Posted On: 09/27/21 5:59 AM

We are adding an extra article to the coverage for the Big Nine this year. Just a refresher, the Big Nine conference contains the teams Albert Lea, Austin, Faribault, Mankato East, Mankato West, Northfield, Owatonna, Red Wing, Rochester Century, Rochester John Marshall, Rochester Mayo, Winona. 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!

#1- Northfield 

Last Season Conf. Record- (9-2) Overall Record- (12-6-1)

Lost in 1AA Section Quarterfinal to Hastings 

Key Wins- 3-2 W over Mankato East, 3-2 W over Owatonna

Key Player Losses: Carson VanZuilen- Forward (40 Points), Will Tidona- Forward (23 Points), Davis Royle- Forward (18 Points), Isak Johnson- Defense (15 Points)

Key Players Coming Back: Spencer Klotz Spencer Klotz Forward Northfield | 2022 State MN – Senior Forward (46 Points), Cayden Monson- Sophomore Forward (35 Points), Keaton Walock- Junior Goalie (8-2, 1.65 GA, .921 SV PCT)

Projected First Line: Forwards- Spencer Klotz Spencer Klotz Forward Northfield | 2022 State MN (46 Points), Cayden Monson (35 Points), Gabe Sawyer (4 Points)

Defenseman- Mike Fossum (9 Points), Matt Debuse (5 Points)

Key-notes: Moved down to section 1A

I think that the Northfield Raiders will win the Big Nine conference this season. They did lose a lot of solid players, that VanZuilen loss is pretty tough for their offense, and Isak Johnson is a pretty big loss for their defense. What makes me so high on them, is their line combo of Klotz and Monson. This conference has not seen a duo this talented in a while. Klotz is an incoming senior ranked #10 in the state with 15 goals, 31 assists for 46 points last season. The young phenom Sophomore Cayden Monson is coming off 20 goals, 15 assists for 35 points season. These guys will set each other for goals up all year and that is why I think Northfield will have the best offense in the conference. There is a big question mark as to who is going to be on their line; my current prediction is Gabe Sawyer, but it could be anyone. They just need a fast playmaker to set them up, and that could be someone that did not have a big role last year, so that is their weakness. Another weakness is the loss at the forward position, they need young guys to really step up on their 2nd and 3rd line and that might be a liability of their team. I think they will end up finding players to fit the roles of players they lost last year, but they could rely too much on their first line and that can cause trouble. Returning that good of a goalie is a big positive and they shouldn’t allow too many goals. Northfield has the top 2 offensive players in the conference, and they are one year older. They have a top 3 goalie and I think the combo of that offensive firepower and that goalie make them the number one team in the conference. My worry is lines 2 and 3 for forwards and defense, if they cant step up I do not think Northfield will do as well as I’m thinking. Monson and Klotz can only score so much. 

Record Prediction: Conf: 15-2

Losses- Owatonna, Mankato West

Playoff Finish: Win Section 1A and make state

 

#2- Rochester Mayo 

Last Season Conf. Record- (6-3-1) Overall Record- (12-4-1)

Key Wins- 5-2 W over Northfield, 4-2 W over Dodge County, 3-1 W over Mankato East

Key Player Losses: No Key Losses 

Key Players Coming Back: Tate Cothern Tate Cothern 5'6" | Goalie Rochester Mayo | 2022 State MN – Senior Goalie (7-1, 1.38 GAA, .949 SV PCT), Ethan Dennis- Junior Forward (16 Points), Ethan Norman- Senior Defense (13 Points), Mason Leimbeck- Junior Forward (12 Points)

Projected First Line: Forwards- Ethan Dennis- Junior Forward (16 Points), Mason Leimbeck- Junior Forward (12 Points), Javan Hodge Javan Hodge 6'2" | Defense Rochester Mayo | 2022 MN – Senior Forward (11 Points)

Defenseman- Ethan Norman- Senior Defense (13 Points), Will Sexton- Junior Defense (4 Points)

Rochester Mayo comes in this season ranked number 2 by Prep Hockey. They are the deepest team in the conference, as they return their top 8 scoring players from last year. They are going to be very very solid on offense, and have 2 really solid lines with experienced and proven players, then the 3rd line with a couple of experienced and decent players as well. The depth especially with their forwards is a huge positive and why they are at number 2. The next reason is their goalie.. they have the 6th ranked Senior goalie in the state in Tate Cothern Tate Cothern 5'6" | Goalie Rochester Mayo | 2022 State MN . Tate has very solid stats and is by far the best goalie in this conference; his one loss last year was a 1-2 loss to Mankato East where he saved 54/56 shots. The only gripe I have with this team is that they do not have a true star, but that is not that bad. The only reason I say it is a gripe is that if they are down 1-2 goals and need someone to score badly they cant turn to one player. They will be relying on their goalie, and the depth of their team to propel them to the top of the conference this year

Record Prediction: Conf: 13-4

Losses- Northfield twice, Mankato East, Mankato West

Playoff Prediction- Eliminated in 1AA Semifinals to a Lakeville team

 

#3- Mankato West 

Last Season Conf. Record- (8-1-1) Overall Record- (13-5-2)

Key Wins- 3-0 W over Northfield

Key Player Losses: Brandon Swenson Brandon Swenson 5'9" | Forward Mankato West | 2021 State MN -Forward (40 Points), Ethan Fox- Forward (22 Points), Wyatt Fowlds- Defense (20 Points), Senior Goalie- Caleb Cross Caleb Cross Goalie Mankato West | 2021 State MN (13-5-2, 1.92 GAA, .921 SV PCT)

Key Players Coming Back: Gavin Brunmeier Gavin Brunmeier Forward Mankato West | 2022 State MN – Senior Forward (30 Points), Gage Schmidt- Sophomore Forward- (23 Points)

Starting Lineup: N/A (too hard to tell)

This is more of a wildcard pick, but the rest of the conference also loses a lot of players and it really will come down to what newcomers can step up more. Brunmeier with Schmidt is a very good offensive duo, and they rank as the 2nd best in the conference. Mankato West lost a lot from last year, and losing Caleb Cross Caleb Cross Goalie Mankato West | 2021 State MN their goalie is super bad, but I can see Brunmeier pushing 40 points and Schmidt pushing 30 points this year can really give them an offensive boost. They need a serviceable goalie in there, and this prediction won’t be far off. Both Mankato schools usually can find younger talent to come in and fill in some big shoes of the departures. This West team needs to find a goalie to step up, and some younger forwards and defensemen as well. I think West will be carried by this dynamic scoring duo and will find some solid players to give them good production. I can see a 10+ conference win season for this team pretty easily. I think they are just better than Owatonna and Mankato East, but the gap is very close.

 

Record Prediction: Conf: 13-4

Losses- Northfield, Rochester Mayo, Owatonna, Mankato East

Playoff Finish: Win Section 3A and make state