West picks: Nov. 3

The first November weekend of hockey has arrived and it’s time for another year of making predictions. Every team out west already has games under their belt and will go into this weekend either looking to build on early-season momentum or get back on track.

Several crossover matches are mixed in with conference matchups among the eight I’ve selected to make picks on.

Friday, Nov. 4

Wis.-Eau Claire at Saint Mary’s
The Cardinals (0-1-1) are looking for their first win of the season in this Friday night showdown after two close games in the opening weekend. Saint Mary’s, which scored five goals in its first two games, needs to be on its game offensively to keep pace with the Blugolds (2-0), who have 11 goals already, including three by Mac Jansen. Wis.-Eau Claire 5-2

Wis.-Stevens Point at Gustavus
Gustavus (1-1) welcomes the reigning national champions to town and will need the effort of a lifetime to stun the Pointers. Colin Hernon (two goals) and the offense have to be able to keep pace offensively to have a shot at the upset. The Pointers (2-0) appear to have too many weapons, however, and their balanced attack — four players have two or more goals — will lead the way to a win. Wis.-Stevens Point, 6-2

Wis.-River Falls at St. Thomas
Two of the better hockey teams in the West will collide this Saturday. The Tommies (0-1-1) are off to a slow start, but don’t expect their struggles to last all season. They play teams close and have the advantage of playing this one at home. A strong start early on offense is important. The Falcons (0-2) are looking for their first win after a couple of tough losses. Generating offense will be important for them as well after they managed only three goals last week. The team that grabs momentum early will be in the driver’s seat. St. Thomas 2-1

Friday-Saturday, Nov. 4-5

St. Olaf vs. Hamline (home-and-home)
The Oles and Pipers play a home-and-home, starting the series off Friday at Hamline. St. Olaf (0-2) struggled out of the gate and lost each of its first two games by three goals despite being competitive. First-year coach Mike Eaves understands the game as well as anyone and you have to believe he’ll get this team back on track. Hamline (1-0-1) had mixed results but with Russ Jordan in the lineup — he scored twice last week — the Pipers should steal at least one. Hamline 4-3, St. Olaf 3-2

St. John’s at Concordia
MIAC runner-up St. John’s has a huge test in a two-game series on the road against the Cobbers in a battle of unbeaten teams. The Johnnies (2-0) tallied 10 goals in their first two games and got solid goaltending from Tyler Nelson and Andrew Lindgren. The two combined to allow four goals. The Cobbers grinded out a pair of one-goal wins last week and will aim to keep this close behind a defense that has given up four goals. Expect this matchup to live up to the hype. St. John’s 4-3, Concordia, 3-2

St. Norbert vs. Lake Forest (home-and-home)
A pivotal home-and-home series awaits the 2016 national runner-up. The Green Knights (2-0) open the series against the unbeaten Foresters (2-0) Friday in Illinois. St. Norbert already has 13 goals on the year, including two apiece from Tanner Froese and Roman Uchyn. The Green Knights also have two strong goalies in T.J. Black and Tony Kujava. For Lake Forest, this is a measuring stick series. The Foresters have a great scoring threat in Jack Lewis (three goals) and Billy Cooper is a tremendous goalie in his own right. I won’t be surprised if St. Nobert loses one of the two but for now the advantage goes to the Green Knights. St. Norbert 5-3, 6-4

Concordia vs. Milwaukee School of Engineering
The Falcons (0-2) are hoping to nail down their first win after a tough opening weekend and Mac Ferner (two goals) will help lead the way in that quest. Concordia has to be able to tighten up on defense to have a shot at knocking off the Raiders (1-1), who have a lot of confidence after stunning nationally ranked Adrian on the road. Protecting home ice is vital to contending in the conference and the Raiders should be able to get that done. MSOE 4-2, 3-2

Saturday, Nov. 5

Wis.-Eau Claire at Augsburg
The Blugolds face a stern test on the road Saturday against the reigning MIAC champ. Great goaltending from Jay Deo is crucial to success for Eau Claire on the road. The Auggies (1-0-1) have seven goals on the season and feature a couple of solid goaltenders in Jordyn Kaufer and Nick Schmit that they can turn to. Scoring opportunities will be limited in a tight game. Augsburg 3-2