Alpena recognized for stellar season

Four Wildcats earn all-state honors, Limback D3 Coach of the Year

Alpena High School hockey coach Chris Limback (left) accepts a Division 3 regional championship trophy after the Wildcats defeated Cheboygan at the Otsego County SportsPlex in Gaylord. Limback was named Division 3 Coach of the Year for the 2018-209 season.

The 2018-2019 high school hockey season is officially complete and what a year it was for Alpena.

The Wildcats burst onto the scene this season and sent shockwaves through the state as they spent most of the season ranked No. 9 in Division 3.

Alpena enjoyed a magical run by tying a school record for wins in a season, finishing 23-5-1 overall on the year along with capturing its first regional championship since 2006-2007 and winning a Big North Conference title.

The Wildcats advanced to the quarterfinal, but had their season ended just one game shy of making it down to Plymouth for the final four.

Head coach Chris Limback and four Wildcats were honored for their efforts during their dream season.

Goaltender Cooper Black (31) stands between the pipes during a regional semifinal contest against Gaylord. Black earned first team all-state honors.

On Saturday, Limback was named the Division 3 Coach of the Year.

It is the second time in Limback’s career that he has received Coach of the Year honors.

Limback was named Coach of the Year during the 1999-2000 season when the Wildcats finished as state-runner up.

“It is humbling for sure. I’m very humbled to be honored by my peers, but extra special because of what I went through years ago because of upset parents. I’m proud of myself and obviously proud of my kids. This was just made possible by the special group we had. I knew their was talent, the kids worked, were different, played the best competition, believed they could win and it was just a fun group,” Limback said. “I never even thought about the possibilities of being Coach of the Year, it never crossed my mind at all, I just knew that it was a special year.”

Limback made sure his team was tested all season in order for them to grow and become a better team.

Alpena’s Owen Limback (8) skates a puck across the blue line during a regional semifinal game against Gaylord. Limback earned first team all-state honors as a defenseman.

The Wildcats passed the tests and competed with some of the best teams in the state.

Alpena played 11 of its games against ranked opponents across all three divisions and still managed to win 23 games, which makes tying the program record that much more impressive.

A lot of credit goes to senior goaltender Cooper Black who earned first team all-state honors for his unbelievable season between the pipes.

Black finished with a 22-3-1 record and led the state in save percentage (.966), goals against (0.81) and shutouts (9).

Black’s nine shutouts also set a new school mark, breaking the previous record of seven as the senior netminder gave the Wildcats a chance to win each time he was in net.

Colby Plowman (3) and Kyle VanDusen (21) celebrate after a goal during a Big North Conference championship clinching win against Traverse City Central. VanDusen earned first team all-state honors and Plowman was an honorable mention.

“Cooper was arguably the best goalie in the state this year and the numbers back it up. He started believing in himself this year and was just so calm and confident which is what made him great,” Limback said. “I felt bad for our backups, because they didn’t get as much work as I had hoped for this year, but Cooper was just so good and so dominant all season. It was just a great way to end his career.”

Kyle VanDusen also earned first team all-state honors.

The senior forward was Alpena’s top goal scorer and just had a knack for finding the back of the net and creating opportunities for his teammates to score.

It is the second consecutive year that VanDusen has earned all-state honors as he finished his final season wearing the green and white recording a team high 28 goals and dishing out 14 assists.

“Kyle is just a gifted player. What he could do on the ice was just phenomenal, both offensively and defensively,” Limback said. “He is just a complete player and a player like him definitely doesn’t come around often.”

Owen Limback earned first team all-state honors for his play on the defensive end.

The Wildcats’ top defenseman finished with five goals and 11 assists despite missing a portion of the season with an injury.

Not only was Limback one of the top defenseman in the state, but his ability to skate the puck end-to-end on the ice and create scoring chances was what made him even more special.

“As a dad and a coach, Owen is just a gifted defenseman. He logged a ton of minutes and I can;t say that’s something I’m extremely proud of, but he just has an amazing threshold to compete,” Limback said. “It’s special. As your kid it’s special and it was a blessing to see his senior season culminate with all-state honors.”

The final Wildcat for earn all-state recognition was Colby Plowman who received honorable mention.

Plowman tallied 19 goals and led Alpena with a team high 24 helpers on the year.

The senior duo of Plowman and VanDusen gave Alpena’s first line an offensive jolt whenever they took the ice and the chemistry between the two was remarkable and it led to a stellar senior season.

“Colby just never stopped. He has a high motor and he’s just a guy that you would hate to play against because he is constantly going,” Limback said. “He is just another gifted skater that we had on our team this year and it’s special to see him and our three other senior get recognition they deserve after what was just an unbelievable season and one I will never forget. The four will go down in the history books as some of the best hockey players at their position in Wildcat hockey lore.”