Santa’s wish list for the West conferences

Kevin Entmaa of Adrian (Mike Dickie/Adrian Athletics)
Kevin Entmaa of Adrian (Mike Dickie/Adrian Athletics)

Christmas break has arrived and the it’s only fitting that we take a little time to mention some of the items on teams’ wish lists for the second half of the season.

Not sure what Santa will actually be able to deliver for the teams out west, but we can give it a shot and see what happens.

Over in the MIAC, St. Thomas would love to maintain its hold on first place in the conference standings the rest of the way. The Tommies enter the break with a 5-0-1 league record and 16 points, giving them a four-point lead over second-place Saint Mary’s.

St. Thomas has been impressive so far, losing only once in its last eight games, and there is no reason to think the Tommies can’t hang onto first place and win the title. Of course, it won’t be easy, and that’s where the gift of success might come into play from Santa.

The Tommies still have to play Saint Mary’s, Saint John’s, Concordia, and Augsburg. All four of those teams aren’t too far behind St. Thomas in the standings, with the Cardinals sitting in second, the Johnnies in third, and the Auggies and Cobbers tied for fourth.

It would also be nice to see Santa give Russ Jordan of Hamline the opportunity to continue his breakout season.

Jordan is lighting up the scoreboard big time this season, leading the MIAC in points (20) and goals (11). Jordan has the Pipers in a position to make a big-time move in the second half. Hamline is in a three-way tie with Augsburg and Concordia in terms of points (nine), but has lost its last three. If Jordan continues to thrive, however, Hamline can turn things around in time to clinch a berth in the MIAC tournament.

The other thing that would be great to see Santa bring to the MIAC is a little good fortune for first-year St. Olaf coach Mike Eaves.

It’s been a tough start for a coach who had an unbelievable amount of success while coaching at Wisconsin. In 14 seasons, he led the Badgers to seven NCAA tournament appearances, with the 2006 run ending with a national title. His teams won 20 games eight times.

Success hasn’t come as easily at St. Olaf so far, with the Oles sitting at 3-9-1 overall and 1-5 in the conference, but Eaves knows how to coach and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he gets things moving in the right direction for St. Olaf in the second half of the season.

I’m sure hockey fans in the NCHA would love to see Santa give us two instant classics when Adrian and St. Norbert square off in late January. The Bulldogs and Green Knights are the top two teams in the league and are two of the best nationally as well.

Adrian has already scored 59 goals behind three of the top goal scorers in the conference in Bryan Yim, Vince Paquette, and Trevor Boyd. All three have tallied eight goals apiece to fuel the high-powered offense of the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs have been solid defensively as well, giving up only 29 goals behind the efforts of Kevin Entmaa, who is 5-2-2 on the season.

St. Norbert features two of the best goalies in the conference in T.J. Black and Tony Kujava. Black leads the league in goals-against average (0.87) and is tops winning percentage (.896) as well. Kujava has the third-best goals-against average (2.24) in the NCHA.

However, the Green Knights are also impressive on the offensive end of the ice, scoring 50 goals. Tanner Froese leads the way with seven.

On paper, both games between the two powerhouses should have a playoff-like feel to them and I’m sure Santa will provide the added insurance that both games live up to the hype.

Northland is hoping it can maintain momentum for Christmas. The Lumberjacks closed out the first half of the season with two consecutive wins, a good sign for a team that had dropped three in a row prior to putting a win streak together.

The thing that should help Northland in its cause to stay on the right track is that it will play five of its first six games in 2017 at home. The only road date is against Wisconsin-Stevens Point. If the Lumberjacks can come out of that stretch in good shape, a winning season is realistic.

After all, Northland already has five wins, which is just two off the total it had all of last season.

Finlandia could really use a win for Christmas. Two or three wins would be even better.

The Lions lost all 13 games during the first half of the season, but they showed some encouraging signs in their series against Wiscosnin-River Falls last week, losing 2-0 and 1-0 to the Falcons, ending a seven-game streak where they gave up four or more goals in each of those games.

Finlandia needs to be able to generate offense, having scored just 14 goals, and perhaps Santa can provide the Lions’ offense with a little Christmas magic that will do wonders for the team in the second half of the year.

In the WIAC, Wis.-Stevens Point would love for Santa to deliver another national title. The reigning champs, though, probably don’t need too much help from the guy in the red suit because they have the pieces in place to contend for a title again.

Wis.-Stevens Point is 9-2-2 and unbeaten in its last four games. The Pointers’ offense is crazy good, cranking out 57 goals. Ten players have scored at least three goals, with Lawrence Cornellier and Jacob Barber leading the way with eight apiece.

Both teams are 0-2 in the conference. The Falcons are the favorites to win the title. They ended the first half with three consecutive wins and will get another shot at Wis.-Stevens Point and Wisconsin-Eau Claire in January.

Wis.-River Falls lost 3-0 to Wis.-Stevens Point and fell 3-1 to Wis.-Eau Claire, so on that note, revenge wouldn’t be a bad gift either for the Falcons.

As for Wis.-Superior, it is winless in its last four games and won’t return to WIAC action until late January when it plays Wis.-Stevens Point, Wisconsin-Stout, and Wis.-Eau Claire in a span of five days. Between now and then, the Yellow Jackets will look to build a little momentum in the hopes of being ready for the challenges they will face when they return to conference play.

Regardless of what Santa does or doesn’t bring a team this Christmas, the second half of the season should be fun to watch and hopefully fans will be treated to plenty of excitement on the ice once play resumes in a few weeks.

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