West picks: Jan. 19

January is winding down and conference title races are heating up. Perhaps the biggest matchup of the weekend is a showdown between Adrian and St. Norbert in the NCHA. In the WIAC, Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Wisconsin-Eau Claire square off in a key showdown, while Saint Mary’s and Hamline battle for positioning in the standings in a crucial MIAC series.

Below is a look at my picks for the weekend.

Friday, Jan. 20

Wis.-Eau Claire (12-3-3, 2-0) at Wis.-Stevens Point (12-3-3-, 2-0)
Both teams are unbeaten in WIAC play and the winner slides into the driver’s seat for the conference championship. Wis.-Eau Claire, winners of two of their last four, has the second-best offense in the conference and is anchored by the play of Patrick Moore, who has tallied 10 goals and 17 assists. Mac Jansen is having a heck of a year as well, racking up 20 points, including 11 off goals. Winless in their last two games, the Pointers are determined to get back on track. Wis.-Stevens Point features the top offense in the league, averaging just over four goals per game, and is led by Lawrence Cornellier, who has scored 13 goals and dished out 13 assists. Jacob Barber and Kyle Sharkey are third (23) and fifth (20) in points in the conference. This game, pitting two of the best in the nation, is likely decided by who wants it more. The Pointers get the edge at home. Wis.-Stevens Point, 5-4

Friday-Saturday, Jan. 20-21

Concordia (9-5-1, 3-2-1) at Augsburg (10-3-2, 4-1-1)
Concordia has an opportunity to move up in the standings as it hits the road for a pair of games against Augsburg. Sitting in fifth place in the standings, the Cobbers have lost only once in their last seven games. Augsburg is third and all three of its losses have come in its last six games. Two of the best goalies in the league will go at it, with Nick Schmit of the Auggies leading the MIAC in goals-against average (1.61). Concordia’s Sam Nelson ranks third in that category (2.23). Nelson is 5-2-1 and Schmit is 6-1-1 on the season. Augsburg 2-1, Concordia 3-2

Hamline (7-6-3, 4-3-1) vs. St. Mary’s (9-6-2, 5-3)
Fourth-place Hamline and second-place Saint Mary’s duke it out in a crucial home-and-home MIAC series. Separated by just two points in the standings, the winner will keep its hopes alive for a conference title. Both teams are good offensively, with both averaging just over three goals per game. Hamline’s Russ Jordan has been sensational, leading the league in goals (13) and points (22). Mitch Hall is second in the MIAC in points (20). He has dished out 16 assists. Bob Kinne and Chad Cesarz are two of the top goal scorers in the conference, tallying 11 and nine goals, respectively. They rank second and third in the league in goals scored, while teammate Jay Heinle is tied for fourth with eight goals. Saint Mary’s 4-3, Hamline 5-4

St. Olaf (2-5-1, 4-10-2) vs. Gustavus Adolphus(1-10-4, 0-5-1)
St. Olaf has some work to do to move into playoff contention. Gustavus is desperate for its first MIAC win of the season and hoping to snap a 13-game winless streak. The Oles have only two wins in their last five games and enter this home-and-home series eager for a little revenge, having lost their showcase game against the Gusties by a 4-1 score. Drew Otto leads the way, tallying eight goals and seven assists. He’s tied for fourth in the league in goals scored and ranks fifth in points. Jake Bushey is one of the best playmakers in the conference, dishing out 11 assists on the year. He ranks fourth in the league in that category and needs a big weekend for the Gusties to thrive. Gustavus has yet to win at home or on the road this season and is seeking its first win since that victory over St. Olaf in October. St. Olaf 5-2, Gustavus 3-2

St. Norbert (12-2-1, 8-1-1) at Adrian (12-3-2, 11-1)
A standing-room only crowd will be on hand to watch the Bulldogs and Green Knights square off in a pivotal NCHA series that will have an NCAA tournament-like feel to it. Adrian last played St. Norbert in the NCHA title game last season and won 4-1. The Bulldogs feature four of the league’s top offensive players, including Cory Dunn and Trevor Boyd. Both have tallied 25 points apiece, with Dunn dishing out 20 assists and Boyd scoring 12 goals. They are tied for first in points. St. Norbert will lean on goalie T.J. Black to lead the way. Black has allowed only eight goals this season, stopping nearly 95 percent of the shots he has faced, and he has eight wins to his credit. The top-ranked Green Knights have lost just once on the road this year. Both teams have won four in a row. Something has to give. Adrian 3-2, St. Norbert 4-3

Lawrence (5-8-2, 4-4-2) at St. Scholastica (8-6-1, 6-3-1)
The Vikings have one win in their last four games and have earned just one road win this season. They’ll need to change that trend if they want to have success against the Saints, who are unbeaten in their last four games and are 5-2 at home this season. Lawrence has managed only 28 goals this season, but has allowed just 22 thanks to the stellar play of one of the best goalies in the game in Evan Cline. Cline has won just two games, but owns 2.17 goals-against average and has racked up 231 saves in eight games. Brandon Millin leads the Saints with 12 goals, which ties him for the most in the league. He is tied for third in points, helping to fuel a St. Scholastica offense that has tallied 42 goals in all. That total is the second-most in the league. Saint Scholastica 5-3, 4-2

Lake Forest (9-8, 5-7) vs. Marian (9-7-1, 7-5)
When you talk about Lake Forest, you have to mention Jack Lewis, who is tied for the NCHA-lead in goals with 12. Lewis has dished out eight assists as well and ranks seventh in the league in points. The Foresters are anxious to get back on track in this home-and-home series after losing three in a row. Marian is in second place in the South Division and enters the series on a four-game win streak. The Sabres have been playing great hockey since the start of December, winning six of their last seven overall. Goalie Mike Baldwin leads the defense, racking up 354 saves. He has played in 14 games and is 8-4-1 on the year. Lake Forest 3-2, Marian 5-4

Saturday, Jan. 17

Wis.-Stevens Point (12-3-3, 2-0) at Wis.-River Falls (8-9-1, 0-2)
It’s been a tough start for the Falcons, but don’t expect them to stay down the rest of the way. Unbeaten in their last two games, Wis.-River Falls has a golden opportunity to propel itself back into the conference title race. Wis.-River Falls ranks last in goals scored (41), but is first in the conference in goals allowed (38) thanks to the play of freshman sensation Zach Quinn, who is 7-5-1 and allowing only 1.61 goals per game. He has tallied 308 saves. The Pointers will counter with a pretty good goalie of their own in Max Milosek, who is 9-2-3. Milosek owns a goals-against average of 2.26 and has made 292 saves. Wis.-River Falls, 3-2

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