Weekend West picks: Jan. 22-23

The college hockey season is flying by and it’s time to take a stab at making predictions for some of the games on the schedule this week.

The featured game, of course, is the showdown between top-ranked St. Norbert and No. 2 Adrian.

Concordia (Minn.) and Augsburg square off in a key MIAC battle and Wisconsin-Stevens Point, the favorite in the WIAC, will take on Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Wisconsin-River Falls over the weekend.

St. John’s (6-9-2, 4-4) vs. Bethel (2-10-2, 1-5)

The Johnnies are just 2-5-1 at home and have a golden opportunity to get their third home win of the season this weekend. Huba Sekesi leads the offense with six goals and seven assists, while Sean Lang has come through with five goals and three assists. Saxton Soley is 3-8-2 in 14 starts this year. He owns a 2.61 GAA.

Bethel is coming off a big week after earning a tie against River Falls and beating Superior. The win was the first for the Royals since November. Travis Payne will need to be at his best for the Royals to win. He scored six goals last week and has 10 goals on the season. Payne has also dished out five assists.

St. John’s, 4-2.

Augsburg (9-6, 5-1) vs. Concordia (Minn.) (7-7-1, 5-1)

Augsburg is looking to get back on track after dropping its last two games. The Auggies enter the weekend just three points out of first in the conference standings. Nate Flynn leads the Augsburg attack with 10 goals and 10 assists while Rory Vesel has come through with a goal and 12 assists. Jordyn Kaufer has been solid in goal, winning eight games and making 292 saves.

Concordia is also in second place and needs to take advantage of being on its home ice for this series. The Cobbers are 2-2 at home and are led by Jon Grebosky, who has come through with eight goals and 10 assists. Alex Reichle is 7-7 on the year in goal and has made 385 saves. Goaltending could be the difference in this one.

Concordia, 5-3, Augsburg, 4-3

Adrian (14-1-1, 10-1-1) vs. St. Norbert (13-1-1, 9-1-0)

It doesn’t get any bigger in the regular season than a showdown between the the top teams in the country. There will no doubt be a playoff feel to this one as the Bulldogs and Green Knights square off in a pivotal NCHA battle.

Adrian owns the longest unbeaten streak in the nation at any level of college hockey, getting through its last 15 games without a loss. The stretch includes 11 consecutive wins. Mathew Thompson leads the conference in goals with 14. He has also dished out 14 assists. The Bulldogs have scored 92 goals in all while allowing only 30.

St. Norbert has won five consecutive games and is unbeaten in its last 13 games overall. The Green Knights feature one of the top goaltenders in the country in Tony Kujava, who is 10-0-0 with a conference-best 1.07 GAA. St. Norbert has given up only 19 goals all year while scoring 75.

This series will be a test of wills and while at least one tie is likely, I’m guessing it ends in a split.

St. Norbert, 3-2; Adrian, 5-4.

St. Scholastica (9-4-2, 7-3) vs. Lawrence (6-8-1, 5-4-1)

The Saints head out on the road for two games against the Vikings for a key NCHA series. They have played well away from home this year, fashioning a 4-2-1 record. Brandon Millin is having a solid year, scoring 11 goals and dishing out 10 assists, while Dylan Nowakowski has come through with five goals and 17 assists. If those two are on top of their games, the Saints will be tough to stop.

Lawrence heads into the weekend with momentum, having won its last two games. The Vikings are 4-3 at home and have an opportunity to make a statement against a nationally ranked opponent. Renato Engler is having a great year, tallying seven goals and 10 assists in 15 games. Mattias Soderqvist is 6-6 with a 3.80 GAA.

Lawrence, 3-2; St. Scholastica, 5-2.

Stevens Point (12-3-1, 1-1) vs. Eau Claire (11-4-2, 1-1)

This matchup pits two of the best in the nation as Stevens Point comes in ranked third in the country while Eau Claire is 10th. The Pointers are riding a six-game win streak, scoring four or more goals in each of those wins. Joe Kalisz and Lawrence Cornellier have fueled the attack with 12 and 11 goals, respectively. They have combined for 20 assists as well.

Eau Claire has won four of five, with two of those games being decided by one goal. Adam Knochenmus has been sensational offensively, punching in 16 goals and dishing out eight assists. Garrett Clement has come through with six goals and 14 assists.

Eau Claire, 5-4.

River Falls (11-4-3, 2-0) vs. Stevens Point (12-3-1, 1-1)

The Pointers will be on their home ice for this one. They have lost only once there all season. Goaltending could be the difference in this matchup. Max Milosek has started 12 games and is 9-2-1 on the year. He owns a 1.99 GAA.

River Falls is unbeaten in its last 10, winning eight times during that stretch, and Tanner Milliron has helped lead the way with solid play between the pipes. He is 9-4-3 with a 1.78 GAA. Kyle Gattelaro anchors the offense with seven goals and seven assists.

Stevens Point, 5-3.