Happy Thanksgiving to all!
For most people this week, it’s all about turkey, football and family. For some of us, this weekend is all about some great holiday hockey tournaments and nonconference matchups that don’t occur in the regular season with any great frequency.
It makes the hockey exciting, but the picking of the winners more challenging.
Last week saw my picks at 4-1-1 (.750), which brings the season record to 13-4-2 (.737). Not a bad start to the season, but still a bit too close to that 70 percent line for comfort. Only picking first-round games in tournaments to ensure I have the right teams playing.
Here are my picks for the East this week:
Friday, Nov. 27
Plattsburgh @ Middlebury
These rivals are a great opener to the annual Primelink tournament and while the Cardinals have the advantage of having played a few more games to date, that all gets thrown out when these two teams play each other. Panthers got off to a good start last weekend, but see where they want to be against a nationally-ranked team - Plattsburgh 3, Middlebury 1.
Connecticut College @ Norwich
The Cadets host the Primelink this season against the annual fourth invitee. Goal scoring has been a challenge for the Cadets and Camels’ goaltender Tom Conlin isn’t going to help Norwich amass any great totals here either. Somehow, Norwich finds a way in the clutch and one is just enough – Norwich 1, Conn College 0.
Saturday, Nov. 28
Geneseo @ Williams
Geneseo coach Chris Schultz has had this one marked on the calendar for awhile and is excited to have his Geneseo team playing at Williams in a great nonconference game. The home team gets the nod here because it really is too close to call on paper – Williams 3, Geneseo 2.
Manhattanville @ Potsdam
The ECAC West vs. SUNYAC game finds the once-beaten Bears looking to rebound at home after a crushing loss at Plattsburgh last weekend. The Valiants will have to be wary of Bears licking their wounds – Potsdam 5, Manhattanville 2.
Amherst @ Elmira
The Lord Jeffs should be wary as Elmira has already been on a roller coaster ride early this season. Always a tough building to play for visitors, this one will come down to special teams and an empty-net goal. – Amherst 4, Elmira 2.
Babson @ Nazareth
An NEHC vs. ECAC West matchup and the hosts will need to solve the Babson defense and goalie Jamie Murray, who is just one power-play goal from four straight shutouts. The Beavers are playing well, but will need to watch out for the upset – Babson 2, Nazareth 0.
Nichols @ Worcester State
The Worcester City Shootout finds the leaders in the ECAC Northeast looking to keep their winning streak intact against the Lancers in tournament featuring schools in or close to Worcester, Mass. Local bragging rights are up for grabs and the visiting Bison will look to make Worcester their own – Nichols 6, Worcester State 1.
If you can, get off the couch and go check out some great hockey at a local tournament. You are sure to be entertained and impressed by the intensity level. After all, not every weekend sees the opportunity to play for a trophy so much more on the line this weekend – drop the puck!
WEST PICKS – Brian Lester
It’s Thanksgiving weekend and several teams are in action.
Here are my predictions for the weekend ahead.
St. Thomas (4-2-2) vs. Oswego (3-3-1)
The Tommies have a solid goaltender in Joe Morris, who owns a GAA of 2.08. Thomas Williams, Chris Benson and Michael Dockry have all scored three goals apiece.
The Lakers are riding a two-game win streak and are led by Alex Botten,who has come through with four goals and three assists. Shawn Hulshof and Kenny Neil have tallied three goals apiece. St. Thomas, 4-2.
St. John’s (2-4-2) vs. Utica (3-3-1)
The Johnnies have momentum after winning two in a row and will look to carry that with them on the road. Saxton Soley will be counted on to help lead the way. Huba Sekesi has paved the way offensively, tallying three goals and three assists.
While St. John’s is on a win streak after a tough start, Utica has dropped its last three games and is eager to get back on track. The Pioneers have given up 14 goals in those three losses and will be need to be much sharper defensively to take down the Johnnies. Hayden Dawes leads the offense with five goals. St. John’s 5-3.
Hamline (3-3-2) vs. Wisconsin-Superior (3-3-2)
Brandon Zurn and Charlie Adams rank second and third in goals scored with eight and seven, respectively, and will need to be at their best for the Pipers to get this non-conference win. Both players have come through with eight assists apiece as well. The Pipers are looking to bounce back after two losses to St. John’s and this is great opportunity for them do it.
Superior is winless in five games and is led by Ian Ecklund, who has tallied three goals and eight assists. The Yellowjackets started the year with three consecutive wins and are hoping to get back on track. Hamline, 4-3.
No. 10 Wisconsin-Eau Claire (5-1-2) vs. Lawrence (2-4)
The Blugolds have won two of three and have racked up 34 goals on the season. Adam Knochenmus has led the way with nine goals and three assists. The balanced attack of Eau Claire is tough to deal with. Eight players have scored at least two goals and Eau Claire has scored three goals or more in six of its games.
Lawrence gets another shot at Eau Claire after losing 5-1 on Oct. 30. The defense will have to be sharp and the offense will have to capitalize on its opportunities. Five players have scored two goals apiece and Mattias Soderqvist has been solid in goal. Eau Claire, 5-2.
No. 4 Wisconsin-Stevens Point (6-1-1) vs. No. 8 Adrian (4-1-1)
The Pointers lost their first game of the season over the weekend and find themselves facing another huge test as they take on Adrian in a battle of nationally-ranked teams.
Joe Kalisz leads the offense with six goals and four assists, while Logan Lemirande is one of three players with seven assists on a team that has scored 38 goals.
Connor Armour has played a key role for the Bulldogs, scoring three goals and dishing out eight assists. Mathew Thompson leads the team in goals with five. He has also come through with five assists. Adrian has struck for 29 goals and allowed 17.
This is one of those games that is going to be decided by which team plays the best defense. Stevens Point, 5-4.
No. 5 St. Norbert (7-1) vs. Buffalo State (4-2-2)
The Green Knights, riding the high off a big win over Stevens Point, have won their last six games. Noah Nelson leads the offense with five goals and three assists. Tony Kujava has been instrumental to St. Norbert’s success as well, fashioning a 6-0-0 record in goal this season.
The Bengals have won four in a row and have a chance to make a statement against one of the top teams in the country. Playing at home is a big help. Buffalo State has scored 34 goals and should be able to keep pace offensively with the Green Knights. Taylor Price leads the way with six goals and seven assists. Buffalo State, 4-3, St. Norbert 3-2.