West picks: Feb. 23

It’s playoff time in NCAA Division III hockey. Here is a look at the matchups this coming weekend.

Friday-Saturday, Feb. 24-25

Wisconsin-Superior at Wisconsin-Stevens Point
The Pointers are determined to repeat as conference tourney champions and should have no problem taking the next step toward that goal. With 107 goals, their offense is the best in the WIAC, and they have allowed only 62 goals. Three of the top five in points in the league are from Wis.-Stevens Point, including Lawrence Cornellier, who has scored 19 goals to go along with 18 assists. The Yellow Jackets will have to take their play to another level, especially on the defensive end, as they allow the most goals in the league, giving up 92 on the season. Wis.-Superior needs offensive threats Anton Svensson and Daniel Litchke to rise to the occasion. The two are tied for fifth in goals scored in the WIAC. Wis.-Stevens-Point 5-2, 6-3

Wisconsin-River Falls at Wisconsin-Eau Claire
The Falcons were picked to win the regular-season crown. That didn’t happen, but they still have a shot at the tourney crown. Wis.-River Falls, winners of four of its last six, lost twice to the Blugolds in the regular season. The Falcons have struggled offensively, scoring only 60 goals, but they have thrived on defense, giving up a league-low 52 goals. Zach Quinn has led the way, fashioning a 1.73 goals-against average. He has won 10 games for the Falcons. Wis.-Eau Claire has a good goalie as well in Jay Deo. Deo owns a 2.12 goals-against average and has won 16 games. There is no question goaltending will play a role in the outcome. The difference, though, is the Blugolds have a more potent offense, scoring 92 goals this season. Wis.-Eau Claire 5-4, 4-2

Saturday, Feb. 25

Hamline at St. Thomas
I think Hamline will find a way to knock off Concordia in its quarterfinal game, setting the stage for a showdown between the Tommies and Pipers. St. Thomas is the MIAC regular season champion and is unbeaten in its last three games.  The Tommies beat the Pipers both times in the regular season. They rank third in goals (82) and have allowed a league-low 61 goals this season. Benjamin Myers has been instrumental to that success, fashioning a 2.36 goals-against average. Hamline, winless in its last four, counters with one of the best offensive players in college hockey in Russ Jordan, who leads the MIAC in points (32) and goals (18). Jordan is having a breakout season, and when he is on top of his game, the Pipers have a chance to win. St. Thomas 4-3

Saint Mary’s at Augsburg
This is arguably the most intriguing matchup of the weekend. Augsburg fell just short of its goal of winning a league championship, finishing three points behind St. Thomas, but has the offensive firepower to make a run at the title. Saint Mary’s is just as capable of scoring goals. The Cardinals rank second in goals scored (84) and have won three of their last four games. They are anchored by the play of Bob Kinne, who has tallied 13 goals this season. Augsburg, which has tallied a league-leading 98 goals, is fueled by the play of Nate Flynn, who has scored 14 goals to go along with his 13 assists. Not only are the Auggies tough offensively, they have two capable goalies in Nick Schmit and Jordyn Kaufer. That could be the difference. Augsburg 5-4

St. Scholastica at St. Norbert
St. Scholastica took out surprise playoff qualifier Northland, 3-1, and now gets a date Saturday with the Green Knights, who were the national runner-up a year ago. The Saints lost both regular-season meetings to the Green Knights but are hoping for better luck this time around. Generating offense will be key for the Saints, who managed only two goals in the two-game series against the Green Knights. Brandon Millin leads the attack with 15 goals and 14 assists. St. Norbert is as good as any team on both ends of the ice. The Green Knights have scored 96 goals and lead the NCHA in goals allowed with 36. T.J. Black is one of the best goalies in the conference, winning 14 games and allowing only 19 goals this season. St. Norbert 7-2

Marian at Adrian
Marian took care of business against Lake Forest, winning 5-2, and now moves into a semifinal showdown with the reigning Harris Cup champions. Marian is looking to pull off the upset entering this game Saturday. The Sabres have won two in a row and will need production from their top two scoring threats. Derek Thorogood and Gianni Mangone have scored 10 goals apiece; Thorogood leads the team in points with 25. The only thing that needs to be said about Adrian is that its offense is unreal. The Bulldogs have three of the top players in points in the NCHA, including Cory Dunn, who has tallied 34 points. Trevor Boyd leads the team in goals with 15. Adrian is as hot as any team right now, winning six consecutive games, and it will be tough to slow down a Bulldogs team with all the momentum in the world. Adrian 5-3

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