It’s not a national championship game, but it’s close. Adrian and St. Norbert square off in a battle of top five teams to highlight the mid-February slate in the west region of NCAA Division III hockey.
Several other ranked teams are in action, including fourth-ranked Augsburg and No. 14 Aurora. A lot is still left to be decided heading down the home stretch. Let’s take a look at picks for some of the games this weekend.
St. Norbert at Adrian (22-1, 16-0)
These two teams are the best two in the NCHA and are two of the best in the country. Adrian is ranked No. 1 and St. Norbert checks in at No. 5 in the latest DCU / USCHO NCAA Division III men’s poll.
The regular-season league title and home ice throughout the Harris Cup playoffs is on the line when these two teams square off.
The Bulldogs have won their last 22 games and have yet to lose at home. The Green Knights have rattled off 19 consecutive wins and are 11-2 away from home.
Adrian has scored 137 goals and St. Norbert has cranked out 115. The teams feature the top four goal scorers in the league combined. Peter Bates (24) and Liam Fraser (18) lead the Green Knights and sit in first in second in the league. Rex Moe and Ty Enns are third and fourth, respectively, with 16 goals apiece.
The schools also have the best two netminders in the game in Colby Entz and Cameron Gray. Entz sports a 1.73 goals against average and Gray owns a 2.23 GAA.
Something will have to give and it will be a surprise if one of these teams comes away with a sweep.
Adrian, 6-5; St. Norbert, 5-4
MSOE (10-11-2, 8-7-1 NCHA) at Aurora (15-7, 10-6-1)
It does not get any easier for the Raiders as they take on a nationally ranked opponent for the second consecutive week. After two losses to St. Norbert, MSOE comes in looking to bounce back and make a statement. Garrett Gintoli could be a difference maker. He is tied for the third-most goals in the league (16).
The Spartans have remained nationally ranked most of the season and look to finish strong. Playing at home is a plus and they’ll take aim at playing well over the weekend and taking momentum into the conference tourney. They’ll go into the series with confidence, especially with Josh Boyko in goal. He sports one of the best GAA’s (2.48) in the conference.
MSOE, 4-3; Aurora, 5-3
Trine (15-8, 9-7 NCHA) at Lawrence (10-9-4, 8-6-2 NCHA)
The Thunder are having another good year but have bit of a rough patch as of late, dropping four of its last five. Playing on the road will not make it easy, but the Thunder want to avoid going into the tournament without momentum.
Lawrence would not mind getting at least one of two here, and this series is a good measuring stick for the Vikings ahead of the conference tourney. The Vikings have not lost in their last seven and they have a shot to keep that streak going.
Lawrence, 4-3; Trine, 5-4
Saint Mary’s (7-10-1, 4-4 MIAC) vs. Augsburg (19-2, 11-1 MIAC)
The Cardinals face one of their biggest tests of the year as they take on the Auggies, who are fourth in the DCU / USCHO NCAA Division III men’s poll.
Augsburg has won its last 10 and features one of the top offenses and defenses in the league. It ranks among the best nationally as well in both categories and looks to move closer to a regular-season championship.
The Cardinals have won three of four and hope to stay in the mix for a playoff spot. An upset, or at least keeping it close, would provide a huge shot of confidence going forward.
Augsuburg, 5-3 and 4-2
Saint John’s (13-6-2, 6-3-1 MIAC) vs. St. Olaf (8-12-3, 5-6-1 MIAC)
Big opportunity for the Johnnies here as they take on the Oles. Both teams are still battling for position in the conference standings. This one could easily end in a split.
The Johnnies are still in the mix for at least second place in the regular-season standings. The Oles are battling to remain in the top six.
Saint John’s has won its last two. St. Olaf has done the same. Something has to give.
Saint John’s, 3-2; St. Olaf, 4-3
Bethel (12-8-1, 5-6-1 MIAC) at Concordia (11-8-2, 8-3-1 MIAC)
It’s been a pretty good year for the Royals, but they go into this series hoping to bounce back after two consecutive losses. Jarrett Cammarratta will try to help lead the way. He’s one of the top playmakers in the MIAC with 15 assists.
The Cobbers have been one of the better teams in the MIAC. They have a great shot at finishing as the league runner-up in the regular season and Tyler Bossert has been playing well. He leads the league in points (27).
Concordia, 4-3 and 6-5
UW-River Falls (13-9-1, 9-4 WIAC) at UW-Eau Claire (11-11-1, 7-6 WIAC)
This will be a tough test for the Falcons, who are hoping to get a sweep here.The Blugolds have been on a roll as of late and look to continue it. They are unbeaten in their last six games while the Falcons have won their last three.
UW-River Falls has the top three players in points in the WIAC, including leader Cayden Cahill, who has four goals and 10 assists. The Blugolds rank second in goals allowed at 2.21 per game. This should be one of the better matchups of the weekend.
UW-Eau Claire, 3-2; UW-River Falls, 4-3
UW-Superior (12-8-2, 5-5-1) at UW-Stout (7-16, 5-8 WIAC)
This is a huge series for the Yellowjackets, who have played well this season and need to navigate their way out of a tough stretch where they have lost three consecutive games. They have the ability to do it, especially with the leading goal scorer in the league on their team in Dylan Johnson (12 goals).
The Blue Devils will look to play spoiler. They come in on a five-game losing streak and will have to be at their best defensively to have a shot against UW-Superior.
UW-Superior, 5-2 and 4-1