Men’s D-III East weekend picks: OTs and mini-games on tap in competitive conference tournaments

Conlan Keenan of Geneseo (Geneseo Athletics)
Conlan Keenan of Geneseo leads the nation in scoring. (Geneseo Athletics)

It is that time of the season! It really is “win or go home” for everyone in search of conference championship glory and keeping hopes alive for national tournament play. It’s a quarterfinals and semifinals week, depending on the conference, so expect some great matchups to produce outstanding hockey among the region’s best. It already started with a pair of overtime thrillers on Wednesday night in the CCC and SUNYAC quarterfinal action.

Last week, my very inconsistent picks went 5-4-0 (.556), which brings the season totals to 90-39-12 (.681). Here are this week’s expanded picks for each playoff game on the weekend schedule.

Friday, Feb. 22, 2019

Manhattanville at Elmira — Game 1
Long-time rivals face-off in a two-game series to decide who advances to play for the UCHC title and first ever autobid. Round one goes to the home team, but barely, off a goal that Nick Ford. Elmira 2-1

Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019

Middlebury at Wesleyan
The Cardinals have lost three in a row in their pursuit of the regular season title. They can’t let that disappointment get in the way of a great playoff run. The regular season saw Wesleyan take both games by a 7-1 scoring margin. This will be tight, but the home team prevails. Wesleyan 2-0

Tufts at No. 11 Trinity
Some teams seem to have others’ numbers in key matchups, and when it comes to No. 1 vs. No. 8 and these two teams, look out for the Jumbos. The last game between these two saw a 1-1 tie on the Bantams’ ice, so look for another close call for the top seed. Trinity 2-1

Williams at Hamilton
A 1-4-1 end to the regular season dropped Williams all the way to the No. 5 seed and a rematch with a Hamilton team they lost to just a week ago. The Ephs have played three overtime games in the last six, and this one will follow suit. Williams 3-2

Colby at Amherst
The Mammoths went 1-0-1 against Colby in the regular season and have won four in a row to earn the No. 3 seed. They also have been good at home overall, including a 6-3 win over the Mules back in January. This one has a bit more offense than your average playoff game. Amherst 5-3

No. 9 Hobart at No. 7 Massachusetts-Boston
The NEHC may be the conference that can get a couple of teams into the dance, but getting past the semis probably matters in the PairWise rankings. The Beacons went 1-0-1 against Hobart in the regular season and aren’t the ones making a long bus ride for this one. Massachusetts-Boston 5-3

No. 12 Babson at No. 4 Norwich
How many times have these guys played in the conference tournament? It has usually been a final when they meet, but the last weekend of the schedule decided who would get home ice for this one, and that is the only difference in a game that goes to OT. Norwich 2-1

Assumption at Saint Anselm
The season series was an even 1-1-1 between the two teams, with each winning on home ice once. The two teams tied just a couple of weeks ago, so expect some close action here and likely some bonus hockey to decide who moves on to play for the NE-10 title. Saint Anselm 3-2

St. Michael’s at Southern New Hampshire
The Penmen are 1-0-2 against the Purple Knights this season with a 3-1 win and a pair of 2-2 ties. This one will go the 2-2 route for a while, but an overtime session will give the home team a chance to play next week for the title. Southern New Hampshire 3-2

Endicott at No. 13 Salve Regina
The Gulls took out the defending champions from Nichols in overtime on Wednesday night and now face the top seeds, who are rested and ready. Way back in November, the Seahawks swept Endicott, and they will make it three in a row on Saturday with some bonus hockey to be played. Salve Regina 4-3

No. 15 University of New England at Curry
The two teams have not faced each other since November, and a lot has changed for both squads coming into the playoffs. The Colonels took the second seed in their last game from University of New England and better take advantage of the friendly surroundings at Ulin rink. Curry 4-3

Fredonia at No. 2 Geneseo
The Knights earned their regular season title and week off, so don’t expect them to be hospitable hosts to the Blue Devils. The season series went 2-0 to the home team, and they take care of business to play for the SUNYAC title. Geneseo 4-1

Plattsburgh at No. 5 Oswego
The Lakers will be hosting a very familiar opponent with the fresh memory of losing to the Cardinals in the last regular season game for each team. There’s much more at stake this time around, so look for the Lakers to force the issue early and need an empty-net goal late. Oswego 3-1

Nazareth at Utica — game 1
The Pioneers split the season series at a game apiece, but had a dominant home win back in late January. With the new playoff format, it is important to get that first game win, and the raucous home crowd helps Utica to a close but comfortable win at the Aud. Utica 3-1

Manhattanville at Elmira — game 2
The visitors make up for Friday’s loss and take the second game, forcing the dreaded mini-game to decide which team advances to the UCHC championship game. While the Valiants win the battle, Elmira takes the series win and moves on to the final. Manhattanville 2-1; Elmira 1-0 (mini-game)

Salem State at Massachusetts-Dartmouth
So close to the second seed bye, the Corsairs will take out their frustrations of having to play on the weekend against the Vikings. At least one empty-net goal is needed to expand the winning margin. Massachusetts-Dartmouth 4-1

Fitchburg State at Worcester State
The Lancers just downed the Falcons on Tuesday and won the final game of the regular season against Framingham State to earn home-ice in this quarterfinal return engagement. They say familiarity breeds contempt, and it shows in this physical battle that ousts the defending MASCAC champions. Worcester State 3-1

Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019

Nazareth at Utica — game 2
The Golden Flyers will lay it all on the line, but Utica continues to roll in front of goaltender Gianluca Baggetta. Jumping to an early lead, the home team gets the fans fired up about championship hockey next weekend. Utica 4-1

Big opportunities this week to advance and play for what was a goal for every team starting last fall. Unfortunately, some good hockey teams are done after this weekend, so make sure to leave it all on the ice boys! “Drop the Puck!”