NCAA college hockey game picks, D-III: What might have been…

St. Thomas opens the NCAA tournament as MIAC champions with a visit to Lake Forest on Saturday (Photo by Concordia Athletics)

The 12-team field was set and besides the seeded teams awaiting to learn who their quarterfinal opponent will be, there was a lot of suspense for the first round games where none of the pairings finds any prior game action between the combatants during the regular season. This should have made for some interesting action on the ice as well as spice up the regional battle between Brian Lester and myself in picking the winners throughout the now canceled D-III tournament. Mr. Lester had bragging rights from last year’s win by Wisconsin – Stevens Point but they weren’t in this year’s field meaning we would have had a new D-III champion crowned on March 28. There is now an especially long way to go between now waiting for next season and next year’s tournament. We of course wish everyone health and wellness but do want to extend our sincere appreciation and heartfelt feelings to all of the seniors who will not see their final college season play out on the ice for circumstances well beyond their control and the control of the institutions.

Here are the week’s picks for the NCAA first round action (assuming that games were being played) and the regional battle this year’s bragging rights:

Saturday, March 14, 2020

St. Thomas @ No. 12 Lake Forest [TC]
The Tommies come in on an emotional high having won the MIAC conference while Lake Forest hasn’t seen game action since their mini-game loss to Trine in February. This game figures to be a see-saw affair that probably needs some overtime play to settle – St. Thomas, 3-2

No. 12 Lake Forest (18-6-3) vs. St. Thomas (15-10-3) [BL]
The Tommies are playing their best hockey and coming off an impressive MIAC tournament title run. They have won their last five and are making their 17th appearance in the NCAA tournament. Unranked heading into it, the Tommies are looking to pull off an upset of the Foresters. Lake Forest is in the tourney for the first time since 1991 and has struggled lately, going just 2-4-2 in its last eight games. The Foresters haven’t played a game since Feb. 22. St. Thomas, 3-1

Plymouth State @ No. 7 Endicott [TC]
The Gulls have all aspects of their game working right now especially in the all-important goaltending department. Conor O’Brien gives the home team a chance to win every night and the home fans will leave happy moving on to the quarterfinal round – Endicott, 3-1

No. 7 Endicott (22-5) vs. Plymouth State (15-9-3) [BL]
Endicott is on a roll, and that’s an understatement. The Gulls have won their last 15 games and are coming off their second CCC title in program history. Endicott is also 11-3 at home. They face a Panthers team that is unbeaten in its last seven games. But Plymouth State is just 6-6 on the road this season and 0-3 against nationally ranked opponents this season. Endicott, 4-2

No. 15 Wesleyan @ No. 10 Babson [TC]
There are differing opinions on how much rest helps or hurts a team at this point in the season. The Beavers are hosting a hot Wesleyan team that has won three straight as the visiting team while Babson hasn’t played in three weeks. Game legs matter early and the Cardinals get enough of a fast start to hold on and advance – Wesleyan, 3-2

No. 10 Babson vs. No. 15 Wesleyan (15-10-1) [BL]
Wesleyan has won its last three, including two over nationally ranked opponents, and hopes to keep that roll going this weekend. The Cardinals are in the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history and are riding a wave of adrenaline into the tourney. They are facing Babson for the first time since 2010. The Beavers own the all-time series 20-8-1. Babson features one of the best goaltending duos in the country in Brad Arvantis and Aidan Murphy and that could be the difference. Babson, 4-3

No. 6 Hobart @ No. 5 Adrian [TC]
The powers that be in terms of seeding and enforcement of travel policy didn’t do either team here any favors in this first round matchup. Unfortunately, one of these teams is going to see their season end in the first round and in this case that makes for a long trip home for the Statesmen who fall just short against the home-fueled Bulldogs – Adrian, 4-3

No. 5 Adrian (21-5-3) vs. No. 6 Hobart (20-5-3) [BL]
Adrian just ended St. Norbert’s three-year run as NCHA champions and goes into the NCAA tournament with a 13-game winning streak. The Bulldogs are 12-3-2 at home and have been an offensive machine, cranking out 144 goals off 257 assists. They average nearly five goals per game. Hobart is 7-4-1 on the road and has been productive on offense, too, scoring 116 goals. This could be a shootout. Adrian, 5-3

Only one game difference in first round picks but that can be the difference but we won’t ever know how it would have played out. It was all about winning a NCAA championship but not this season – “Drop the Puck!”