This Week in College Hockey: D-III West Playoff Preview

Andrew Bellant scored three goals in Adrian’s 5-3 win over Aurora on Feb. 22, 2020. (Action photo by Mike Dickie)

It’s that time of the year where it’s win or go home. MIAC tournament gets underway and action in the NCHA and WIAC tournaments continue as teams battle for the right to win their respective conference championship. Check out a quick preview below of the games on tap for this week.


St. Thomas (12-10-3) vs. Gustavus (11-11-3) 

The Tommies are back in the playoffs and seeking their 11th title in program history. The Gusties are back in the tournament for the first time since finishing as the runner-up in 2018. Gustavus features one of the best offensive players in the game in Caleb Anderson while the Tommies have leaned on a balanced attack led by John Peterson. These two teams played each other tough in the regular season, with one game ending in a tie. It will be a surprise if this game doesn’t follow that same tightly contested pattern. The two teams square off tonight.

Saint John’s (12-8-5) vs. St. Thomas-Gustavus winner

The Johnnies are playing their best hockey right now and are on a mission to make up for falling short of the title a year ago. Auggie Moore and Kyle Wagner are two of the best offensive threats in the game and goalie depth has been pivotal for the Johnnies during their late-season surge. Saint John’s split with St. Thomas and swept Gustavus and should have the edge over either one.

Concordia (13-10-2) vs. Augsburg (14-10-1)

The Cobbers are in the MIAC tourney for the eighth consecutive season and last won a title in 2000.  The Auggies have won the last four tournament titles but haven’t quite had the season they hoped for. They enter the tourney on a three-game losing streak. Still, this is a dangerous team that is more than capable of winning another championship. The Cobbers have won their last three games and split their season series with the Auggies. Aaron Herdt and Tyler Herdt lead the way offensively. Daniil Gerasimov owns a GAA of 1.97 for the Auggies and he could be a difference maker.


St. Norbert (16-9-2) at Marian (18-8-1)

There was a time when one wondered if the Green Knights were going to be a contender in the conference this year after the way the season started. St. Norbert is still very much a force to be reckoned with and is led by Peter Bates, who has cranked out 40 points this season, including 25 off assists. The Green Knights also have the top goal scorer in the league in Kurt Black (21 goals) and the top netminder in Colby Entz (1.93 GAA). Hunter Vorva has been pretty solid in goal for the Sabres, sporting a 2.20 GAA, and Gianni Vitali has been hard to slow down, scoring 16 goals and 18 assists. Marian swept St. Norbert in the regular season in November. The Sabres are 10-3 at home this year. The Green Knights have won three consecutive games and are 7-4-2 on the road.

Trine (13-11-3) at Adrian (19-5-3)

Trine is playing with house money at this point while the Bulldogs expected to be in this position. The Thunder needs to lean on great defense to survive this test. Brett Young owns a 2.39 GAA. Three of the the top five in points in the league are from Adrian, including Dino Balsamo, who has scored 18 goals, ranking second in the conference in that department. No team is hotter than Adrian right now, with the Bulldogs winning 11 consecutive games, including two over Trine in convincing fashion. Adrian looks like the team to beat on paper but anything can happen in a one-game setting. 


UW-River Falls (16-8-3) at UW-Stevens Point (16-6-3)

The Falcons go into this two-game series searching for the upset. The reigning national champions, however, are looking to hold serve and prove they are still the team to beat in college hockey. The Pointers, unbeaten in their last 13 games, feature the best offensive attack in the league with 105 goals but the Falcons have been tough defensively, giving up just 61. This should be an interesting series with the top two goal scorers in the league on the ice in Luke McElhenie of the Pointers and Ryan Cusin of the Falcons. 

UW-Superior (16-8-3) at UW-Eau Claire (19-4-2)

The Yellow Jackets will see their offense put to the test against a Blugolds team that is the best defensive team in the league. UW-Eau Claire has allowed only 43 goals on the year. Troy York leads the way for Superior with 13 goals and 12 assists. Zach Dyment sports a GAA of 1.60 for UW-Eau Claire and Jake Bresser has tallied 15 goals and 15 assists. The Blugolds went unbeaten in three games against the Yellow Jackets in the regular season and have lost just once at home this season.