D-III East picks Dec. 28: Tournaments a-plenty feature nonconference action

Kamil Tkaczuk of Middlebury (Will Costello)
Kamil Tkaczuk and Middlebury face a tough Johnson & Wales squad.  (Will Costello)

The week following Christmas usually brings tidings of some great holiday hockey. This year, there are a variety of tournaments and interesting nonconference games, including some terrific inter-regional matchups with premier teams from the East and West. I am hoping the spirit of the season will continue to give me some positive results with my picks. On a weekend filled with upsets, my last slate of picks garnered a 6-2-1 (.722) record, which now moves the season record to 44-18-6 (.691). I’m knocking on the door of a 70 percent success rate and hope this week will push me over the top entering the New Year. Here are this week’s picks.

Saturday, Dec. 29

No. 15 Hobart at No. 11 University of New England
This is a great matchup in the first round of the Middlebury Classic. Playing on a big sheet means there is a lot of room to skate, so expect the offenses to gear up and make life very interesting for the goaltenders. This one might see OT. University of New England 5-4

Johnson & Wales at Middlebury
The Panthers would certainly like to play in the championship game of their own tournament, but they shouldn’t look past the Wildcats, who have the tools to knock off the host team. I think this one comes down to a special teams’ goal, and it goes to the home team. Middlebury 3-2

Williams at No. 7 Oswego
The Lakers finished the first half strong, including a rare white-out win at home over Plattsburgh. Hopefully, the break hasn’t slowed down either side, as this one promises to be exciting end-to-end action from two teams with speed and skill. The home team is looking to set the tone in the first of a two-game set. Oswego 3-2

No. 12 Trinity at Wisconsin-Superior
Nothing like playing the host school in their own tournament a few hundred miles from home. The Bantams enter the Superior Showcase still stinging from a loss to Manhattanville before the break. Expect the same kind of close game here, with a different result. Trinity 3-2

Sunday, Dec. 30

Babson at Lake Forest
The Beavers head west and will have their work cut out for them with a pesky Lake Forest team one day after playing Milwaukee School of Engineering. Babson likes to play them close and has maybe the best goaltending tandem in the country in Matt Pompa and Bryan Botcher. It doesn’t matter who is in the crease in green. A late goal wins it for the visitors. Babson 2-1

Nichols at Connecticut College
At 2-6-1, the Camels did not have the first half they were looking for, but such was the case last year before they got hot in front of Connor Rodericks and rolled to a NESCAC home-ice playoff position. The Bison are resilient for the full 60 minutes, so the Camels will need to match the intensity. There is too much offense from the visitors. Nichols 4-2

Skidmore at Hamilton
This one should have maximum entertainment value, and goals will be at a premium either way. The key to this one is likely the power play, or, more accurately, who has the best penalty killer. Brandon Kasel might just be that for the Thoroughbreds. Skidmore 3-2

Monday, Dec. 31

Amherst at No. 13 Endicott
The Gulls are on a four-game win streak, including knocking off University of New England and Plymouth State before the break. The Mammoths will present a challenge, but balanced scoring has been effective for R.J. Tolan’s group all season and is the difference here. Endicott 5-2

Colby at Saint Anselm
Colby very quietly won its last three games before the break by a combined 12-0 margin. Goaltender Andrew Tucci picked up all three shutouts for the Mules, who will look to keep down a Hawks team with some firepower. There is too much depth for the Hawks to handle. Colby 5-2

Hopefully, all the players celebrated the holidays in moderation and still have their skating legs to enter the New Year. There are great games on a limited schedule, so enjoy the holiday hockey wherever you can! “Drop the Puck!”


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