West picks

In the final weekend before Christmas break, a couple of big games are on the slate. Defending national champion Wisconsin-Stevens Point hosts Adrian in a two-game series starting Friday, and St. Thomas will go on the road to play St. Norbert Saturday.

Below is a closer look at those matchups and others, along with predictions.

Friday, Dec. 9

Wisconsin-Eau Claire (8-1-2) at Hamline (6-3-2)
Wis.-Eau Claire is one of the hottest teams in the nation, winning its last six, and they’ll try to keep that momentum going with a road game against the Pipers. The Blugolds are 3-1-1 away from home and have scored 47 goals on the season. Mac Jansen leads the way with nine and Patrick Moore is the leader in points, scoring six goals and dishing out 13 assists. Wis.-Eau Claire doesn’t give up much on defense either, allowing only 22 goals. Hamline is looking to end a two-game losing streak before heading into its holiday break. The Pipers have been solid offensively, scoring 40 goals. Russ Jordan continues to fuel the attack, putting up nine goals and nine assists. The Pipers have allowed 31 goals. Wis.-Eau Claire 4-3

Wisconsin-Stout (5-5) at Concordia (6-4)
Wis.-Stout just snapped a three-game losing streak with a 5-3 win over Wisconsin-Superior and hopes to feed off that success in this road game with the Cobbers. The Blue Devils haven’t had much luck on the road, though, going just 2-4. They are 2-2 against MIAC teams this season. Riley Colvard and Connor Velesano have each scored five goals and fuel an offense that has scored 31 times. Playing well defensively will be huge for Wis.-Stout, which has given up 35 goals. Concordia comes into this matchup with a two-game winning streak and is playing its final game of 2016. The Cobbers have a solid goalie in Sam Nelson, who is 4-2 with a 2.51 goals-against average. When he’s on top of his game, the Cobbers are tough to beat. Concordia 3-2

Friday-Saturday, Dec. 9-10

Adrian (8-1-1) at Wisconsin-Stevens Point (8-2-1)
The Bulldogs head out on the road hoping to make a statement in a showdown of two national powerhouses. Adrian is 4-0 away from home so playing in a hostile environment won’t be a big deal. The Bulldogs feature a high-scoring offense that is cranking out just over five goals per game and Trevor Boyd has fueled the attack with eight goals and 10 assists. Adrian also boasts one of the top netminders in the game in Kevin Entmaa, who is 6-1-1 with a 2.11 goals-against average. The sophomore has lost only twice in his career.

Wis.-Stevens Point, winners of two in a row, is as impressive as ever on the offensive end of the ice, putting up just under five goals per outing. Jacob Barber leads the way with eight goals. Max Milosek is 5-1-1 on the year with a 2.13 goals-against average. The Pointers lost 6-3 the last time these two teams met. You have to believe Wis.-Stevens Point wins at least one game in what is expected to be a tightly contested series. Wis.-Stevens Point 5-3, Adrian 4-3

Saint Mary’s (5-4-2) at Aurora (3-6)
The Cardinals are hoping to end a three-game losing streak when they battle the Spartans in this two-game series on the road. St. Mary’s has scored 31 goals and has allowed 31 goals. Bob Kinne leads the way with five goals and three assists. Four other players have scored at least three goals. Aurora is a competitive team, giving St. Norbert all it could handle in a series earlier this year, losing 2-0 and 4-3. The Spartans, though, have struggled to score goals, managing only 16 on the year, and they’ll need to crank up their production to hang with the Cardinals. St. Mary’s 5-2, 4-3
 
Wisconsin-River Falls (3-8-1) at Finlandia (0-11)
The Falcons have struggled most of the year but look to close out the first half with momentum. They head out on the road to take on Finlandia, which has yet to win a game. Wis.-River Falls has managed only 24 goals while allowing 32, but should jump-start its offense against the Lions, who have given up more than 60 goals on the year. Joe Drapluk leads the attack with five goals. Hunter Schneider has come through with five assists. The Lions have played hard but just haven’t been able to nail down a win. It might be tough for Finlandia to get a win out of this weekend but if it can keep both games close it could serve as momentum for it heading into the second half of the year. Thomas Clayton leads Finlandia with three goals and two assists. Wis.-River Falls 5-0, 7-2

Saturday, Dec. 10
 
St. Thomas (6-2-3) at St. Norbert (9-2-1)
The Tommies are unbeaten in their last seven games and have won two in a row overall. Michael Dockry leads St. Thomas with five goals and seven assists and Benjamin Myers has been solid in goal, winning five times. He has tallied 224 saves for a Tommies team that has given up only 23 goals. St. Norbert is 6-1 on its own ice this year and is averaging four goals per game. Tanner Froese anchors the offense, tallying six goals, and the Green Knights have enough depth to beat anyone on any given night. T.J. Black is 6-0 in goal this season and if he has another solid performance, it will be tough for St. Thomas to steal one on the road. St. Norbert 4-3

Saint John’s (6-4-2) at St. Scholastica (4-5)
The Johnnies play the Saints in their final game of the first half of the season. They have struggled on the road this year, going just 1-3-2, but they hope to turn their fortunes around against the Saints. Sam Valerius has been instrumental to the Johnnies’ success, scoring six goals and dishing out seven assists. He is one 12 players who has scored at least two goals this season. That balance should serve the Johnnies well in their battle against the Saints. The Saints head into the weekend on a two-game losing streak, but continue to get great production from Brandon Millin, who has racked up four goals and six assists. Derek Sutliffe has tallied three goals and five assists. St. John’s 4-2

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