Finally we have all D-III leagues playing, with the NESCAC opening up the season this weekend. There are great match-ups and rivalries from the first drop of the puck on Friday night, and some interesting nonconference match-ups heading into vacation week that will be good indicators for the presence of any gaps between teams. This league is always very competitive top to bottom, so predicting outcomes early on will be challenging with all of the many new players on every team this season.

Here are my picks for the upcoming weekend and Tuesday bonus games heading into the Thanksgiving holidays.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Amherst at Hamilton

This home-and-home series to start the season gets both teams up to the travel rigors and level of competition in the league.  The post-Jonathan Larose era begins at Amherst with a couple more goals against than seen over the past couple of seasons, but the same result in collecting the “W.” Amherst 4-3

Trinity at Tufts
The Jumbos enter the post-Scott Barchard era against a team that has great depth and balance offensively. That is challenge enough for any goaltender roaming the crease for Tufts. Game is still close, and an empty-netter decides the final score. Trinity 4-2

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Middlebury at Bowdoin
The Polar Bears have the offense, defense, and goaltending, while the Panthers are looking for the players that will replace a lot of scoring that graduated from last year’s team. The young guys for the Panthers contribute early, but experience wins for the home team in this marquee match-up. Bowdoin 4-3

Williams at Colby
Both of these teams will be trying to find out who they are early on, as they need to replace key players and find the right combinations. Coach Blaise MacDonald may be new to the NESCAC conference, but his team will be ready to play and this time, win a one-goal game that has been such a challenge over the past two seasons. Colby 2-1

Trinity at Connecticut College
If the Bantams are going to contend for the NESCAC title, then getting points on both ends of the weekend will be a key. The Camels will provide a stiff challenge on Saturday night, with a late third-period goal being the difference for the visitors.  Trinity 3-2

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hamilton at Hobart
It’s a good benchmark game for the Continentals, who travel to play the nationally-ranked Statesmen after two tough games with their travel partner Amherst over the weekend. The good news is they are already used to bus trips. Tough to play teams that already have more time to gel, and it shows here for the home team.  Hobart 4-1

Massachusetts-Boston at Wesleyan
The Cardinals have solid goaltending and defense and will be figuring out the offense around the departure of last year’s leading scorer, Nik Tasiopoulos. The Beacons come off a grueling weekend at home, and that’s enough for the Cardinals to take advantage over the visitors. Wesleyan 3-2

The season is now officially underway, with all leagues in the fray.  Hope you can handle all of the action — drop the puck!