When the 2010-11 NCAA Division III hockey season began in October, the top three teams in the USCHO.com poll were Norwich, Oswego and St. Norbert.

Five months later, those picks are looking pretty good.

The Cadets, the Lakers and the Green Knights are three of the four teams set to compete this weekend for the NCAA Division III Championship at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, Minn. With the three programs holding five NCAA Championships between them, it’s not much of a surprise to see them in the Twin Cities this weekend.

Of course, there’s also the matter of Adrian.

The Bulldogs are new on the scene, reaching the championship weekend in just their fourth year of existence, but having beaten Elmira in an NCAA Quarterfinal game two weeks ago, Adrian enters this weekend’s championship with a 17-game unbeaten streak, the longest in the nation. Led by high-scoring seniors Eric Miller (18g, 26a) and First Team All-American Shawn Skelly (19g, 26a), the Bulldogs boast seven double-digit goal-scorers and haven’t lost since New Year’s Eve against Manhattanville, which means that the Lakers will have their work cut out for them against the MCHA champions in the first semifinal on Friday afternoon.

The Lakers, for their part, have bounced back strong from a loss to Fredonia in the SUNYAC tournament and outraced Bowdoin, 7-5, in their quarterfinal game. Junior forward Ian Boots, a Second Team All-American who leads Oswego in points after having transferred from Division I Ohio State, is one of six Lakers with 10 or more goals, while junior goaltender Paul Beckwith, a First Team All-American, is third in Division III in goals-against average (1.93) and fourth in save percentage (.929).

“They’ve worked extremely hard, their spirits are good, and we’re excited about going,” Oswego State coach Ed Gosek told the Pall Times. “We’re getting a second chance.”

After a slow start to the season – Norwich went 3-4-1 from November 27 to January 4 – the Cadets have given themselves a second chance of their own. Norwich hasn’t lost since January 21, beating Babson to win the ECAC East Championship. The Cadets were the only team to win on the road in the quarterfinals, traveling to Plattsburgh on March 12 and knocking off the Cardinals in overtime, 3-2, on a goal by senior forward Chad Anderson. Anderson is one of five double-digit goal-scorers for the Cadets, a group led by sophomores Scott Schroeder and Pier-Oliver Cotnoir, who have 20 goals apiece this season. Schroeder was named a Third Team All-American on Thursday night, with defenseman Greg Eskedjian named to the Second Team.

To defend their title, the Cadets will have to once again defeat St. Norbert, the team they beat in double-overtime a year ago in Lake Placid. The Green Knights come in with a strong defensive unit, led by senior defenseman Nick Tabisz. Tabisz, who was named a First Team All-American for the third straight year on Thursday night, leads a strong St. Norbert blueline in front of First Team All-American goaltender B.J. O’Brien, the national leader in goals-against average (1.55) and save percentage (.933). All told, St. Norbert leads the nation in scoring defense, giving up only 1.75 goals per game.

At the offensive end, the Green Knights have been led by Second Team All-American Johan Ryd. The junior forward from Sodertajle, Sweden, has nine goals and 16 assists in 23 games this season, sharing the team lead in assists on a squad that has exceptional balance.

Overall, offense could be in short supply this weekend, as St. Norbert, Oswego, Norwich and Adrian are all among the top five teams in the nation in scoring defense. On the other hand, Adrian, Norwich and Oswego are all among the top 10 teams in the nation in scoring offense, all averaging more than four goals per game. Adrian leads the pack with an average just over five goals per contest.

In the end of course, all four teams got to Ridder Arena by being among the best in the nation at what they do. The question to be answered this weekend is: just who is the best?

The NCAA Division III Championship kicks off at 4:30 p.m. ET with Oswego and Adrian, followed by St. Norbert and Norwich at 8 p.m. ET. The championship game will be played on Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET, with all games being streamed live on NCAA.com