Thanks to Waupun parent Jeff Sauer for sending us an unbiased preview of the Badgerland.
Previews such as this are welcomed...
The Badgerland hockey conference once again should be able to show why it is one of the top hockey only conferences in the WIAA. The conference has a little change this year with Beaver Dam moving to the Badger North conference, pulling them out of the Badgerland. To fill the hole and maintain the eight team conference, Stevens Point Pacelli is now a member of the Badgerland conference. It will be interesting to see how this new edition [sic] fits into the Badgerland.
Here is a preview of the Badgerland Conference as I see it. Keep in mind the Badgerland is the only conference to have a regular season and then an end of the season conference tourney. This tournament often sees some upset action making it a challenge to choose an outright conference champion. Here goes an attempt at a preview.
The top team in the conference this year by far should be Neenah/Hortonville/Menasha. Although they graduated six players from last year's team, Alec Elkin, the team leading scorer, returns along with most of the 2nd line, including Dillon Fox. The Rockets will be solid on defense as well as in net with three-year starter Preston Long.
The St. Mary’s Springs Co-op will challenge N/H/M for the top spot, returning the majority of players from last year, including TW18 player Zach Welch. Springs was very young last year and was still able to finish 3rd in the conference. Springs will have plenty of speed on the ice and playing at home on the Olympic sheet at Fond du Lac Blue Line Ice Center, which will help them utilize this speed. The net will be protected by four-year starter Colin Ahern.
The next placements are interchangeable depending on how quickly the younger players develop for each team.
With that said, Waupun will finish 3rd. The potential exists for a strong offense in the first two lines led by top scorers from last season, Colin Holz and Cameron Beek. In addition, they should have solid defense with Carson Schramm, Cole Kamphuis, and Carter Flegner as three-year starters and Caleb Sauer in net for his 4th year..
Appleton is next in fourth place for the Badgerland. Appleton is rebuilding with the loss of the first line to graduation. However, you can never count out United as they always put together very competitive teams. They always seem to gel as a team toward the end of the season and could pull out another conference title.
Prediction for Fond du Lac this year is to finish 5th in the Badgerland. It is unusual to have both Appleton and Fond du Lac finishing behind the smaller programs of Springs and Waupun; however, the Cardinals are still rebuilding. They are returning the top scorer Henry Lange from last year as well as the 3rd leading scorer Zach Wilson. TJ Draves returns in net for 2nd season.
Fox Cities lost a lot of offense and their head coach for this upcoming hockey season. As such, they are predicted to finish 6th in the Badgerland conference this year. They could surprise with solid goaltending behind Max Gutjahr.
Oshkosh is predicted to finish 7th this year. They continue to grow but struggle to be a contender in the Badgerland. The newcomer in Stevens Point Pacelli is predicted to finish 8th. Pacelli has not played teams from the Badgerland before which could possibly catch some teams off guard. However, the Badgerland is packed full of experienced coaches.
Neenah/Hortonville/Mensaha, the pre-season number four team in the state, should dominate the Badgerland conference as well as the number 1 seed in Section 5 if they can remain injury free We should find out soon as the puck drops and the first Badgerland contests take place in early December.