A fitting sendoff

Alpena hockey team celebrates end of the year banquet

The 2018-2019 Alpena High School hockey team gathers for a team picture after celebrating its season at their end of the year awards banquet on Thursday at the APlex in Alpena.

Thursday’s end of the year banquet to honor the 2018-2019 Alpena High School hockey team was filled with love, laughter and plenty of emotion.

The Wildcat hockey team was joined by family and friends at the APlex in Alpena where the team was honored for what they were able to accomplish throughout their dream season this past year.

The Wildcats tied a school record for wins in a season, finishing with a final record of 23-5-1 while capturing a Big North Conference championship and regional title.

“I want to thank everyone for showing up in what was our final celebration in what was just a tremendous season. There are so many people we wanted to thank for the support this season and fortunately a lot of those people were able to be with us tonight. The support we received from the entire community was so special,” Alpena coach Chris Limback said. “Tonight was a special way to honor our entire team and give our seniors a proper sendoff and thank them for their hard work and dedication and also wish them the best in their future.”

Players, coaches, family members and friends, along with the Alpena hockey “super fans” Kevin West and Cynthia Taylor were once again supporting this team one final time and even the radio team of Doc Z (John Zawacki) and RH Factor (Randy Hamp) were all on hand to celebrate the magical season it was for the Wildcats.

Wildcat hockey players hold their end of the season awards the received at the banquet. L to R: Blaise Keller (Rookie of the Year), Anthony Berg (Defensive Player of the Year), Owen Limback (Hobey Baker Award), Jimmy Bolanowski and Collin Lightfoot (holding up Cooper Black and his MVP trophy and plaque), Colby Plowman (Bill Denstaedt Award), Kyle VanDusen (Offensive Player of the Year).

Each member of the team was recognized for their efforts and given a round of applause by all who were in attendance.

A few individuals earned team awards for their play throughout the season.

Blaise Keller earned Rookie of the Year honors for his solid play during his first year as a member of the Wildcat varsity hockey team. Anthony Berg was awarded the Defensive Player of the Year. Berg played a pivotal role stepping up as the top defensemen when senior Owen Limback missed time with an injury early in the season.

Offensive Player of the Year honors went to captain Kyle VanDusen who led the team in goals during the season and proved to be one of the top players in the state and was as skilled as anyone with the puck on his stick.

Colby Plowman earned the Bill Denstaedt award and was second on the team in goals and part of Alpena’s top line that produced a lot of the Wildcats’ offense.

Owen Limback received the Hobey Baker Award. Limback had a scare early in the season and it looked as if the senior would miss the remainder of his season after suffering an injury during a game against Petoskey. Instead, Limback missed about a month and return to the ice and proved to be on of the best defenseman in the state.

Alpena goaltender Cooper Black was named the teams’ Most Valuable Player. Black was arguable one of the best goalies in the state this year and gave the Wildcats a chance to win every time they took the ice.

Five Wildcats also earned BNC honors.

Berg earned second team all-BNC honors and Limback, Plowman, VanDusen and Black all earned first team all-BNC recognition.

The four seniors, Limback, Plowman, VanDusen and Black also earned all-state honors and Black was named to the Dream Team on Wednesday and is still a contender for Michigan’s Mr. Hockey award that will be voted on next week.

Despite Black not being able to physically be at the awards banquet because of a trip to Wisconsin to play for a junior hockey club, Black was available thanks to technology as Black got to experience the celebration and speak through a computer screen held up by his teammates.

As good as the team was on the ice, they were equally impressive in the classroom as the team finished with a 3.5 Grade Point Average which was good enough to earn them an Academic all-state team honor and Black, Limback, VanDusen, Ian Shriner and Alex Cosbitt each earned Academic all-state honors.

As special as Thursday’s sendoff at the banquet was, fans and the community will have one more opportunity to see this group skate together one final time.

The 2018-2019 Wildcat hockey team will take on the Alpena Men’s League all-stars and former Wildcat hockey players in a charity game Sunday at Northern Lights Arena.

The puck drops at 2 p.m. in a game that will be played with three 17 minute periods with plenty of prizes to auction off. A simple donation will get anyone into the door and enjoy this history-making team take the ice one final time.

“I remember early in the year during our scrimmages before the season started, we were terrible and I just thought it was going to be a long year with the way our schedule was. I knew our group was talented, but we started slow and I was worried, but then something happened and it was Cooper. A goalie can do anything for you and he gave us confidence and the kids grew from there and the season kind of flipped instantly,” Limback said. “The kids were excited that we were ranked and we were fine with it. We got back to winning and every day we got better. We got a lot of love during the season and we had a lot of people talking about us and these kids definitely deserved it. It was just an amazing run, an incredible year and one that I will never forget.”