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The level of competition across all of the conferences has simply been outstanding.

No, I am not saying that in any way to justify my picks being just over the .500 mark in recent weeks. The old adage of any team being able to win on any given night is the reality these days and the scoreboard each week clearly reflects the need not to take any opponent lightly.

The picks for last week missed out on a couple of surprising results, leaving me just above the .500 mark at 4-3-0 (.571) for the weekend. That brings the season record to 32-22-7 (.582), which has me trending down just from the 60 percent success threshold. Never fearful, this week brings more opportunity to change momentum.

Here are my picks for the East this week:

Thursday, Jan. 21

Southern New Hampshire @ Stonehill
This NE-10 battle may be critical as teams are jockeying for just four positions in the D-II tournament starting about a month from now. Wins and points are critical and the home team has just enough to eke out the win against the Penmen – Stonehill 4, SNHU 3.

Friday, Jan. 22

Neumann @ Utica
The atmosphere at Utica makes playing a game a challenge for any visitor and the Pioneers love to make the most of their home-ice advantage. Neumann won’t be intimidated by the crowd, so expect an empty-netter to be needed to send the crowd home happy – Utica 4, Neumann 2.

Amherst @ Hamilton
Rob Haberbusch has Hamilton playing some very sound hockey right now and conversely, Jack Arena’s Lord Jeffs are trying to find their offensive game. The battle between the travel partners could continue the Continentals rise to the top of the NESCAC standings – Hamilton 2, Amherst 1.

Southern Maine @ University of New England
TheNor’easters have been getting balanced scoring and good goaltending. That’s two critical elements to winning hockey games so expect the strong play to continue on the “big sheet” in their home rink – UNE 4, Southern Maine 3.

Saturday, Jan. 23

Middlebury @ Bowdoin
This is still one of the best rivalries in D-III so throw out the records when they play each other. The Panthers let a 4-1 lead slip away on the opening weekend of the season, so expect things to be played a little tighter in this one at “The Sid” – Middlebury 2, Bowdoin 1.

Suffolk @ Salve Regina
This ECAC Northeast game finds two teams battling for one of those home-ice playoff positions. That is a strong motivator for points and the home team has been making big plays when needed in recent games – Salve Regina 3, Suffolk 2.

Tuesday, Jan. 26

Geneseo @ Oswego
The Knights and the Lakers have been looking for that run, that consistency in their game to start that second-half run in SUNYAC play. Expect this one to be tight with neither team wanting to make a crucial mistake – Geneseo 3, Oswego 2.

The number of weekends and games is dwindling so now is the time to truly gear up for that stretch run and make sure you are playing your best hockey when it matters most – drop the puck!

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Tim Costello joined USCHO as a correspondent in 2003. A former collegiate goaltender, he is entering his 11th season covering D-II and D-III conferences in New England and provided features spanning D-I and other special interest stories.