February is here and that means we’ve reached the final month of regular-season action in NCAA Division III hockey.
Here are my picks for key games in the West this weekend:
St. Thomas (9-6-4, 6-2-2) vs. Concordia (Minn.) (8-9-2, 6-3-1)
The Tommies are tied for second in the conference and have seen their last two games end in a tie. The road hasn’t been kind to St. Thomas this year as it is 2-4-2 away from home. Connor McBride will be a key offensively, having tallied nine goals and five assists. The defense will need to be sharp and goaltender Joe Morris will be a key to that success. He has nine wins and a 2.08 GAA.
The Cobbers are right on the heels of the Tommies, sitting one behind them in third place. The Cobbers have struggled at home, winning only twice in six games. They are also looking to get a little momentum back after winning only once in their last four outings. Jon Grebosky leads the offense with 10 goals and 11 assists. Alex Reichle has eight wins this year and has a 2.99 GAA.
The team that plays better defensively will win – St. Thomas, 4-2, Concordia 3-2.
Hamline (8-9-4, 5-6-1) vs. Augsburg (12-6-1, 8-1-1)
The Pipers are right on the cusp of being in a position to be a MIAC playoff team, sitting in sixth place. They have won their last two games and four of their last six overall. Charlie Adams and Brandon Zurn have been phenomenal all year. Adams has 19 goals and 24 assists, while Zurn has come through with 16 goals and 26 assists. If those two are on, Hamline will be in good shape.
Augsburg is looking to stay atop the conference and will start this home-and-home series on its own ice. The Auggies have won two in a row and are unbeaten in their last four games. Nate Flynn leads the way with 13 goals and 11 assists while Eli May has come through with nine goals and eight assists. Jordyn Kaufer anchors the defense, having won 11 games. He has a 2.19 GAA.
Augsburg, 5-2, Hamline 4-3.
Adrian (17-2-1) vs. Wisconsin-Stevens Point (16-4-1)
The top-ranked Bulldogs head out on the road for a huge nonconference showdown that will have a playoff-like feel to it. Adrian has won its last two and is 7-2-1 on the road this season. Mathew Thompson leads the Bulldogs in goals with 15, while Connor Armour has dished out 27 assists. Adrian is very good at sharing the puck as nine players have tallied 10 or more assists on the season.
The fifth-ranked Pointers have only one loss at home and skate into this showdown on a four-game win streak. They have struck for 106 goals on the season and Kyle Sharkey leads the way with 15 goals. Lawrence Cornellier has come through with 14 goals. Joe Kalisz leads the team in points with 12 goals and 20 assists. The Pointers share the puck efficiently as well, tallying 174 assists.
Stevens Point, 4-3.
St. Scholastica (13-4-2, 11-3) vs. Concordia (Wis.) (9-8-2, 5-7-2)
The nationally-ranked Saints are on a roll, winning their last four games, and they hope to keep that momentum going in a road series against the Falcons. St. Scholastica is 6-2-1 away from home. Brandon Millin has helped fuel the offense, scoring 13 goals and dishing out 11 assists. The Saints have scored 73 goals in all while Tyler Bruggeman has 11 wins on the season. He owns a 2.05 GAA.
The Falcons are looking to get back on track after dropping their last two. They have only one win in their last six games. But they have played well at home, going 7-2-2, and perhaps that will make a difference this weekend. Braden Crone has helped fuel the offense with seven goals and 10 assists and will need a big series for the Falcons to steal a game. Stefen Seel has come through with six goals and 12 assists on the season. Concordia has 50 goals as a team.
Concordia, 6-3 and 4-1.
Wisconsin-Superior (7-12-2, 1-3) vs. Wisconsin-River Falls (13-5-3, 3-1)
The Yellow Jackets have won two of three and are led by Ian Ecklund, who has come through with nine goals and 17 assists. Anton Svensson leads Superior in goals scored with 12. He has also dished out eight assists.
The Falcons have won three of four and are looking to remain in contention for the conference crown. Balance has been key to their success as 10 players have scored at least 10 goals. Kyle Gattelaro leads the way with eight goals and seven assists. River Falls is 10-3-1 at home this sesason.
River Falls, 5-2.
Stevens Point (16-4-1, 3-2) vs. Superior (7-12-2, 1-3)
The Pointers are one of the best offensive teams in the nation and will be tough to slow down. Max Milosek has been solid in goal, giving up an average of 2.05 goals per game.
Superior has allowed 68 goals. Cory Simons has played in eight games, including the last three, and allows 2.94 goals per outing. The Yellow Jackets will need to have their best defensive effort of the year to survive this test.
Stevens Point, 6-2.