It’s the quarterfinal round and all four games feature matchups that are great for fans who like great offense, strong team defense and terrific goaltending.
The winning teams will need to have all on display to advance to next week’s Frozen Four in Lake Placid.
Last week’s first round NCAA picks went 2-1-0 (.667) with my miss on the big win by Williams over Salem State. That brings the season record to 72-37-10 (.647) and with just two games in the East, I am branching out to the West quarterfinals and challenging my writing partner for prognostication supremacy.
Here are my picks across the quarterfinal round NCAA games on Saturday:
Massachusetts-Boston @ Hobart – “To be the champ, you have to beat the champ” and the Beacons pulled that off on the road against Trinity last week. Now, they face the No. 1 seed in the East and a team unbeaten on home ice this season. Game comes down to the wire and maybe even some extra time to decide who plays next weekend – Hobart 4, UMB 3
Williams @ Geneseo – The two teams played in the regular season back in late November and neither coach is putting much stock in that result being representative of the teams today. NESCAC Rookie of the Year Michael Pinios will be one difference from the first game, but not the outcome – Geneseo 2, Williams 1
Wisconsin-Stevens Point @ Adrian – The teams split the two games played in the regular season with each winning at home. The Bulldogs have been unbeatable on home ice and that may be just the edge they need to sneak by the Pointers – Adrian 3, Wisconsin-Stevens Point 2
Augsburg @ St. Norbert – The Auggies certainly earned their trip to the NCAAs and now face a ranked team on the road to advance from the quarterfinals. As the visitor, they are winless against nonconference foes this season and the Green Knights have lots of experience in reaching the Frozen Four – St. Norbert 4, Augsburg 1
Brian Lester’s picks:
Only eight teams are still standing in college hockey and four will be fortunate to keep their national championship dreams alive.
Below is a quick look at the matchups and my predictions for the weekend.
Stevens Point vs. Adrian
Stevens Point wants another crack at the national title after finishing as the runner-up the last two seasons. Adrian is playing as well as anyone right now and is eager to win its first title in program history.
The Pointers have won nine of 11 and are led by Lawrence Cornellier, who has tallied 20 goals. Max Milosek has been sensational in goal with a 16-4-2 record.
The Bulldogs have won their last seven and are looking for another trip to the final four. They have eight players who have scored 10 or more goals, including Mathew Thompson and Trevor Boyd. The two have scored 16 goals apiece. Adrian also features the lone unbeaten goaltender in the country in Kevin Entmaa, who is 14-0 and has given up just 30 goals.
Goals will be tough to come by, but my money’s on Adrian.
St. Norbert vs. Augsburg
The Green Knights are determined to win their first title since 2014 and Augsburg is the first obstacle to overcome on the road to the championship. The Auggies are in the tourney for the first time since the 1997-98 campaign.
St. Norbert has just one lost in its last 12 and has thrived behind the play of Erik Cooper, who has tallied 12 goals and 20 assists. Four others have scored at least 11 goals. Tony Kujava is 14-1-1 with a 1.28 GAA.
Augsburg has won 10 of its last 12 and has been led by Nate Flynn, who has racked up 16 goals and 14 assists. Jordyn Kaufer is one of the top goaltenders in the nation, sporting a 16-5-1 record and a 2.01 GAA. He has recorded three shutouts this season.
St. Norbert is no doubt the favorite, but I’ll pick the upset in this one just for the heck of it.
Geneseo vs. Williams
The Knights crushed Salve Regina 7-1 in its tourney opener, running its unbeaten streak to seven games. Anthony Marra scored three times and dished out an assist, while Trevor Hills tallied two goals and three assists. Marra has nine goals and 27 assists and Hills has come through with 22 goals and 18 assists overall. Devin McDonald is 16-2-5 with a 2.41 GAA and has helped anchor a defense that has allowed only four goals in the last four games.
The Ephs defeated Salem State in its NCAA tourney debut, getting two goals from George Hunkele, who has nine goals and nine assists on the year. Williams set a school record with its 19th win last weekend and will be seeking revenge after falling 3-0 to Geneseo in November. The Ephs have lost only once in their last 11 games and are led by David Italiano, who has tallied eight goals and 14 assists. Michael Pinios is 13-3-1 with a 1.59 GAA.
Hobart vs. Mass.-Boston
Hobart had a bye in the first round and can break the record for wins in a season with a win this weekend. The Statesmen average a little more than four goals per game and have won their last four overall. Brad Robbins leads the way with 19 goals and 13 assists. Hobart features two solid goaltenders in Lino Chimienti (11-2-2, 1.68 GAA) and Frank Oplinger (10-2-0, 1.81 GAA). Either one is capable of getting the job done on any given night.
Mass.-Boston is riding a five-game win streak and made quite an impression in its NCAA tournament debut, knocking off defending champion Trinity by a 4-0 score. The Beacons average more than four goals per game as well and are led by Matt Lemire, who has come through with 14 goals and 29 assists. Billy Faust is 15-3-3 with a 2.04 GAA.
Don’t be surprised if the Beacons pull off another win and continue on to the final four.
The quarterfinals determine who is on the way to Lake Placid and the Frozen Four.
Can’t look past Saturday and start making travel plans; you have to earn this trip – drop the puck!