Weekend West picks: Jan. 29-30

We’ve reached the point of the season where things start to get interesting in conference play.

Over the next few weeks, the best will separate themselves from the rest as titles are decided and playoff tickets are punched.

So without further delay, here are some of the big games on tap for the weekend.

Augsburg (10-6-1, 6-1-1) vs. St. Mary’s (8-9-2, 5-4-1)

Augsburg comes into the weekend as the top team in the conference. The Auggies would love nothing more than to take care of business in this series and remain in first place in a tight title race.

Goaltending will be a key for the Auggies, who have won just once in their last four games. Jordyn Kaufer is 9-4-0 with a 2.45 GAA and a .908 save percentage.

The Cardinals, who just snapped a four-game losing streak, feature two of the top five goal scorers in the conference in Jay Heinle and Martin Gruse. They have come through with 14 and 13 goals, respectively. St. Mary’s has tallied 82 goals in all and will aim to stay in contention for a conference playoff berth.

St. Mary’s, 5-3, Augsburg, 4-2.

St. Thomas (9-6-2, 6-2) vs. St. John’s (8-9-2, 6-4)

This series is always a big one and it’s only appropriate that the stakes will be high when the Tommies and Johnnies square off in a crucial home-and-home series.

St. Thomas and St. John’s are both tied for second with 18 points.

Tommies goaltender Joe Morris leads the league in GAA (2.11) and save percentage (.926) and is 9-5-2 on the year. Connor McBride leads the offense with nine goals and four assists.

The Johnnies, winners of three consecutive games, also have a stellar goaltender in Saxton Soley. He is 5-8-2 with a 2.53 GAA. Neal Smith has been an integral part of the offense, tallying eight goals and two assists.

St. John’s, 3-2, St. Thomas, 4-3.

Milwaukee School of Engineering (12-5, 7-5) vs. Marian (11-5-3, 9-4-1)

Two of the top goaltenders will meet up in this weekend NCHA series.

Nick Kohn is fifth in the league in GAA (1.79), while Omar Mullan leads the offense for the Raiders, punching in seven goals and dishing out eight assists. Gage Christianson has come through with 14 assists, fueling the offense with his remarkable play-making ability. He has also scored twice.

Marian is one of the hottest teams in the conference, having won its last six games. The Sabres have been aided by the play of goaltender Mike Baldwin, who has started 13 games and is fourth in the conference in goals against average (1.67). The offense is led by Devin Stuermer, who ranks fourth in the NCHA in goals with 10. He has also dished out nine assists. Derek Thorogood is third on the team in points with 25.

Marian, 5-3, MSOE, 5-4

St. Norbert (14-2-1, 10-2) vs. Concordia (Wis.) (9-6-2, 5-5-2)

Michael Hill has played a pivotal role in the success of the Green Knights, striking for 11 goals and dishing out four assists. St. Norbert also features two of the best goaltenders in the conference in Tony Kujava and T.J. Black. Kujava owns a 1.42 GAA and Black’s stands at 1.57. They rank first and second, respectively, in the conference in that category.

St. Norbert has racked up 81 goals on 108 assists as its offense is one of the most balanced in the nation.

Concordia has only scored 49 goals, but has done it off 91 assists. Stefen Seel has dished out 12 assists to go along with six goals, while Trammell Lynes has come through with 10 assists. Braden Crone leads the team in goals scored with seven and goaltenders Andy Munroe and Jack Romanulk have combined to start 17 games.

St. Norbert, 6-3, 5-2

Wisconsin-Stout (9-6-4, 1-1) vs. Wisconsin-Superior (6-11-2, 0-2)

Stout is looking to end a three-game winless streak and stay in the hunt for a conference title. The Blue Devils have a winning record on the road, fashioning a 4-3-1 mark, and they hope to continue that success Friday night. Jake Useldinger has played a key role offensively, scoring eight goals and dishing out nine assists. Five other players have scored at least five goals.

Superior is the only team in the WIAC without a win in conference play. The Yellow Jackets are just 2-6-2 at home and are hoping to change that trend this weekend. Ian Ecklund leads the team in points with eight goals and 14 assists. Anton Svensson leads Superior in goals scored with 10.

I think Stout’s balance will be too much to deal with.

Stout, 4-3.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire (12-5-2, 2-2) vs. Wisconsin-Superior (9-6-4, 1-1)

The Blugolds have won five of seven and are determined to stay on track for a conference championship. They feature a high-powered offense that has cranked out 76 goals, with Adam Knochenmus paving the way with 16 goals and 12 assists. Eight other players have tallied at least four goals. Tyler Green has started 13 games at goaltender, including the last four, and owns a 1.69 GAA. He has won eight games.

Superior will look to counter Eau Claire’s potent attack with a stellar defensive effort. Ethan Wood has started seven games and has won twice. Cory Simons has six starts and has picked up three wins. No matter who starts in goal, he will have to be on top of his game for Stout to have a shot at pulling off the upset.

Eau Claire, 5-2.


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