East picks: March 1

It’s here –- championship weekend! The final games of the season that will largely determine the field for the national tournament are upon us, and there are some intriguing stories in every matchup. In my last full weekend of picks, I rallied with a 7-3-0 (.700) record. The season total now stands at 90-47-12 (.644), so there is no chance of reaching my goal of 70 percent. There is, however, great satisfaction in trying to get all the big games right, so here are my picks across the seven games on Saturday.

Saturday, March 3

Williams at No. 6 Trinity
The two-time defending champions must be experiencing a sense of déjà vu as this semifinal matchup on home ice is a repeat of last year’s semifinal round that propelled the Bantams on to the conference title and run to the Frozen Four. It is a different Bantams team this year, but Alex Morin is a constant in goal and so too are clutch playoff performers like Liam Feeney and Tyler Whitney. It is close right to the final whistle. Trinity 2-1

Colby vs. Wesleyan
Both teams pulled the upset to earn this semifinal matchup in NESCAC tournament play. The Cardinals are 1-0-1 against the Mules this season, but I expect this one to be close. The difference is one more save in the crease, and it probably comes in overtime. Wesleyan 2-1

Nichols at No. 4 University of New England
The Nor’easters have all aspects of their game going right now. Offense — check; defense –- check; special teams and goaltending –- check. The one thing that could derail them is not coming out of the gates fast and another stellar performance from the Bisons’ Colin Brennan in goal. There is too much secondary scoring on the UNE side of the ledger however, and that is the difference in a game decided in the third period. University of New England 5-3

Fredonia at No. 5 Geneseo
Back-to-back road wins over Plattsburgh and Oswego have the Blue Devils flying high, but don’t expect Geneseo to underestimate this team on Saturday night. The teams split the season series, with each winning at home, and that is a very good thing for the Knights. Fredonia will need the first goal, or two, but will definitely not want the home crowd involved if Geneseo gets off to a fast start. Geneseo 3-2

No. 8 Hobart at No. 11 Norwich
The Cadets have not fared well against Hobart on home ice this season, but do have the biggest and most important game remaining to change that. These teams are evenly matched, so the difference may come down to the guys in the crease. It’s hard to go against Braeden Ostepchuk’s playoff pedigree in this one. The Cadets claim the crown and a chance to defend their national title. Norwich 4-3

St. Michael’s at St. Anselm
When these two play, it is important to throw out the records, as the rivalry has taken many twists and turns over the years. The Purple Knights took the season series 2-1-0, including an early season win on the Hawks’ home ice. Both teams are different now, and the Hawks are on a seven-game win streak with a vastly improved defense. I still think it is close, and empty-net goals are involved. St. Anselm 4-2

Elmira at No. 10 Utica
The season series was something that the host Pioneers would like to forget, as Elmira won both games handily, 5-1, each time. Since that loss, Utica is 6-1-0 and has outscored opponents by a 33-15 margin and is 13-1-1 at home overall. A chance to win the first UCHC title and avenge the lone home loss sounds like motivation enough for the Pioneers. Utica 5-3

I did not presume the final for the NESCAC title game scheduled for Sunday, especially after last week’s quarterfinal round that saw many of the top seeds ousted. There are still some crazy things that could happen based on the outcome of this weekend’s games relative to the selections for the NCAA tournament. One way to ensure your entry is to win the championship — “Drop the Puck!”