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The D-III women’s season opens up with a bang in just under an hour as No. 8 Manhattanville and No. 2 R.I.T. collide in the first game of the 2011 East/West Hockey Classic at Norwich’s Kreitzberg Arena.

But before I get to the picks for this weekend’s matchups, it’s time to publicly announce that the NCAA Tournament field will be expanding from seven teams to eight this season. The addition of St. Norbert and St. Scholastica has pushed the number of D-III teams up to 49, which when rounded up qualifies for the 6.5 access ratio that the NCAA uses to determine the number of teams for the NCAA Tournament.

Now there will be three Pool C bids intead of two like there has been in previous years. Plattsburgh more than likely would have been the benefactor of this change to the format last year as the eighth team into the tournament. Now there will also be no more byes and everyone will have to play their way into the Frozen Four.

Also on the same front, the NCAA announced that next season we will be going to a predetermined site for the host of the D-III Frozen Four on a one-year trial basis. This marks the first time that there could be a chance that a school will host the Frozen Four without a team in it.

Picks for this weekend-

Friday, October 28:

RIT: 4 Manhattanville: 1
Norwich: 3 Elmira: 2
Adrian: 5 Oswego: 1
Utica: 3  New England College: 1

Saturday, October 29:

Elmira: 4 Manhattanville: 2
RIT: 3 Norwich: 2
Oswego: 3 Adrian: 2