West picks: Feb. 9

As the season winds down, the matchups become more important. St. Thomas and Augsburg square off in a crucial MIAC series while WIAC play wraps up this weekend and features a showdown between Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Wisconsin-Eau Claire. St. Scholastica is on the road for a key series with St. Norbert and Concordia is playing host to Adrian.

Below is a look at my picks for the weekend.

Friday-Saturday, Feb. 10-11

Saint Mary’s (12-8-3, 8-5-1) at Saint John’s (10-8-3, 5-5-2)
The Cardinals are alive and well in the hunt for the conference title as they enter the weekend tied for second place. They have won their last two games and are averaging just over three goals per game. Bob Kinne and Chad Cesarz provide a formidable one-two goal-scoring punch, tallying 13 and 11 goals, respectively. If those two are on, Saint Mary’s is tough to beat. The Johnnies, off a week ago, have lost two in a row and sit three points out of the fifth and final playoff spot in the MIAC. Tyler Nelson has seen the majority of time in goal, playing in 14 games and winning seven times. He’ll need to be ready to slow down the Cardinals’ offensive attack if the Johnnies are going to succeed in this series. Saint Mary’s 5-2, Saint John’s 4-3

Augsburg (13-3-5, 7-1-4) vs. St. Thomas (11-6-4, 9-2-1) (home-and-home)
It doesn’t get any bigger than this as the Auggies have a golden opportunity to take over first place in the conference standings. Augsburg has seen its last three games end in a tie and owns a winning record at home and on the road. The Auggies have the best offense in the conference, putting up 3.81 goals per game, and also rank first in assists with 135. St. Thomas begins this home-and-home series at home, where it is 8-1 on the year. The Tommies are 3-3-2 in road games. St. Thomas will look to counter with a defense that is the best in the league in goals allowed, giving up only 48. Benjamin Meyers anchors the defense, winning 10 games and making 466 saves. St. Thomas 3-1, Augsburg 5-3

St. Scholastica (12-8-1, 10-5-1) at St. Norbert (16-4-1, 12-3-1)
The Green Knights have won two in a row and are looking to wipe out any hope the Saints have of stealing possession of first place. St. Norbert has one of the top goalies in the league in T.J. Black, who owns a 1.15 goals-against average and has won 11 games. Tanner Froese leads the team in goals with 11 on the year. The Saints feature one of the league’s top scorers in Brandon Millin, who leads the league in points (27) and is second in the NCHA in goals (13). St. Scholastica has scored 75 goals and has two capable goalies in Peter Megariotis and Zane Steeves. St. Norbert 4-2, 3-2

Adrian (14-5-2, 13-3) at Concordia (12-8-1, 9-6-1)
The Bulldogs have won their last two games and are hoping to keep the momentum rolling against a Falcons team that is in the midst of a memorable season. Adrian features one of the best offenses in the league, scoring 95 goals. Trevor Boyd and Bryan Yim have fueled the attack with 12 and 11 goals, respectively. The Bulldogs also have one of the top goalies in the league in Kevin Entmaa, who owns a 2.31 goals-against average. Concordia has a strong goalie as well in Jack Romanuik, who has a 2.99 goals-against average. Romanuik has won nine games and has tallied 374 saves. The Falcons have scored 64 goals as a team, with Connor Hogg scoring a team-best 10 goals. The Falcons have the confidence to win big games, having already swept St. Norbert earlier this season. Adrian 5-3, 4-2

Saturday, Feb. 11

Wis.-Stevens Point (16-4-3) at Wis.-Eau Claire (15-5-3, 4-2)
The WIAC title will be on the line when these two teams battle Saturday night in Eau Claire. The Pointers have a one-game lead over the Blugolds in the standings. The first meeting between these two teams ended with Wis.-Stevens Point grinding out a 3-2 win. This one should be just as close. The Pointers have won their last three games and boast an offense that has put up 96 goals, including a team-best 17 from Lawrence Cornellier. He has also dished out 32 assists. Max Milosek has been stellar in goal for the Pointers, winning 13 games and stopping 389 shots. The Blugolds have won three of five and counter with a great goalie of their own in Jay Deo, who has won 15 games and has racked up 502 saves. Wis.-Eau Claire is solid offensively as well, scoring 89 goals. The conference’s best scoring threat, Patrick Moore, leads the way with 15 goals and a WIAC-best 21 assists. This game could go either way. Wis.-Eau Claire 4-3

Wisconsin-River Falls (12-10-3, 3-3) at Wisconsin-Stout (10-11-2, 2-4)
Wis.-River Falls is playing its best hockey at the right time of the year, winning six of its last seven games. The Falcons have won 10 of their last 12 overall and want to carry that momentum into the WIAC tournament. They feature a balanced attack where 10 players have scored at least three goals and Zach Quinn has been solid in goal, winning 10 games and allowing only 29 goals. Wis.-Stout is 7-3 on its home ice and would love nothing more than to end the regular season with a win Saturday night. The Blue Devils enter the weekend on a three-game losing streak. Riley Colvard has paved the way for the Blue Devils, scoring 10 goals. He is one of 11 players who has scored at least three goals on the season. Wis.-River Falls 4-2

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