Playoff games typically bring out the best in teams and that should be the case this weekend in the MIAC, NCHA and WIAC.
The margin for error will be slim. In fact, when Adrian and St. Norbert played in the regular season, both games were decided by a goal. The same goes for the two regular-season meetings between Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Wisconsin-River Falls.
A lot will be riding on all three title games as the MIAC and NCHA both have automatic bids up for grabs while at the very least, the winner of the WIAC title game should get a bid to the tournament.
St. John’s (13-9-4) at Augsburg (16-8-2)
The Johnnies are unbeaten in their last 10 games. The Auggies are the regular-season conference champs and want the tourney crown as well as they aim to punch a ticket to the NCAA tournament for the first time in nearly 20 years.
St. John’s won the regular-season meetings by the scores of 5-3 and 4-2 and has one of the top goaltenders in the game in Saxton Soley, who is 49-29-10 in his career. Huba Sekesi leads the offense with nine goals and 16 assists.
Augsburg is playing for its first title since the 1997-98 campaign and has a pretty solid goaltender as well in Jordyn Kaufer, who has 15 wins and has recorded three shutouts this year. Nate Flynn is the leader of the offense, racking up 16 goals and 13 assists.
It’s worth noting St. John’s has been tough on the road, going 9-2-1. Augsburg is 8-4-1 at home.
St. Norbert (23-2-2) at Adrian (23-3-1)
The top two teams in the nation square off for the conference title. Adrian is the defending Harris Cup champion and owns a 13-0 record on its own ice. St. Norbert is 14-0-2 away from home.
The two teams split in the regular season, with the Bulldogs winning 5-4 before the Green Knights earned a 2-1 win in the second game of their series.
Adrian has the lone unbeaten goaltender in the country in Kevin Entmaa, who is 14-0 on the season. The Bulldogs aren’t bad offensively either, scoring 150 goals, including 16 apiece from Mathew Thompson and Trevor Boyd.
Erik Cooper is a tremendous threat for the Green Knights, tallying 12 goals and 20 assists. He has scored at least one point in 19 consecutive games. Tony Kujava has won 14 games in goal.
Adrian has won six in a row. St. Norbert has a four-game win streak. Something will have to give.
Stevens Point (20-5-2) at River Falls (16-6-5)
Stevens Point beat River Falls 4-3 in their second meeting of the regular season. River Falls earned in a 3-2 win its first showdown with the Pointers.
The Pointers are 11-3-1 on the road and have struck for 131 goals, including 19 by Lawrence Cornellier. Joe Kalisz leads the team in points with 13 goals and 27 assists.
The game will feature two of the best goaltenders in the nation against each other as well. Max Milosek has 15 wins, including two shutouts, for the Pointers, while Tanner Milliron has won 14 games and has kept four opponents off the scoreboard this season.
Expect a title battle from start to finish between these two WIAC rivals.
Stevens Point, 3-2.