Weekend West picks: Feb. 12-13

The home stretch is here for D-III college hockey and several big games are on the schedule for this weekend, including a showdown of the top two teams in the MIAC as St. Thomas battles Augsburg.

In the NCHA, the featured matchup pits two nationally-ranked teams against each other as St. Norbert and St. Scholastica square off.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Wisconsin-Stevens Point play Saturday to highlight the WIAC schedule.

St. Thomas (11-6-4, 8-2-2) vs. Augsburg (14-6-1, 10-1-1)

The Auggies have an opportunity to move a step closer to the MIAC championship. But playing the defending conference champs won’t be a walk in the park.

Augsburg has won four in a row and Nate Flynn has been nothing short of phenomenal, scoring 15 goals and dishing out 12 assists. Goaltender Jordyn Kaufer is playing at the top of his game at the moment. In 17 starts, he has 13 wins and only four losses. He owns a 2.05 GAA and a .926 save percentage.

St. Thomas has a pretty good goaltender of its own in Joe Morris, who has fashioned a 2.17 GAA and a .924 save percentage while helping the Tommies win their last two games. Connor McBride is paving the way offensively, tallying 11 goals and five assists on the year.

Augsburg, 3-2, St. Thomas 2-1.

St. John’s (8-9-4, 6-4-2) vs. St. Mary’s (9-12-2, 6-7-1)

The Johnnies are hoping to remain in the top three in a tight MIAC race, but face the challenge of playing on the road against the Cardinals for a weekend series.

The Johnnies are unbeaten in their last five games, with the last two games ending in 2-2 ties against St. Thomas. Neal Smith leads the way in goals with nine, while Kevin Becker has tallied 11 assists. Saxton Soley has six wins on the year, a 2.43 GAA and a .919 save percentage.

St. Mary’s is currently in line for the fifth and final playoff spot and can solidify that spot with a strong showing against St. John’s. The Cardinals have dropped three of four and are 6-5 at home, which is where both of these games will be played. Martin Gruse is having a crazy successful year, scoring 13 goals and dishing out 17 assists. Jay Heinle has the most goals with 16.

St. John’s, 4-3, 4-2.

St. Norbert (18-2-1, 14-2) vs. St. Scholastica (14-5-2, 12-4)

The Green Knights are ranked No. 1 and face a late-season test against the 15th-ranked Saints on the road. St. Scholastica can move into a tie for first in the division with a sweep.

St. Norbert has won its last five, allowing only three goals during the streak, while Michael Hill, Pijus Rulevicius and Roman Uchyn lead the offense with 11 goals apiece. It’s worth noting that the Green Knights are unbeaten away from home, sporting a 12-0-1 record.

The Saints skate into this series as winners of five of their last six games. It will be the second time they have faced a ranked team in a series this season, splitting with the Milwaukee School of Engineering earlier in the year. Dylan Nowakowski has racked up 12 goals and 20 assists, while Brandon Millin has tallied 13 goals and 13 assists.

St. Norbert, 5-4, St. Scholastica 4-3.

Concordia (Wis.) (10-9-2, 6-8-2) vs. Adrian (17-3-1, 13-2-1)

The Falcons have dropped three of four and have struggled on the road, winning only twice in eight tries. It won’t be easy to turn things around against the third-ranked Bulldogs.

But Concordia is coming off a split against St. Scholastica and Braden Crone is playing well, having racked up eight goals and 11 assists. Stefen Seel has come through with six goals and 12 assists for the Falcons.

Adrian has won two of three and is hoping to keep its record at home unblemished. The Bulldogs are 9-0 on their own ice this season. Mathew Thompson has been instrumental to the success, scoring 16 goals and dishing out 16 assists. He is one of 10 players to score at least five goals. The Bulldogs have scored 115 goals in all while allowing only 45. They have given up three or more goals only five times this season, but one of those was in a 6-4 loss last Friday at Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Adrian, 5-2, 4-2.

Wisconsin-Superior (8-13-3, 2-4-1) at Wisconsin-Eau Claire (13-5-5, 3-2-1)

Superior is looking to play spoiler against No. 10 Eau Claire. The Yellowjackets lost 5-2 in the first meeting last month.

Ian Ecklund leads the offense of the Yellowjackets with nine goals and 18 assists. Anton Svensson is the top goal scorer with 12. He has also dished out 11 assists. All three of Superior’s goaltenders have played in at least eight games, with Cory Simons sporting a 4-3-0 mark, a 2.94 GAA and a .906 save percentage.

Eau Claire is unbeaten in its last five games, with four of those contests going to overtime. Three of the five games have ended in ties. Adam Knochenmus leads the way on offense with 18 goals and 15 assists. Patrick Moore has come through with 10 goals and 15 assists.

Eau Claire, 6-2.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire (13-5-5, 3-2-1) at Wisconsin-Stevens Point (18-4-1, 4-2)

The Blugolds will close out the regular season against the fourth-ranked Pointers. The first meeting was tight, decided by one goal in overtime, as Eau Claire won 5-4.

Stevens Point comes into the showdown as the hottest team in the league, winning its last six. The Pointers have scored at least six goals in four of those wins. While Eau Claire features a high-powered offense, having scored 89 goals, Stevens Point is even more potent, punching in 121 goals this year.

Four players have scored at least 11 goals, including 16 by Lawrence Cornellier and Kyle Sharkey. Each has 11 assists as well, while Joe Kalisz leads the team in points with 13 goals and 25 assists.

This is a game that could very well decide the conference title.

Stevens Point, 6-4.