East picks: March 3

I guess I should finally just admit that any result at this point of the season is hardly worth a mention as an upset. This time, my semifinal picks were totally playoff-worthy as I finished at 4-0-0 (.1000) on Tuesday, which brings the season total to 83-40-9 (.663). It is down to the final games for me to shine.

Here are the picks for championship Saturday that includes five title games and the two NESCAC semifinals in advance of their Sunday title match-up — last to start the season and last to finish.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

University of New England at Endicott
The Gulls are on a mission, having fallen just one game short last year in the conference final against Salve Regina. UNE has proven over the past week it can play on the road and there is more scoring than just the B-F-F line. There will be no denying them this time around in front of their home fans with a chance to earn a conference title and an NCAA berth in just their second season as an NCAA varsity team. Endicott 5-4

Williams vs. Trinity
The two teams split the season series, with each winning as the host team, which doesn’t apply this weekend. Both teams have very experienced playoff rosters and Williams is seeking to defend its NESCAC title from a year ago. The Bantams may have a slight edge on paper and this one will likely be decided in overtime, as Alex Morin and Michael Pinios will make it tough for their opponents to light the lamp. Trinity 2-1

Wesleyan at Hamilton
The Continentals have very quietly gone about their business and earned the right to host by playing their best hockey when it has mattered most. The Cardinals tied Hamilton in their last meeting at the end of January, so expect this one to be close, with an empty-net goal providing the final margin for victory. Hamilton 3-1

Salem State at Plymouth State
The Panthers are 2-0-1 against the Vikings this season, with both wins coming on home ice, where they haven’t lost a game since early December. Goaltending has become very reliable behind a team that has balance and depth. Never count out a defending champion from any chance to retain the title, especially a team coached by Bill O’Neill. Here is my upset special. Salem State 4-3

Hobart at Utica
The matchup is a repeat of last year’s title game that went to the Statesmen, 5-0. This year, the Pioneers host and need to win the ECAC West if they are to have any consideration to play in the NCAA tournament and have a shot at staying home for a Frozen Four date at the end of March. This one has all of the great hockey rivalry elements that say bonus hockey will be required and if it comes down to that, I like the team that hasn’t lost an overtime game all year. Hobart 3-2

Plattsburgh at Oswego
The Cardinals have been a second-half juggernaut, while Oswego has been consistent virtually all season with a slight blip at the break. This is a rivalry game of epic proportion at any level of college hockey, and a Plattsburgh win may be the only way the SUNYAC gets two qualifiers for the NCAA tournament. Motivation is strong for a great group of seniors wearing green and yellow to finish the job though. Oswego 2-1

New England College at Norwich
The Pilgrims have been opportunistic and very strongly supported by the NEHC’s goaltender of the year, Brett Kilar. No question he is going to see a lot of pucks in this game too and the home team manages to eke out just enough goals to return the conference title to Northfield. Norwich 3-2

There are no excuses at this point of the season since everything is on the line. All of the matchups have been set, and they certainly appear to be a hockey fan’s dream of what championship hockey should look like. “Drop the puck!”


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