Matt Fink knows he may be caught in a numbers game, one that might prohibit him from playing with the same teammates he’s skated with for a decade.
Fink, a freshman at Belle Plaine Junior-Senior High School, just finished a successful season with the Le Sueur-Henderson youth ice hockey association’s bantam B2 team. After winning the district playoffs, the team finished the season with a third-place showing in its regional playoffs earlier this month. Its overall record was 29-6.
“This is the best year we’ve had,” Fink said.
Now, because of his age, Fink’s options are to play high school ice hockey or junior gold, a league for senior high students who are not playing on a high school team. The junior gold team would be based out of Prior Lake. Fink hopes to be able to play with his buddies and longtime teammates playing for Le Sueur-Henderson-St. Peter.
They’ve been his teammates since playing together as mini mites. Fink hopes that will continue for a cooperative high school team representing Le Sueur-Henderson/St. Peter/Le Center/Montgomery-Lonsdale.
Whether he’ll be able to keep playing or will have to look for another option will depend on the combined enrollment of the largest school in the cooperative plus half the enrollment of the other schools in the cooperative. The cooperative needs to keep the total enrollment at no higher than 1,245 students or face the likelihood of being forced to move up from Class A to Class AA. The cooperative’s enrollment as of last year was 962. With St. Peter expected to be the largest member of the cooperative, Belle Plaine’s 457 students wouldn’t likely push the cooperative over 1,245 students. But the enrollments won’t be final until early next fall. Le Sueur-Henderson Activities Director Dave Swanberg expects the decision on Fink’s request won’t be made until then.
“We haven’t exactly been ultra successful in Class A,” Swanberg said. “We’d rather not move up to AA. The bottom line is, it’s a numbers game.”

Making Friends
Playing ice hockey in Le Sueur has allowed Fink to get to know other athletes with the same passion for ice hockey and form healthy relationships through the sport of hockey, said his mother, Robin. He recognizes being on a team builds trust, sportsmanship, respect for others, all while having fun, she said.
“The Le Sueur Bulldog Hockey Association has provided a supportive, structured environment that Matthew has learned new skills and met a wonderful group of friends and families,” she said.
Fink isn’t the first young ice hockey player from Belle Plaine who has played or asked to play in the Le Sueur system and wants to play for the cooperative high school team, Swanberg said. The team has room for players. Swanberg said the team’s junior varsity is between 28 and 32 players. A roster of 36 or 37 players is ideal, Swanberg said.
As a defenseman, Fink expects he would play in the junior varsity his sophomore season and hopefully improve enough as a junior to earn a spot on the varsity roster. Time will tell, he said.
Chris Miller, a coach with the Le Sueur-Henderson Bantam B2 team, said Fink is an improving player. At 6-foot-2, “he’s got a big body and a long reach. You can put him in front of the net and he’ll clear the puck away.”
Miller said Fink’s confidence increased over the season. He solidified his defensive play and worked hard to become a more valuable contributor to the team’s offense. Fink said he focuses on improving his skills during the off-season. He finished the season with eight goals and 15 assists in 25 games.
“He’s gotten better with his stick-handling, bringing the puck up the ice and improved the accuracy of his shot,” Miller said.
Fink is spending the spring playing baseball for Belle Plaine. He’ll learn early next fall whether he’ll be able to keep playing with Le Sueur-Henderson. “The sooner the better,” Swanberg said.