West picks: Jan. 26

Friday, Jan. 26

No. 2 St. Norbert at No. 1 Adrian
It doesn’t get any better than the top two teams squaring off on the ice. Adrian fell 4-3 in the last meeting in November and odds are Friday night’s game will be just as close. The Green Knights are in a rare position where they have dropped two in a row. The Bulldogs are hotter than ever, having won their last seven, and they have yet to lose at home this season. Both teams are balanced and capable of putting the puck in the net at any time, with St. Norbert scoring 73 goals off 123 assists and Adrian tallying 81 goals off 137 assists. It all comes down to what goalie can stand tall. St. Norbert’s T.J. Black and Adrian’s Kevin Entmaa have combined for 24 wins and nearly 700 saves. Adrian 5-4

No. 15 St. Scholastica at Lawrence
No one is hotter than the Saints, who are very much alive in the hunt for an NCHA title as they enter Friday’s showdown. They sit five points behind St. Norbert in the North Division and have the third-best overall record in the league. Winners of 10 in a row, the Saints are balanced, with 10 players tallying four or more goals and no one scoring more than six on the season. Lawrence is 3-3 in the up and down month of January. This is the Vikings’ first meeting of the year with the Saints, and they are 0-3 against ranked teams this season. Lawrence has the potential to pull off the upset, especially with a player like Lane King, who has tallied 11 goals and 17 assists. St. Scholastica 5-2

Northland at Marian
Northland stunned St. Norbert last weekend and has a chance to get to the .500 mark with a win Friday. The Lumberjacks have won two in a row and are playing the Sabres for the first time this season. Lucas DeBenedet is poised to step up and have another solid outing. He has 11 goals and 13 assists already this year. Marian has struggled lately, losing its last two games, and it’s eager to get back on track. The Sabres probably wish this game was on the road, where they are 7-2 this season. Marian is just 3-4-1 at home. Derek Thorogood continues to thrive and has 11 goals and 13 assists. Northland 4-3

Wisconsin-Stout at Wisconsin-Superior
The Blue Devils hit the road looking to stay in the hunt for a conference championship. At 2-1 on the season, a win over the Yellow Jackets would help their cause. They are desperate for a win, having dropped five in a row, and they have already beaten Wis.-Superior once this year. They won that matchup 2-1. The Yellow Jackets have lost their last two and are 0-1-1 in the conference. They haven’t been bad at home, going 5-4, but have managed to score only 48 goals. They’ll need to shore up their defense to win this one as they have allowed 70 goals this season. Wis.-Stout 5-2

Friday-Saturday, Jan. 25-26

St. Olaf vs. Augsburg
The Oles take aim at knocking off the team that currently owns a share of first place in the MIAC. St. Olaf has just one win this month and has been outscored 11-4 in its last three games. Eric Hancock will need to be on top of it defensively. He’s 4-2 with a 3.63 goals-against average. Augsburg has the second-most goals in the conference (64), and it’s given up only 39. The Auggies have won five of six and are led offensively by Nate Flynn, who has punched in 12 goals. They are 6-2 at home and 6-4 on the road. The series starts at Augsburg. Augsburg 5-2, 4-2

St. Thomas at Concordia
The Tommies have an opportunity to rise in the standings and come into this two-game series on a three-game win streak. Their defense has been sharp during the streak, giving up only three goals, thanks in part to netminder Benjamin Myers, who is 9-6 and has made 356 saves. The Cobbers have just two wins in the month of January and rank third among conference teams in goals scored (55). Six players have tallied 10 or more points, and that balance will test St. Thomas. Mario Bianchi leads the team with seven goals and 14 assists. St. Thomas 3-1, Concordia 4-3

Saint Mary’s vs. Gustavus Adolphus
The Cardinals have won their last two and hope that momentum carries over into a home-and-home with the Gusties. They have struggled offensively and haven’t had much success home or away, winning a combined four games –- the other win came on neutral ice. Jay Heinle leads the team with five goals and eight assists. Gustavus is tied for first in the conference and has a golden opportunity to stay there. The Gusties are one of the best in the MIAC on the power play, converting 20.3 percent of the time. Coin Hernon and Van Sullivan have scored two goals apiece off the power play. Gustavus Adolphus 5-2, Saint Mary’s 4-3

Saturday, Jan. 27

Wisconsin-Eau Claire at Wis.-Superior
The Blugolds are just 4-5 on the road this year, but they have won two straight away from home and want to keep that momentum rolling Friday night. Zach Dyment has been impressive in goal in his eight appearances and owns a 4-3-0-1 record. On offense, Wis.-Eau Claire has tallied 69 goals, including nine from Mac Jansen. The Yellow Jackets have to be able to get their offense going against a high-scoring team like the Blugolds. They did it before, notching a 4-3 win over Wis.-Eau Claire in November, and on that note, they have the confidence that they can win this game. Wis.-Eau Claire 5-3