Another hockey season has arrived and it’s time to make a few predictions for the games taking place during the first weekend of the season
St. Thomas vs. Augsburg: The Tommies begin life without Drew Fielding in goal, but still have the talent to be a contender for the MIAC championship. Willie Faust is one of 18 letter-winners returning for St. Thomas, which will be taking aim at its fifth regular-season crown. Augsburg was a conference tournament participant a year ago and will look to take another step forward this year. While this game is a chance for the Auggies to make an early statement, the Tommies are the favorite. St. Thomas, 3-2.
St. John’s vs. St. Thomas: Intensity is never in short supply when the Johnnies and Tommies square off. St. John’s finished sixth in the league last season, but is determined to climb back to the top after missing the conference tourney by a point. St. John’s will benefit from the return of Kevin Becker (seven goals) and goaltender Saxton Soley (nine wins). Look for the Johnnies to come away with a win in a tight one. St. John’s 4-3.
Adrian vs. Milwaukee School of Engineering: It’s an early-season showdown between two of the best teams in the conference. The Bulldogs won 24 games last season and return the top goal-scorer in the nation in Kyle Brothers, who punched in 24 goals last season. He also dished out 25 assists during a remarkable freshman season. The Engineers welcome back every player that scored a goal for them last season, in addition to goaltender Nick Kohn, who won 13 games. These two teams will play twice and both games should be tight from start to finish. Adrian 2-1, MSOE, 3-2.
Concordia (Wis.) vs. Lake Forest: This home-and-home kicks off at Lake Forest. The Foresters return 11 players who scored at least one goal last season and feature one of the best goaltenders in the country in Leo Podolsky, who is poised for a big senior year. Braden Crone is back to lead the way for Concordia after tallying six goals and 15 assists last season. The Falcons are hoping to have a winning season after finishing 8-19 a year ago, but beating the Foresters will be a challenge. Lake Forest, 2-0 and 3-2.
Wisconsin-Stevens Point at Lawrence: The 2015 national runner-up will look to get the season started on a positive note. They Pointers are loaded with experience as 18 letter-winners are on the roster, including Joe Kalisz, who struck for 18 goals and tallied 14 assists last year. Lawrence should be an improved team as its top four scorers are back. Mattias Soderqvist returns at goaltender as well. Blake Roubos is the top scoring threat for Vikings, scoring six goals and dishing out eight assists last year. Stevens Point, 4-2.
Wisconsin-River Falls at St. Scholastica: River Falls comes in after a year where it won the WIAC tournament title. Kyle Gattelaro is back for the Falcons after coming up with 13 goals and 12 assists last season. St. Scholastica has plenty of experience as eight seniors are on the roster. The group includes goaltender Tyler Bruggeman, who won nine games a year ago. The Saints will also be able to count on Dylan Nowakowski, who racked up 12 goals and 18 assists last year. This should prove to be an interesting nonconference game. River Falls, 3-2.