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It is already the final week in January, so the home stretch is officially upon all teams and conference play is now everything in terms of points and position for playoff seeding.

The picks for last week may be a confidence boosting jump start for me coming into February as I finished at 5-2-0 (.714) for the weekend. That brings the season record to 37-24-7 (.596), which has me just below the seemingly ever elusive 60 percent success threshold. Let’s see if I can make it two strong weeks in a row.

Here are my picks for the East this week:

Thursday, Jan. 28

Fitchburg State @ Massachusetts-Dartmouth
The last time the two met saw Falcons coach Dean Fuller on the precipice of his 500th win, but the game ended in a tie, prolonging the celebration of the coaching milestone. Just points in conference and seeding on the line in this one and fellow 500-win club member John Rolli likes his team on home ice, but needs some more consistent defense and goaltending to earn this win – UMD 4, FSU 3.

Friday, Jan. 29

University of New England @ Babson
The Beavers are still looking to catch Massachusetts-Boston for the top spot in the NEHC, but a young and hungry UNE squad stands in their way with equal desire to move up in the top four. This one will be fun and physical with the home team being just a tad better – Babson 3, UNE 2.

Utica @ Hobart
Hobart coach Mark Taylor knows exactly what it means to be playing your best hockey going into the end of the year and now back in conference play, the points and position makes it imperative to hold serve at home where the Statesmen are a perfect 8-0 this season. The Pioneers will be a worthy adversary, but the Statesmen will eke this one out – Hobart 2, Utica 1.

Potsdam @ Buffalo State
The Bears have proven they can take the best that SUNYAC has, but to be at the top, they are going to need to finish strong down the stretch starting with a game Bengal squad. The visitors somehow find a way, barely – Potsdam 5, Buffalo State 4.

Saturday, Jan. 30

Salve Regina @ Endicott
Two teams fighting near the top of the ECAC Northeast will want to send a message about who is the better team late in the season. Endicott got its first NCAA win against the Seahawks last fall in a crazy 7-5 affair. Don’t expect so many fireworks this time around, though – Endicott 3, Salve Regina 2.

Hamilton @ Trinity
The battle for a home-ice playoff spot is hot and heavy in the NESCAC and these two contenders know this game is a four-pointer in potentially knocking down a close rival for a spot. No doubt the game will be tight, but the home team gets the nod and maybe in an extra session – Trinity 2, Hamilton 1.

Franklin Pierce @ Daniel Webster
This nonconference game could become a nice rivalry in the Granite State in the future. Both teams have struggled this season for success on the ice, so facing an opponent with equal challenges could be the motivation for a win to close out January – Franklin Pierce 4, Daniel Webster 2.

You virtually blink after Christmas and the end of January is already here. There are just a few weekends remaining in the regular season, so get those points – 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.