Weekend West picks: Jan. 8-9

The first full weekend of games of the New Year has arrived and several good matchups are on the horizon, including a MIAC battle between St. Thomas and St. Mary’s.

St. Thomas (7-4-2, 5-1) vs. St. Mary’s (6-5-2, 3-2-1): The Tommies have won two of their last three and are playing for the first time since Dec. 12. Connor McBride and Michael Dockry lead the offense with five goals apiece. They have combined for nine assists as well. Joe Morris has been solid in goal, winning seven games and fashioning a 2.14 GAA.

The Cardinals are looking to get back on track as they come in on a three-game losing streak. Offensively, they have been impressive, scoring 61 goals, and Jay Heinle leads the way with 12 goals and two assists. Bob Kinne has tallied eight goals and 11 assists. Martin Gruse and Chad Cesarz have scored seven goals apiece. Phil Heinle has allowed 35 goals and has made 288 saves this season.

This series should end in a split. St. Mary’s 5-3; St. Thomas 4-2.

Bethel (1-8-1, 1-3) vs. Augsburg (7-4, 3-1): The Royals have dropped their last two games and are winless on the road. George Splichal has played well for Bethel, scoring four goals and dishing out three assists. Travis Payne has come through with three goals and three assists.

Augsburg is on a roll, winning its last three, and it hopes to ride that momentum through this series. Nate Flynn has stepped up in a big way, scoring eight goals and tallying eight assists. Eight other players have scored at least two goals for the Auggies, who have scored 41 goals.

If Augsburg plays up to its potential, it should pick up two wins. Augsburg, 5-2, 6-2.

St. John’s (4-7-2) vs. Wisconsin-River Falls (8-4-2): The Johnnies have won two of their last three and are playing their first game since Dec. 12. Huba Sekesi has fueled the offense with five goals and six assists while Saxton Soley is one of the top goaltenders in the conference. Although he has won only three games, he has made 331 saves on the year.

The Falcons are playing well, having won their last three, and having this game at home is a big deal. River Falls has won six times already on its home ice this season. Joe Drapluk and Kyle Gattelaro are first and second in points. Drapluk has scored five goals and tallied eight assists while Gattelaro has come up with six goals and six assists. Tanner Milliron owns a 2.12 GAA and has made 273 saves.

Give the edge to the Falcons. River Falls, 4-1.

Concordia (Minn.) (5-5-1) vs. Wisconsin-River Falls (8-4-2): The Cobbers are winless in their last three games and are looking to bounce back in a big way. Jake Zeleznikar and Jon Grebosky will be keys to the Cobbers’ success as they have scored five goals apiece. Alex Reichle will need to be ready to handle the Falcons’ balanced attack. He has a 3.01 GAA and has come up with 252 saves. River Falls, 5-3.

Milwaukee School of Engineering (8-3, 3-3) vs. Lake Forest (5-6, 3-5): The Raiders are one of the hottest teams in the NCHA at the moment, riding a five-game win streak into this series. Conner Enciso has paved the way offensively, racking up five goals and three assists, while Jerad Tafoya has been one of the top playmakers, dishing out seven assists. Nick Kohn has been solid at goaltender, winning seven games and making 276 saves.

Lake Forest will come in hungry for the upset. The Foresters have shown promise as of late, winning their last two, and they aren’t afraid of a challenge, having knocked off River Falls in November when it was ranked 13th in the country. The Raiders are ranked 15th. Billy Kent has been a key player for the Foresters, tallying seven goals and three assists.

This series could easily end in a split. Lake Forest, 3-2, MSOE 5-2.

Concordia (Wis.) (8-3-1, 5-2-1) vs. Lawrence (3-8, 2-4): The Falcons are playing great hockey right now and currently own a four-game win streak. They have not lost at home all season, fashioning a 6-0-1 mark on their own ice. Stefen Seel has played a key role in the team’s success, scoring six goals and dishing out nine assists. Connor Hogg has come up with six goals as well to go along with his four assists. Jack Romanulk and Andy Munroe have combined to play 11 games in goal, with each winning four times.

The Vikings are hoping to get themselves back on track after dropping their last three games. Generating offense will be key as they have scored just 25 goals this season. Renato Engler leads the way with four goals and seven assists. Mattias Soderqvist has started nine games at goaltender and has made 227 saves. He has to be on top of his game for the Vikings to have an opportunity to pull off the upset.

Look for the Falcons to get the job done. Concordia, 6-3, 6-2.