East picks: Jan. 26

The battles now are virtually all in conference, so teams really need to take care of business in the one thing they can sort of control — the game they are playing. No scoreboard watching just yet. Finished at 5-2-1 (.687) last week, which brings the season total to 51-22-7 (.681). I have been consistent, but not quite good enough if I want to break the 70 percent success threshold.

No time like the present to step up my game, so here are this week’s picks.

Thursday, Jan. 26

Becker at Johnson & Wales
With both of these teams it has been difficult to predict which team is going to show up at game time. Will it be the world-beating one or the one that makes you wonder what happened that has them a bit flat? This one could seriously go either way, but counting on home ice and Connor Bates and Joey Ballmer to be the difference. Johnson & Wales 3-2

Plymouth State at Worcester State
This game should go the Panthers’ way, but there is a lot of hockey between should and will. On the positive side of things, PSU has got a bit of rhythm going and would like to keep a winning streak going. They also seem to be a bit better on the road recently and that swings this one their way. Plymouth State 4-3

Friday, Jan. 27

Utica at Neumann
The great thing about the ECAC West is that when you don’t like the standings, wait a weekend because it is all subject to change. Utica still sits on top but some teams are closing in on them and the Knights would like to be one of those contenders. Both teams lost on the road last weekend and the home team has a slight advantage here. Neumann 4-2

Wesleyan at Amherst
A couple of things you can count on from Jack Arena-coached teams are a 60-minute effort and great special teams. The latter was the difference in last week’s big win over Hamilton and this game will need a bit of both. Amherst 3-2

Buffalo State at Plattsburgh
Since returning from the break, the Cardinals offense has been rolling, including an 8-spot against Morrisville last weekend. Plattsburgh offense, meet Mike DeLaVergne in goal for the Bengals. No crooked number this week. Buffalo State 4-1

Saturday, Jan. 28

Franklin Pierce at Stonehill
The NE-10 is already heating up and since only the top four make the playoffs there is no time like the present to make a move. The Ravens go as far as goaltender Tom McGuckin can carry them and while he keeps it close, the Skyhawks have a little bit more up front. Stonehill 3-2

Colby at University of New England
This nonconference affair in Maine will be a fun game to watch in terms of UNE’s offensive firepower vs. Colby’s team game and disciplined defense. The visitors prove they like playing with pace and stay sharp before their stretch run in the NESCAC race. Colby 5-3

Endicott at Salve Regina
The Seahawks won the title last season by beating the Gulls in the championship game. If they want to send the message about where the championship goes through this year, holding serve on home ice is a good start. This one will come down to one play and maybe in overtime as Blake Wojtala and Kevin Aldridge are very stingy goaltenders. Salve Regina 2-1

It is the final weekend of games in Jan. and that means the countdown to the playoffs is on for February. Every point matters especially as the number of remaining games dwindles. Need more excitement? Better check your pulse rate! “Drop the puck!”

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