East picks: Feb. 15

For some, it is now very simple –- win or go home. For others still battling for position in the final week of the regular season, it may as well be that mindset since you don’t want to head into the conference tournament on a downward trend. I enter this week on an upward trend, having finished at 7-2-1 (.750) last week, which brings the season totals to 78-35-12 (.672). I’m picking some interesting final week of the regular season games as well as the always dreaded four vs. five seed games in the CCC and NEHC, where any team winning should not be a surprise. Here are this week’s picks.

Thursday, Feb. 15

Salem State at Fitchburg State
The Falcons have been on a roll and don’t want to give the defending champions from last year any life entering the playoffs. Fitchburg has shown great depth and secondary scoring, and they will need it to keep the pressure on Jason Pucciarelli in the Vikings goal. Fitchburg State 3-1

Worcester State at Westfield State
The Lancers want to keep the momentum moving forward and won’t take the Owls lightly in this important MASCAC matchup. Mike Moran just seems to be around the puck when the Lancers need a goal and surprise. They need a few to put Westfield away on Thursday night. Worcester State 4-2

Friday, Feb. 16

Southern New Hampshire at St. Anselm
Just throw out the records when these two play in the battle of Manchester, New Hampshire. The Hawks already know they have qualified for the NE-10 playoffs, but would like to stay perched as the top seed. That is enough motivation to take the rivalry game and the two points. St. Anselm 3-2

Wesleyan at No. 5 Trinity
The Bantams would appear to have nothing to play for other than pride and the rivalry with their Connecticut neighbor. The Cardinals haven’t taken a point from the Bantams in five seasons on the final weekend of conference play. That can get in your head as a team, and Trinity is happy to exploit it at home. Trinity 2-1

Potsdam at No. 3 Oswego
The Lakers already have clinched the top seed and first-round bye, but will still be looking to fine-tune their playoff level of play against a Potsdam team with lots to play for. It will be close, but aren’t most of the games this time of the year? Oswego 3-2

Stevenson at Neumann
This game features two UCHC contenders that really need the points to move up in the standings. I’d normally go with the home team, but like any Dominik Dawes-coached team at this time of the season, he knows how to win the close ones. Stevenson 3-2

Saturday, Feb. 17

New England College at Massachusetts -Boston
The offense of the Beacons awoke over the last two games to stop a three-game losing streak. NEC was the team the losing stopped against by a 4-2 score, so expect this one to be close as well between the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds in the NEHC tournament. Colin Larkin and Nolan Redler are too good up front to be one-and-done. Massachusetts-Boston 5-3

Nichols at Curry
The Colonels went 11-2-0 over their final 13 games of the season, which just got them past Nichols for the final home-ice berth in the CCC tournament. The two teams split the regular season games, with each team winning by a goal on their home ice. This is why you play to get home ice, and no. 4 Curry does it again by just a goal over No. 5 Nichols in a great playoff hockey game. Curry 4-3

Amherst at Williams
These two teams always play great games against each other as the rivalry spans every sport the schools play. Amherst took wins over the challenges of Tufts and Connecticut College, while Williams downed travel partner Middlebury with some empty-net help in OT in the first game. No gifts here, and the Mammoths have enough on special teams to make the difference. Amherst 2-1

Manhattanville at No. 11 Utica
The UCHC is so close at the top that two points are a huge deal in where you could end up if you get them. The Valiants have had some ups and downs over the past few weekends, but I like them here at home by the slimmest of margins. Manhattanville 4-3

The battles for conference glory begin this weekend, and even for the teams not in playoff mode yet, don’t kid yourselves; you are already in the playoff mode, you just aren’t there officially — “Drop the Puck!”