East picks: Dec. 29

Happy New Year! The second half officially begins with some terrific tournament and nonconference play before we welcome in 2017, so if football isn’t your thing, check out some great D-III tournament action. The final weekend of play before the break saw me stumble a bit, going 5-3-0 (.625) and missing the call on Buffalo State’s upset win over Oswego. That brings the season total to 32-15-1 (.677) which is hopefully only a temporary setback in my quest for getting north of a 70 percent success rate.

There are some really tough matchups, especially in the tournaments, so here are the picks, focused on the first round games only.

Thursday, Dec. 29

Franklin Pierce at Salve Regina
The Codfish Bowl has proven over the years to have a lot of upsets in the semifinal games, but not this time around, as the Seahawks’ overall game is too much for the Ravens. Salve Regina 4- 1

Connecticut College at Massachusetts-Boston
Not sure there has been a tournament that has been so uncharitable to the host school so much as the Codfish Bowl has been to the Beacons. Tough NESCAC foe, but special teams and the offense overcome the Camels in a tough and exciting contest. Mass.-Boston 5-4

Friday, Dec. 30

Oswego at Williams
The Northfield Bank tournament hosted by Norwich again has a terrific field, and while a lot of people would love to see a Norwich/Oswego final, don’t count out Nazareth or Williams. This one is a high-octane game, but without a lot of goals. Lakers eke by and maybe with a shootout after OT. Oswego 2-1

Wesleyan at Plattsburgh
The host Cardinals enters the second half as just a .500 team, and that is unfamiliar turf for Plattsburgh. Conversely, Wesleyan is coming off a solid first half and looks to continue its solid play. Connecticut Cardinals over the New York Cardinals by a goal. Wesleyan 3-2

St. Anselm at Middlebury
The Panthers may be approaching desperation in terms of needing a win to validate their effort on the ice, but the Hawks are not going to make it easy. Shane Joyce is the difference maker. St. Anselm 3-2

Sunday, Jan. 1

Skidmore at Hamilton
I think this could be a 0-0 tie and not because there will be any lack of offense. Both of these teams play solid 200-foot games and the goaltending has been superb. Think home ice and Buitenhuis being just one save better than MacDonald or Brandon Kasel make the difference. Hamilton 1- 0

Monday, Jan. 2

New England College at Amherst
A solid start, a rough middle to the first half and a league win to end the first semester has Amherst directionally oriented, but the Pilgrims have stealthily been one of the better teams in the East. It likely takes some special teams magic and an empty-net goal to earn a tough second half opening win. Amherst 5-3

Tuesday, Jan. 3

Endicott at Salem State
Nothing like a home-and-home series separated by 24 days to let the wounds of a 6-0 wipeout fester a bit. The Vikings haven’t found their game yet, while the Gulls outscored their opponents 22-0 in the final three games of the first half. Pride and home ice crowd at “The Rockett” keep this one close. Endicott 3-1

With 2017 is upon us, don’t think that some of these nonconference games being tiebreakers for NCAA consideration aren’t in the coaches’ minds in tournaments that have great fields over the New Year’s holiday week. “Drop the puck!”

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