Posted On: 09/30/21 4:30 AM
We are adding an extra article to the coverage for the Big South this year. Just a refresher, the Big South conference contains the teams Fairmont, Luverne, Marshall, Minnesota River, New Ulm, Redwood Valley, Waseca, Worthington, Windom. I will be giving the top 3 teams I think for this conference, and try to predict their record and top scorers. I am going off of player losses, how the team did last year, and what players they return. Very excited about this series!
Last Season Conf. Record- (10-5) Overall Record- (11-9-0)
3rd Place Finish Big South
Lost in 1A Section Quarterfinal to Dodge County
Key Player Losses: Charlie Huttemier Charlie Huttemier Forward Waseca | 2021 State MN – Forward (41 Points), Ben Diedrich- Goalie (10-8, 3.38 GAA, .908 SV PCT)
Key Players Coming Back: Kyle Ahlschlager Kyle Ahlschlager Forward Waseca | 2023 State MN – Junior Forward (57 Points), Riley Forshee- Senior Forward (25 Points), Jarrett Ahlschlager- Senior Defense (13 Points)
Projected First Line: Forwards- Kyle Ahlschlager Kyle Ahlschlager Forward Waseca | 2023 State MN (57 Points), Riley Forshee (25 Points), Leo Harguth (13 Points)
Defenseman- Jarrett Ahlschlager (13 Points), Brendan Brown (10 Points)
I think Waseca makes the jump from a third-place finish in the conference last year, to a first-place finish this year. Waseca only loses two key players and returns really everyone else. I think that Waseca has the best forward in the conference, in Kyle Ahlschlager Kyle Ahlschlager Forward Waseca | 2023 State MN . Waseca has a very solid first line, and they are still pretty deep at the 2nd and 3rd lines due to not graduating a lot of players. This team should have the best scoring offense in the conference and should be able to outscore any team in the Big South. The question is can their inexperienced goalie step up and have a lower GAA for them to win this conference? I think their goalie can have just above average stats and this team will still be winning a lot of games in a pretty top-heavy conference this year. Excited to see if they can live up to this prediction
Record Prediction: Conf: 13-3
Losses- Minnesota River, New Ulm, Windom,
Playoff Finish: Lose in Section 1A Championship Vs. Northfield
Last Season Conf. Record- (11-3) Overall Record- (12-7-0)
2nd Place Finish Big South
Lost in 3A Section Quarterfinal to Willmar
Key Win- 4-2 W over Waseca
Key Player Losses: Alex Espenson- Forward (36 Points), Caleb Rivera- Forward (13 Points),
Key Players Coming Back: Brady Espenson Brady Espenson 5'9" | Forward Windom | 2023 State MN – Junior Forward (38 Points), Sonny Heil- Sophomore Forward (27 Points), Zach Espenson- Senior Defense (20 Points), Dan Stubbe- Senior Goalie (12-7, GAA 3.27, .877 SV PCT).
Projected First Line: Forwards- Brady Espenson Brady Espenson 5'9" | Forward Windom | 2023 State MN (38 Points), Sonny Heil (27 Points), Ethan Purrington (13 Points)
Defenseman- Zach Espenson (20 Points), Cragen Porath (8 Points)
This Windom team is super solid and is a very close second, behind Waseca. Windom returns a lot of guys as well, and also returns their goalie- which Waseca doesn’t. I think as of now, Windom doesn’t have the star power that Waseca has in Kyle Ahlschlager Kyle Ahlschlager Forward Waseca | 2023 State MN . But I think they are the most well-balanced team in this conference, and having a D pairing that had 28 points combined last year, and one of the only returning goalies in the conference really helps. Windom is going to really challenge Waseca for the top spot in the conference, and it will be very close. I think Windom and Waseca will split their series, and it will come down to who losses the least number of games to teams they shouldn’t lose to. Windom is a very solid team and they can just as easily finish first in this conference.
Record Prediction: Conf: 12-4
Losses- Luverne, New Ulm, Windom, Minnesota River
Playoff Finish: Lose in Section 3A Semis
#3- New Ulm
Last Season Conf. Record- (15-0) Overall Record- (16-4-0)
1st Place Finish Big South
Lost in 3A Section Semifinal to LDC
Key Win- 4-0 W over Windom, 3-1 over Waseca
Key Player Losses: Jace Addy- Forward (34 Points), Noah Wilmes- Forward (31 Points), Keagan Schiro- Forward (28 Points), Aj Arneson- Forward (27 Points), Jacob Berg- Defense (23 Points), Kadon Strong- Defense (20 Points), Joey Gag Joey Gag 6'2" | Goalie New Ulm | 2021 State MN – Goalie (8-2, 1.30 GAA, .941 SV PCT), Kyle Esser- Goalie (8-2, 1.93 GAA, .910 SV PCT).
Key Players Coming Back: Braxten Hoffmann- Senior Forward (39 Points), Jack Albrecht Jack Albrecht 5'9" | Defense New Ulm | 2023 State MN – Junior Defense (17 Points), Josh Gulden- Senior Defense (17 Points)
Projected First Line: Forwards- Braxten Hoffmann (39 Points), Blake Soukup (15 Points), Taylor Hanson (2 Points), or Young player with no stats.
Defenseman- Jack Albrecht Jack Albrecht 5'9" | Defense New Ulm | 2023 State MN (17 Points), Josh Gulden (17 Points)
This New Ulm team loses just about as much production as possible this year, as they lose their top 3 forwards, top two defensemen, and top 2 goalies. They lost even more than that and will be very thin on forward experience this year. But it is New Ulm and the rest of this conference isn’t all that great this season. I think they have the best defensive duo in the conference, and Braxten Hoffmann is one of the best Forwards in the conference as well. New Ulm was so good last year, because of how experienced they were. This year they are very inexperienced and it will likely cost them a handful of games early. Once they are more developed later in the year I can see them stringing together a win streak and finishing near the top.
Record Prediction: Conf: 10-6
Losses- Luverne, Marshall, Waseca, Windom, Minnesota River, Redwood Valley
Playoff Finish: Lose in Section 3A Quaterfinals