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 Alexandria, Brainerd, Fergus Falls, River Lakes, St. Cloud, Sartell- St. Stephen, Sauk Rapids-Rice, Willmar. I will be giving the top 3 teams I think for this conference, and try to predict their record and top scorers. Central Lakes is a very solid conference with a good mix of AA and A teams. For these predictions/rankings, I am going off of player losses, how the team did last year, and what players they return.
#1- Fergus Falls
Last Season Conf. Record- (9-1) Overall Record- (15-4-0)
1st Place Finish Central Lakes
Lost in 6A Section Final to Little Falls
Key Player Losses: Isaac Young- Forward (29 Points), Matthew Niblock- Forward (21 Points), Colton Partain- Defense (15 Points), Ian Richards- Defense (14 Points),
Projected First Line: Forwards- (36 Points), (36 Points), (32 Points)
Defenseman- Andrew Johnson (11 Points), Owen Babolian (3 Points)
I think that Fergus Falls has the players returning to repeat as Central Lakes champions this year. They have the best line of forwards in the conference, and their goalie is up there amongst the top. Fergus Falls had a very tough OT loss in the section final last season against Little Falls, they still have a bad taste in their mouth and will try for revenge this season. The defensive depth is the only thing I think that can falter them, but I think they have the top offense in the conference, with one of the top goalies. The team went 9-1 last year in the conference and didn’t lose too much; I am fairly confident in this prediction that they repeat. Also, think this is the year they make state and get past 6A sections to make up for last year.
Record Prediction: Conf: 11-1
Loss- St. Cloud
Playoff Finish: Win Section 6A and make state
#2- Sartell- St. Stephen
Last Season Conf. Record- (6-6) Overall Record- (11-8)
4th Place Finish Central Lakes
Lost in 6A Section Semifinals to Little Falls
Key Player Losses: Michael Webster- Defense (28 Points), Lance VanDenBerg- Forward (23 Points), Connor Hacker- Defense (16 Points)
Key Players Coming Back: – Junior Forward (27 Points), Hayden Walters- Senior Forward (25 Points), Teddy McCabe- Junior Defense (15 Points), – Senior Goalie (11-7, 2.00 GAA, .929 SV PCT).
Projected First Line: Forwards- – (27 Points), Hayden Walters- (25 Points), Billy Vogt (17 Points)
Defenseman- Teddy McCabe- (15 Points), Thomas Franke- (14 Points)
This Sartell team is really returning a lot of talent this year. I think they have the best depth and talent mix in the conference this year and are just barely behind Fergus Falls in these rankings. Sartell has had a very successful youth program in the past, with a couple of Bantam A state tournament trips. This team has a very solid top two lines with a really good goalie in Sigurdson. I just think Fergus Falls has better top talent and better scorers, but Sartell has better defense so that should be a fun series to track. I think that Sartell’s ceiling this year is a first-place conference finish and then a section 6A championship to make state; that really isn’t out of the question. Their floor would be a finish like last year; middle of the pack in this conference, which also can very well happen. I am predicting they are in the middle of their ceiling and floor this year, and if they get 2nd in the conference anything can happen in sections. Excited to see what this squad can do this year.
Record Prediction: Conf: 9-3
Losses- Fergus Falls, Fergus Falls, Alexandria
Playoff Finish: Lose in Section 6A Semis
#3- St. Cloud
Last Season Conf. Record- (6-2-1) Overall Record- (9-5-1)
2nd Place Finish Central Lakes
Lost in 8AA Section Quarterfinal to Rogers
Key Player Losses: TBD- – Defense (26 Points), Cory Warner- Defense (21 Points),
Key Players Coming Back: TBD- – Senior Forward (26 Points), – Junior Forward (17 Points), Ripley Garden- Senior Defense (12 Points), Ben Condon- Senior Goalie (4-2-1, 1.75 GAA, 932 SV PCT).
Projected First Line: Forwards- (26 Points), (17 Points), Tanner Simonson (9 Points)
Defenseman- Ripley Garden (12 Points), Isaac Baker (8 Points)
This team’s success might weigh on whatdoes and it is looking like he will stay in the USHL to get ready for college. It also looks like will come back for his senior season and be St. Clouds’ top player. This team had a lot of games canceled last year due to covid, so it is pretty tough to get a read on them. They have a good, proven first line; but after that, it is pretty unknown. St. Cloud should have more depth than a lot of schools in the conference because of the bigger schools they have. It is pretty tough to predict with unknowns, but looking at returning players and talent across the conference, St. Cloud looks like the 3rd best team. Having a returning goalie that played that well last year under a small sample size should really help. I think they do takedown #1, Fergus Falls, though in their one appearance.
Record Prediction: Conf: 9-3-1
Losses- Alexandria, Sartell-St Stephen, Sartell- St Stephen
Playoff Finish: Lose Section 8AA Semis