East picks: Jan. 12

This season has been filled with surprises, as reflected by the ever-changing polls and teams running hot and not. Certainly part of that has been the stellar play of many goaltenders across the East who have stepped up and, on some nights, stolen a game for their team. Middlebury’s Stephen Klein, UNE’s Ben Churchfield, and Nichols’ Colin Brennan are among several others have recently posted big save numbers and wins for their teams viewed as underdogs against ranked opponents. Who is up for this weekend and maybe stealing a win or two? I could use a couple of those steals, as my picks last week finished at 4-5-0 (.444) without the Westfield State vs. Becker game, which was postponed due to the blizzard in the New England area last week. Overall, I stepped back to 48-25-4 (.649) on the season, so time to step up the prediction game among some interesting matchups this week. Here are the picks.

Friday, Jan. 12

St. Michael’s at Assumption
The NE-10 has been very competitive, and these two teams figure to be playing some playoff hockey not to far down the road. Nothing like visitors sending a message about their level of play in a game that needs an empty-net goal to settle it. St. Michael’s 4-2

Elmira at No. 15 Buffalo State
The Bengals are now above the radar screen entering the poll this week, so no time like the present to show how much they belong there. Beating a quality UCHC opponent like Elmira sure helps the cause. Buffalo State 5-3

Babson at No. 11 Hobart
The Beavers played an NCAA-worthy playoff-style game in tying Endicott last week at the tournament in Plattsburgh before dropping the title game to the host school. This weekend, the stakes are higher in league play, and Matt Pompa may just steal one from the Statesmen. Babson 3-2

Plattsburgh at Middlebury
This is one of the best rivalries in all D-III hockey, and even when the teams are not on the national radar screen, the game brings out the best in both. Expect this to be fast-paced but low-scoring, with the Cardinals keeping the positive momentum going their way. Plattsburgh 3-1

Colby at No. 6 Trinity
The NESCAC may boast the best competition top to bottom, and after a bit of a rough patch since the break, Trinity hopes to get their game in high gear against a tough Colby team looking for some of the same consistency. Advantage to the home team in this one. Trinity 4-2

Saturday, Jan. 13

Manhattanville at Nichols
The Bison and netminder Colin Brennan have been on a roll with last week’s win at the Boston Landing Invitational, but now face an equally confident Manhattanville squad that took out Oswego to win the Pathfinder Bank Tournament last weekend. It’s a game of tournament champs, and I am sticking with the hot goaltender. Nichols 3-2

Salem State at Worcester State
A conference battle with a home team looking to assert themselves at the top and the defending champs from Salem State trying to play themselves back into contention. Last weekend’s loss to Plymouth State is a motivator for the Lancers, who win one the hard way in front of Josh Reinstein. Worcester State 3-2

No. 13 Norwich at New England College
The Cadets and Braeden Ostepchuk lost a heartbreaker to UNE in the championship game of their own tournament last weekend by a 1-0 score and threw everything but the kitchen sink on goal, but couldn’t score. NEC is going to make things tough in their smaller arena, but the visitors find some third period magic to pull out the win. Norwich 5-3

Chatham at Bryn Athyn
It is always interesting to see how far first year teams have developed, particularly when they play each other in the second half of the season. The home team has been very competitive and maybe has deserved some better results based on the effort put out on the ice. Hard work does earn results. Bryn Athyn 4-3

Potsdam at No. 10 Utica
The Bears have made it tough to know which team is going to come out and play some nights, and a slow start against the Pioneers will get them in a lot of trouble quickly. Big jump early puts Utica in the driver’s seat. Utica 4-2

There is a lot of great action this weekend, and conference battles, as expected, are heating up. Every coach wants their team firing on all cylinders, but sometimes it’s the one guy in the crease that can make the difference – “Drop the Puck!”