice.
No. 2 Norwich (14-2-1, 10-0-0) @ Univ. of New England (6-10-1, 4-6-1) – Norwich 5, UNE 2
The Cadets are beginning to roll once more, and while it’s not likely that they will run the conference table, UNE doesn’t figure to stop them here.
Morrisville (4-7-5, 2-4-2) @ Brockport (8-6-1, 3-3-1) – Brockport 4, Morrisville 3
The first of a two-game weekend set. Brockport, which has been getting clutch goaltending from senior Aaron Green, saw its best-ever winning streak stopped at six. Morrisville has little trouble scoring, but keeping pucks out? Another story.
Massachusetts-Dartmouth (4-10-2, 4-4-2) @ Westfield (9-7-0, 6-3-0) – Westfield 4, UMD 2
Both teams have hopes of upending first-place Plymouth State’s title hopes.Westfield’s are more realistic, and will play themselves out here.
No. 15 Hobart (11-5-0, 4-2-0) @ Nazareth (7-6-3, 3-1-2) – Hobart 5, Nazareth 4
The back end of a big two-game set, both in Rochester, between two of the three teams (with Neumann) tied at the top of the West. This presents the possibility of a massive eight-point standings swing. Or maybe it will settle nothing. Either way, it should be interesting.
Curry (9-5-2, 4-4-1) @ Suffolk (10-5-1, 4-0-1) – Suffolk 2, Curry 0
The Rams had a terrific first month, but since then, not so much. There couldn’t be a better time for them to rediscover their mojo. It won’t be easy, however, as Curry is on a 6-0-1 run, albeit against non-conference opposition.