East picks: Feb. 23

The playoffs are here for everyone now with the MASCAC and NESCAC playing their quarterfinal round this weekend, while the SUNYAC, CCC, UCHC, and NE-10 are all entering the semifinal round of their tournaments. Including Wednesday’s midweek action, I finished a dreadful 5-9-0 (.555) combined from the prior weekend. That drops the season total to 83-44-12 (.640), which is hardly playoff contender status. There is no time to regroup or be distracted as I need to bring my A game like all of the contenders on the ice. Here are my picks across the conferences for Saturday.

Saturday, Feb. 24

Tufts at No. 8 Trinity
The Jumbos always seem to be a challenge for the Bantams, especially in Hartford. The season series went to Trinity with 5-1 and 4-1 wins. Expect Tufts to put up a battle, especially if Nik Nugnes plays well in goal, but the home team will move on. Trinity 3-1

Wesleyan at Hamilton
Heeee’s baaaaack!! Evan Buitenhuis returned from injury to man the Continentals crease, and his team reaped immediate benefits with three straight shutout wins. Not a good thing for Wesleyan, which will find it difficult to generate offense on the road. Hamilton 2-0

No. 6 University of New England at No. 11 Endicott
This is a rematch of last year’s title game won by the Gulls on a late goal. This time around, with Brady Fleurent in the lineup, the Nor’easters get the late game-winner and advance to the CCC title game. UNE 6-5

Nichols at No. 4 Salve Regina
These two teams played two games to end the regular season, and the Seahawks took both by shutout wins. Blake Wojtala has proven to be a big-game goaltender, but Nichols’ Colin Brennan will try to match him save for save. It is another low-scoring affair, and maybe even an overtime game, that gives the Seahawks the win. Salve Regina 1-0

Fredonia at No. 5 Oswego
The Lakers are the top seed, but haven’t really come flying into the playoffs playing their best hockey. Fredonia proved they could win on the road against Plattsburgh on Wednesday night, so the Lakers need to hit the reset button and find some goals. They find just enough. Oswego 3-2

Buffalo State at No. 7 Geneseo
These two teams are familiar opponents and very evenly matched. The game very well might come down to Devin McDonald vs. Ian Sylves in goal for their respective teams, but look for a surprise game-winning goal from an unlikely source as the top lines are going to find little room to maneuver. Geneseo 2-1

Massachusetts–Boston at No. 12 Norwich
The Cadets are 2-0-0 over the Beacons in the regular season and have scored five goals in both games. The focus is always on the defensive side for Norwich, and Braeden Ostepchuk will have to be good to stop Colin Larkin and Nolan Redler. Empty-net goal seals the win for the home team. Norwich 5-3

Babson at No. 9 Hobart
The Beavers are 1-0-2, including a 4-3 win at Hobart back in January. The other two games were 3-3 overtime ties, but Saturday can’t end in a tie. The Statesmen have been on a roll since that weekend in January, going 8-0-1 in their final nine games of the season, including going 4-0-1 at home. A pick either way will provide either coach some good bulletin board fodder, but that was going to happen no matter who I pick. Going with the home team by a goal in overtime. Hobart 4-3

Southern New Hampshire at St. Anselm
It is said the hardest thing to do is to beat a team three times in a row. In this case, it will be four times, as the Hawks swept the season series 3-0-0, including a weekend sweep last weekend. When the Hawks score four goals, they win. Make it four in a row over their cross-town rivals. St. Anselm 4-2

Neumann at No. 10 Utica
The season series was a split, with each team winning on home ice. The Knights upset Lebanon Valley to get here, but Roman Ammirato and company will not be hospitable hosts and move on to the first ever UCHC conference championship game. Utica 5-3

There are great matchups this weekend, and unfortunately some terrific hockey teams are going to see their season end this weekend. Time for a 16-team NCAA tournament, but that is a topic for a different day. Great playoff hockey on tap — “Drop the Puck!”