D-III East weekend picks Nov. 23: Tournaments bring excitement, but likely not upsets

Tyson Empey of Geneseo (Keith Walters)
Tyson Empey and Geneseo take on Amherst. (Keith Walters)

It is a proverbial feast of hockey this weekend with a variety of nonconference and tournament slates to make any fan’s mouth water with delight. Add in the spice of inter-regional play as part of the tournaments, and you have all the makings of a great D-III hockey weekend. I woke up from my previous week’s dismal picks and flourished with a 7-1-1 (.833) record that bumps up the season total to 23-8-5 (.708). I am back over the 70 percent threshold, and now the trick is to keep it there. Not getting too ambitious, but picking all first-round tournament games and a couple of special nonconference battles coming this weekend. Let’s hope I didn’t overindulge. Here are the picks.

Friday, Nov. 23

Primelink Great Northern Shootout at Norwich
Middlebury versus Plattsburgh
Throw out the records when these rivals get together. The Panthers split on the road in Maine last week, and the Cardinals already have a big win over Geneseo on their record. Always close and likely low-scoring with good chances at a premium, I am going with the team that has played more than two games this season. Plattsburgh 2-1

No. 2 Adrian at Norwich
Adrian has moved up to No. 2 in the country following the win over St. Norbert. The Cadets have had a weekend off to recover from losses at UMass-Boston and Babson. Holiday crowd equals home-ice advantage for Norwich, which finds a goal in OT. Norwich 3-2

WYSB/Catamount Radio Invitational at Castleton
Anna Maria versus Brockport
The new kids on the block from Anna Maria are unbeaten in their last three and now face a three-game weekend stretch starting with this tournament. Brockport has quietly gone 5-1-1 to open their season, including a win over Hamilton last weekend. Confidence and experience trump enthusiasm in this one. Brockport 5-3

King’s at Castleton
The Spartans need to remember that hosting doesn’t guarantee playing for the hardware on Sunday. King’s has battled in every game, so it will be important for the tournament hosts to get a fast start and keep the crowd in the game. Castleton 4-1

Wisconsin-Stevens Point Holiday Tournament
Nichols at No. 1 Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Not sure if my Western compatriot is picking this game, but it is hard to turn down a matchup with the No. 1 team in the nation. Nichols is good and has nothing to lose against Wis.-Stevens Point, but falls a bit short in a major statement win for the program and CCC. Wis.-Stevens Point 3-2

St. Thomas versus Utica
The Pioneers have been up and down early this season, so which team shows up for this East-West matchup will have much to do with the outcome. Not much time left in the first half, so look for Utica to bring their “A” game and the offense that goes with that. Utica 5-4

Saturday, Nov. 24

Steve Hoar Invitational at Becker
Fitchburg State at Becker
The teams are very familiar with each other, but the Falcons are still looking to get their complete game going in front of standout goaltender Brian McGrath. They haven’t scored much so far this season and just barely get by the Hawks in this one. Fitchburg State 3-2

Franklin Pierce versus Stonehill
Two NE-10 teams meet up in the first round of this tournament, and both are looking to generate some momentum in their play. The Ravens have been a bit more consistent so far this season, so I’m looking for them to use an empty-net goal for the final marker. Franklin Pierce 5-3

Manchester PAL/Stovepipe Tournament at Southern New Hampshire
No. 7 Massachusetts-Boston at Southern New Hampshire
The Beacons have been on a roll, and coach Peter Belisle likes hardware opportunities. It will take some effort to down the Penmen, but the special teams are very much in UMass-Boston’s favor, and it shows on the scoreboard. UMass-Boston 5-1

Fredonia versus Massachusetts-Dartmouth
The Corsairs saw 14 different players, including goaltender Tommy Bay, earn a point in a 9-0 win over Framingham State last Saturday. Thinking that the Corsairs will find more challenges in the defensive end from the Blue Devils to keep Fredonia from a big offensive showing. Fredonia 4-3

Skidmore Invitational Tournament
Post at Skidmore
The Thoroughbreds have been playing good hockey and finally got some results to show for it last weekend. Brandon Kasel has been terrific in goal, and the team has been opportunistic with their scoring. Expect more of the same against the Eagles. Skidmore 4-1

No. 9 Salve Regina versus Bryn Athyn
The Seahawks have already been playing the iron of the CCC, but I doubt they will misstep in the opening round of the tournament against a game Lions squad. Salve Regina likes playing on the road and should find a way into the final with their complete game. Salve Regina 6-3

Nonconference games

No. 4 Geneseo at Amherst
It is always great when nonconference action includes games between teams and coaches that just relish the opportunity to play great opponents anywhere. The Mammoths picked up their first win of the season on Tuesday against St. Michael’s, but now battle an offense that has been very difficult to slow down. Conlan Keenan and the Knights get it done. Geneseo 4-2

Williams at No. 13 Babson
Both teams are off to fast starts, and the Beavers already took down another NESCAC team earlier this week with a win over Tufts. Marcus Mollica is as hot as they come with five goals in his first two games, but the Ephs will be challenged by either of the goaltending tandem of Matt Pompa and Bryan Botcher. It’s low-scoring and close, but I will go with the home team. Babson 2-1

Try not to over indulge on food or football this weekend and maybe get out, stretch the legs a bit, and go see some great college hockey in your area. The matchups are great, just like turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. “Drop the Puck!”