The Section 8A Boy’s hockey coaches are predicting the big three as the favorites for section supremacy in 2019-20. This year the consensus is that the defending section champion, East Grand Forks, is the clear team to beat. With the Green Wave losing just one section game all of last season and carrying depth throughout their forward lines, East Grand Forks enters this season eyeing more than just a section title. Of course, Warroad and Thief River Falls can never be counted out. Based on this coaches’ poll, the battle for the fourth seed will be extremely competitive with the rest of the section wide open.

TEAM – Points (first-place votes)
1. East Grand Forks – 8 (8)

2. Warroad – 16 (1)
3. Thief River Falls – 21
4. Kittson County Central – 33
5. Detroit Lakes – 37
6. Crookston – 38
7. Red Lake Falls – 56
8. Lake of the Woods – 62
9. Park Rapids – 64
10. Bagley-Fosston – 70

1. East Grand Forks – Coach Tyler Palmiscino (2nd Season)
East Grand Forks enters this season as the Section championship favorite after winning the section last season 3-1 over Warroad in East Grand Forks. The Green Wave finished the year with a 21-10-0 record including an 11-1-0 record in Section play. East Grand Forks took 4th place at the State Tournament last season and is hoping to make a return trip to St. Paul this March.
Top returners
– Trey Ausmus (North Dakota): 9 G, 19 A; Landon Parker: 17 G, 15 A; Mason Poolman: 7 G, 9 A
Season preview – (Provided by Coach Palmiscino) – “We return a good portion of our team from last season.  Very deep upfront with Landon Parker and Mason Poolman being our leading returning scorers.  Trey Ausmus and Josh Nelson lead the way on defense.  In goal, Austin Cooley and Kaden Robinson will compete for the starting job.”

2. Warroad – Coach Jay Hardwick (8th Season)
Warroad is coming off a 15-10-2 season in which the Warriors lost in the Section Championship game against East Grand Forks 3-1. Warroad returns its top three offensive contributors from last season and will be looking to knock off East Grand Forks in pursuit of its first Section Championship since 2010.
Top returners
– Grant Slukynsky (Northern Michigan): 29 G, 29 A; Owen Meeker: 15 G, 28 A; Anthony Foster: 15 G, 16 A; Zach Foster: 1.67 GAA, .92 SV%
Season preview – (Provided by Coach Hardwick) – “We return a good core group from last year, including our top 3 scorers and starting goaltender. 10 players return who played significant varsity time last year.”

3. Thief River Falls – Coach Tim Bergland (13th Season)
The Prowlers went 15-9-3 last season falling to Warroad in the Section Tournament semifinals 2-1 in overtime. The Prowlers lost some key contributors on defense, but Tim Bergland has shown the ability to incorporate younger talent alongside veterans without skipping a beat. Thief River Falls is hosting this year’s Section Tournament semifinals and championship game. That’s a matchup both Warroad and East Grand Forks will hope to avoid before a State Tournament berth is on the line.
Top returners
– Evan Bushy (St. Cloud State): 18 G, 17 A; Tucker Skime: 11 G, 19 A; Grant Hartmann: 11 G, 13 A; Brockston Masseth: 7 G, 15 A
Season preview – (Provided by Coach Bergland) – “The Prowler’s will be returning a number of forwards from last year’s team, as well as our goaltending.  On defense, we are still not sure if we will be getting Evan Bushy back but will find out today or tomorrow.  I am hoping with the return of a number of key forwards we will be able to create some more offense.  We have a nice group of sophomores coming up from Bantams and hope to have them challenge for ice time against out upperclassman.”

4. Kittson County Central – Coach Robert Carr (9th Season)
Kittson County Central finished last season 16-8-0 falling to Thief River Falls in the Section Tournament quarterfinals. The Bearcats are expected to be amongst the top half of the section. KCC reaching the Section Tournament semifinals would not be a surprise.
Top returners
– Calvin Hanson: 47 PTS, Adam Gustafson: 26 PTS, Hayden Hennen: 25 PTS, Wyatt Olsonawski: 2.55 GAA, .895 SV%
Season preview
– (Provided by Coach Carr) – “We are looking to build off last year’s success and hope to keep our program in the top half of the section. We will lean heavily on our Junior class this year and two seniors. We have a lot of players that will need to be big for us this year. Calvin Hanson (47 pts) and Adam Gustafson (26 pts) were our scoring leaders last year for forwards with Hayden Hennen (25 pts) leading the way at defense.  Wyatt Olsonawski (2.55ga .895pct) will need to be solid again to keep us close in the big games come playoffs.”

5. Detroit Lakes – Coach Ben Noah (1st Season)
It’s a new era for Detroit Lakes hockey with DL graduate Ben Noah taking over the program as head coach. Noah has begun tweaking his lineups as he looks to leave his mark on the Lakers in his debut year at the helm. Detroit Lakes was 17-7-2 last season and “upset” Crookston in Crookston 2-1 in the Section Tournament quarterfinals before falling to East Grand Forks 4-0 in the semifinals.
Top returners
–Alex Bren, Senior, moving from D to Center; Jackson Fields, Senior, moving from D to Wing; Braeden Wimmer, Junior, the most dynamic player on our team; Reed Benson, Senior, Captain defenseman
Season preview – (Provided by Coach Noah) – “It is my 1st year as head coach in Detroit Lakes.  I grew up here and played for DL from 2000-2003.  We are a new-look team and I’ve moved some pieces around on our squad. Expect us to be strong in our own end as we have 5 nice defensemen and 3 quality goalies.  We should be tough to play against.”

