East D-III picks: Nov. 1

Freshman Blake Wojtala made 43 saves, completing a playoff shutout hat trick in backing Salve Regina to its first ECAC Northeast title and automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. (Edward Habershaw)
Blake Wojtala of Salve Regina. (Edward Habershaw)

While many teams are still playing nonconference opponents, there are some important and marquee matchups in several conferences this weekend featuring preseason favorites. Nobody is going to win or lose a title shot in November, but points against key rivals could be a big factor in seeding or tiebreakers come February. Big opportunities for an early-season confidence boost. Last weekend I opened with an astounding 7-0-2 (.888) record, which certainly has me in the fast-start bracket. Hope to show some consistency early in the season like most teams on the ice are aspiring to now.

Thursday, Nov. 1

Westfield State at Salem State
This MASCAC game will feature a lot of young talent as well as some key veterans. The experienced guys on special teams, like Callum Hofford, make the difference for the Vikings. Salem State 4-3

UMass-Dartmouth at Assumption
Thinking I might choose differently if the nonconference game was before the big rivalry conference game on the schedule and if both games weren’t mid-week. Assumption already with some game action under their belts while the Corsairs get to open on the road. Picking the home team. Assumption 4-3

Friday, November 2, 2018

St. Anselm at St. Michael’s
Two teams that battled in last year’s championship game and are preseason favorites to battle again this season. Expect a close game and the home team to pull it out in the third period. St. Michael’s 3-2

No. 3 Geneseo at Fredonia
The Knights are very aware of an early-season loss at Fredonia last season so have this game on the radar screen to turn that score around. It’s close, and the visitors need an empty-net goal to seal the deal. Geneseo 5-3

No. 7 University of New England at No. 6 Salve Regina
Another battle between conference contenders that pits high-powered offense from Brady Fleurent and company against stellar goaltending in Blake Wojtala. Home team wins a close and entertaining contest. Salve Regina 4-2

Southern Maine at Massachusetts-Boston
The Beacons will certainly come out flying on their home ice. Look for their special teams to be a key factor in this one. The power play will produce enough for the home team in a win over the Huskies. UMass-Boston 5-2

Saturday, November 3, 2018

No. 5 Hobart at No. 12 Norwich
Last season the Statesmen won all three games they played in Northfield, including the conference title game in March. Coach Cam Ellsworth and the Cadets will look to flip the script this time around. Norwich 3-2

Neumann at No. 11 Utica
The Pioneers are a very good team at home, and this matchup will show why that is the case. Timely scoring and good team defense and goaltending get it done against the visitors. Utica 5-2

Nichols at Wentworth
The Bison may not be getting the press just yet like some of the other teams in the CCC, but a solid road win over a quality Wentworth team will garner some attention for sure. Nichols 5-3

It is great when early-season matchups include great rivalry or expected contender games. Not much more to say other than — “Drop the Puck!”