D-III East weekend picks Dec. 7: Salve versus Adrian one highlight

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 leads Salve Regina against No. 7 Adrian. (Edward Habershaw)

For many teams, this is the final weekend on the schedule in the first half of the season. Everyone wants to go into the break feeling good about how they are playing, so there are just one or two more games to dial up the intensity and finish the semester on a winning note. My picks last week were not of winning caliber, as I finished a dismal 4-5-0 (.444) for the week, which drops me to 38-16-5 (.686) on the season. Last chance to me to finish on a high note as well. Here are this week’s picks.

Thursday, Dec. 6

Endicott at No. 13 Plymouth State
This is a terrific nonconference matchup to close out the semester. Both teams have been playing some good hockey with balanced scoring a calling card for both teams. This one is so close that I am forced to decide on the home-ice advantage found in Plymouth, New Hampshire, for the Panthers. Plymouth State 5-4

Friday, Dec. 7

Brockport at No. 2 Geneseo
The Golden Eagles stumbled last weekend to back-to-back conference losses, while the Knights are riding high after a big win against Oswego. I don’t expect the home team to let down, but they will have a battle from an energetic visiting team looking to get back to their winning ways. Geneseo 4-1

Utica at Wilkes
It’s the usual logjam atop the UCHC standings, and this matchup will go a long way in deciding who may be at the top headed into the break. The Pioneers best not take the Colonels lightly, and they will need to battle to the end against a team that likes to play big in the third period. Utica 5-4

No. 5 Salve Regina at No. 7 Adrian
It is a great East versus West matchup between two top 10 teams in the nation. While it is only December, this game will have a definite playoff feel, and therefore goaltending will be highly featured. These are the games Blake Wojtala lives for, and he will need to be great for the Seahawks to pull the “upset.” Salve Regina 2-1

Amherst at Williams
Another great rivalry matchup between schools always looking for bragging rights when they play each other. The Ephs will need to be very good to knock off the Mammoths, who are looking to build off a big win over Trinity last week. A late third-period goal is the difference for the home team. Williams 3-2

Saturday, Dec. 8

St. Michael’s at Nichols
Hopefully, one learns from their experiences, and picking against the Bison at home has not done my prognostications any favors this season. So, while it is a nonconference affair, the Bison will be looking to get back to their winning ways against the Purple Knights. Nichols 5-2

Massachusetts-Dartmouth at No. 4 Massachusetts-Boston
This is a rivalry dating back to olden ECAC hockey days in New England. The teams have moved onto different conferences, but the rivalry is alive and well. The Beacons have been rolling at home, and this game is no different. UMass Boston 5-2

Plattsburgh at No. 8 Oswego
Nothing like a loss at home to provide a bit more motivation to a huge rivalry game. The Lakers are in search of some offense and find just enough to knock off the Cardinals in another SUNYAC classic. Oswego 3-2

Skidmore at Suffolk
The Rams leveraged some great goaltending and defense to knock off Norwich last week, but will need to solve the Thoroughbreds’ Brandon Kasel if they are to pick up another two points. Skidmore ekes it out in a hard-fought battle. Skidmore 3-2

It has been a great first half of hockey, and this weekend features some games that really should be the icing on the cake for fans wanting a big finale. Don’t think anyone will be disappointed with the teams bringing it all before the holiday break. “Drop the Puck!”