6. Crookston – Coach Josh Hardy (4th Season)
Crookston went 8-17-1 last season but had enough success in the Section to earn the 4-seed in the Section Tournament before the Pirates were upset at home by Detroit Lakes 2-1 in the quarterfinals. Crookston is hoping for a quicker start this season after starting last year 0-6-1.
Top returners
– Senior forward Ben Andringa: 15 G, 10 A; senior forward Joey Doda: 12 G, 7 A; freshman forward Jack Doda: 5 G, 9 A
Season preview
– (Provided by Coach Hardy) – “We return a nice group of players this year headlined by seniors Ben Andringa (15 g, 10 a), Joey Doda (12 g, 7 a) and Leyton Salentine who is returning on the blue line after missing last year with a torn ACL. Leyton’s return really is a game-changer for us as he brings speed and a high hockey IQ as an anchor for us on the backside. Ty Hamre and Jade Selzler will both be looked upon to provide stability in the defensive core as seniors. Jack Doda has taken some big steps after finishing last year with 5 goals and 9 assists as an 8th grader and will be one of the better 9th graders in the state playing high school hockey. Noah Dragseth (JR), Carter Nelson (JR) and Jaren Bailey (FR) will all be competing for the starters spot in the net, with Noah being the only one with varsity experience. After finishing last year 8-16 and the 4th seed in the section, we will look to build on that success as we return over 50% of our scoring from last year.”

7. Red Lake Falls – Coach Trevor Page (11th Season)
The Eagles went 6-13-0 last season beating Park Rapids 3-2 in a Section Tournament play-in game 3-2 in double-overtime before falling 9-0 against East Grand Forks in the quarterfinals. Red Lakes Falls is hoping a group of talented underclassmen can contribute at the varsity level for the first time alongside some key returners.
Top returners
– Junior forward Zak Kennett: 41 G, 20 A; Senior forward Fred Landman: 19 G, 11 A; Senior goalie Brenden Larson: .853 SV%; Junior goalie Andrew Johnson: .877 SV%
Season preview
– (Provided by Coach Page) – “Red Lake Falls has some key players returning along with a talented group of incoming sophomores and a freshman. We will have good overall team speed and expect a team that will be hard on the puck. The D zone will be key for us if we can play solid in our own end that will transition into offensive play. This is a very hard-working group that is hungry.”

8. Lake of the Woods – Coach Brent Olson (2nd Season)
Lake of the Woods was 10-16-0 last season avoiding the play-in game as the 6-seed before falling in the quarterfinals of the Section Tournament 4-1 at Warroad. The Bears graduated their top goal scorer Jackson Aripin. His 22 goals were 10 more than any of his teammates. How Lake of the Woods replaces that production will determine how far the Bears go this season.
Top returners
– Gunner Ferrier: 11 G, 10 A; Blake Ferris: 7 G, 6 A
Season preview
– (Provided by Coach Olson) – (*We have yet to hear from Coach Olson)

9. Park Rapids – Coach Derek Ricke (3rd Season)

Park Rapids went 6-19-0 last season falling at home 3-2 against Red Lake Falls in the Section Tournament play-in game on their home ice. The Panthers return their top two scorers from last season and will be hoping to avoid a play-in game in the Section Tournament.
Top returners
– Jack Slagle: 7 G, 9 A; Carter Opheim: 5 G, 9 A
Season preview – (Provided by Coach Ricke) – “Park Rapids will have a young team this season and will rely on underclassmen to fill big roles from graduating seniors. The Panthers return two of their top three goal scorers in Jack Slagle, who led last year’s team in scoring as a sophomore, and Alec Nordin.”

10. Bagley-Fosston – Coach Alex Jesness (3rd Season)
Bagler-Fosston was 9-15-0 last season and lost 7-2 against Kittson County Central in the Section Tournament play-in game. The Flyers are looking forward to added depth from a large group of freshmen and sophomores making the move up to varsity. The added depth should help Bagley-Fosston compete more consistently.
Top returners
– Senior Jacy Benson: 9 G, 10 A; senior Tanner Levin: 7 G, 11 A; junior Alex Rolfson: 15 G, 18 A
Season preview
– (Provided by Coach Jesness) – “The Bagley/Fosston Flyers will be gaining some much-needed depth this year having seven freshman or sophomores move up to varsity.  Also returning from last year is seniors Jacy Benson who had 9 goals and 10 assists and Tanner Levin with 7 goals and 11 assists.  Junior Alex Rolfson had a great sophomore year with 15 goals and 18 assists and should provide plenty of offense to fill the void with Griffin Brovold moving on.   Defensively the Flyers should have a strong year with Brycen Olson back in the net who was very good as a sophomore.  All in all, this team has talent at each grade level and each position.  It should be a good year for the Flyers.”