Our West columnist Brian Lester is back this week with his picks for the weekend in Division III circles.
Concordia (Minn.) at St. John’s
It’s an early season showdown between two teams that should be among the best in the league. Charlie Aus leads the Cobbers with a goal and two assists. Alex Reichle has allowed five goals and is 1-1 on the season. St. John’s comes in looking for its first win of the year. The Johnnies are 0-1-1 and will aim to take advantage of playing at home, where they are 14-0-1 against the Cobbers in the last 15 meetings. Neal Smith leads St. John’s in goals with two while Saxton Soley has given up eight goals. Both games should be close. St. John’s, 3-2, Concordia 2-1.
St. Mary’s at Wisconsin-Eau Claire
The Cardinals lost their first two games and the schedule doesn’t get any easier this week with a game against Eau Claire. The Cardinals have scored nine goals, though, and if they can get the defense on track, they have a shot at the upset. Jake Tugnutt, Phil Heinle and Jake Hebda all saw time in goal for St. Mary’s last weekend and one of them will need to rise to the occasion if St. Mary’s is going to be successful.
The Blugolds scored 15 goals in their first two games and only gave up two behind the solid play of Tyler Green in goal. Eau Claire will be challenged but should come out on top. Eau Claire 5-2.
St. Thomas at Wisconsin-River Falls
St. Thomas is 1-0-1 on the year and has scored four goals in each of its first two games. Thomas Williams has paced the offense with three goals. The Falcons are 1-0-1 as well and have the advantage of playing this one at home. They have scored eight goals in two games, with six players tallying at least one goal. The team that plays the best defensively will prevail. St. Thomas 4-3.
Lake Forest vs. St. Norbert
The Green Knights are 1-1 after the opening weekend and head into this home-and-home series looking for an early jump on the NCHA title race. Noah Nelson leads the offense with two goals and goaltender Tony Kujava is 1-0 with 20 saves. Lake Forest is coming off a split on opening weekend as well and will count on goaltender Leo Podolsky to help pave the way in this series. He is 1-1 with 51 saves. Billy Kent has scored half of the Foresters’ goals, tallying two. St. Norbert, 4-2, Lake Forest 3-2.
Concordia (Wis.) vs. Milwaukee School of Engineering
Concordia split its opening weekend games against Lake Forest and faces a huge challenge against MSOE.Connor Hogg has scored twice for the Falcons. The Raiders have struck for eight goals, with seven different players scoring. That balance will be tough to deal with. MSOE, 5-2 and 4-2.