Weekend picks: March 9

Friday, March 9

No. 8 Wisconsin-Eau Claire at No. 6 Gustavus Adolphus
These two tied very early in the season, but I’m not sure that game has much relevance any more. Gustavus was on a 12-game unbeaten streak until they lost to Hamline in the MIAC final. The BluGolds haven’t lost in their last nine outings. These two are virtually indistinguishable when it comes to the stats. Gustavus scores 3.15 goals per game and allows 1.41. Wis.-Eau Claire scores 3.14 goals per game and allows 1.54. Their goalies are thousandths of a point apart on save percentage. One place that could be a big difference-maker is special teams. The Gusties do have a pretty significant advantage on both the power play and penalty kill, so the BluGolds will want to see a clean game. I love an underdog, and I think Wis.-Eau Claire has all the momentum. Wis.-Eau Claire 3-2

Saturday, March 10

No. 5 Adrian at No. 3 Elmira
Elmira dominated Adrian when they met during the regular season, taking a 5-1 win. The Soaring Eagles are scoring more than a point more per game then the Bulldogs. Adrian is on a 13-game win streak and took a thrilling 4-3 overtime win from Lake Forest to take the NCHA title. Elmira is on a 14-game unbeaten streak. They lost just two games all season. The Bulldogs are making their second straight NCAA appearance, and that experience will definitely help them, but I’m not sure they can match the firepower of Elmira. I’ll pick the Soaring Eagles to win. Elmira 4-2

Morrisville at No. 1 Norwich
It wasn’t going to be an easy task for any team to take on Norwich, which has just one loss –- to Plattsburgh –- all season. They lead the country, averaging 5.68 goals per game. They allow just 1.11 goals per game. They have three scorers in the national top 20. They look virtually unstoppable. Morrisville did not lose a game in the brand-new CHC, but they just aren’t going to be able to match up to the powerhouse that is Norwich this season. Norwich 4-1

No. 4 Middlebury at No. 2 Plattsburgh
The Cardinals haven’t lost a game since late November. They are the four-time defending national champions. Middlebury’s last loss came at the hands of Plattsburgh back at the end of January. The Cardinals took a 2-1 win. Plattsburgh is allowing just 0.89 goals per game –- the only team in the country to allow fewer than one goal per game, though Middlebury is also quite stingy on defense, allowing only 1.11 goals per game. If Middlebury can find a way to neutralize the potent Plattsburgh offense –- something they did effectively not that long ago, they have a chance of ending the Cardinals’ dynasty. I made a rule last year never to pick against Plattsburgh, so I’ll stick with that now, but I definitely think Middlebury could pull off an upset here. Plattsburgh 3-2

Wisconsin-Eau Claire or Gustavus Adolphus at No. 7 Hamline
Since I’m picking Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the play-in game, they’re who I’ve got facing Hamline in this quarterfinal match. As much as I loved the Cinderella story of the BluGolds, I think their road stops here. Hamline has just been unfathomably good and really, a fairy-tale story of their own. The Pipers have three players in the top five in scoring in the country. Goalie Sam Walther is ranked fifth in the country, with a .960 save percentage and allows just 1.08 goals per game. If there’s a weakness, it’s on defense. The Pipers allow nearly two goals per game, and Wis.-Eau Claire will be looking to exploit that. Their defense is a bit tighter, and if they can rein in Hamline’s offense and keep them from scoring more than four goals, they will have a chance. Hamline takes a good number of penalties, so special teams may be a spot that the BluGolds can gain some ground. I think Hamline is a bit of a bulldozer at this point, so I’ll pick them to win. Hamline 4-2