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Former Wildcat netminder Black commits to Dartmouth

News File Photo Alpena High goaltender Cooper Black corrals the puck during a game against Sault Ste. Marie. Black, who set several program records as a Wildcat, recently committed to play Division 1 college hockey at Dartmouth.

Two years ago, Cooper Black was rewriting the record books at Alpena High School.

Black was a staple in one of the best seasons in the history of the Wildcat hockey program. Black helped his 2018-2019 Alpena hockey team set the record for most wins in a season, while capturing Big North Conference and regional championships.

Individually, Black was arguably the best goaltender in the state during his record-breaking senior season. The 6-foot-8 netminder broke the school’s single season record for wins, shutouts, save percentage and goals against average as Black finished his senior campaign with a 19-2 overall record, eight shutouts, a .964 save percentage and 0.87 goals against average.

Black’s talents caught the eyes of many during his special senior season and it was no surprise that Black’s career between the pipes would continue.

After stops in Maryland and Omaha the past two years, the greatest accomplishment to date came Wednesday when Black made a decision to wear a new green and white jersey. He verbally committed to Dartmouth College, the highly touted Division 1 Ivy League school located in Hanover, New Hampshire.

“It’s an honor that the coaching staff at Dartmouth considered me to be a kid they wanted to bring in and be a part of their program,” Black said. “The coaches are extremely knowledgeable and want to win every year. For the community of Alpena and all over, I just hope to be a role model for kids aspiring to be Division 1 athletes, regardless of the sport.”

Dartmouth has four NCAA tournament appearances, all of which resulted in a trip to the Frozen Four and a pair of runner-up finishes. The Big Green have also had 17 players get drafted to the NHL in their history.

This is a monumental milestone, not just for Black, but for the Alpena hockey program to see one of its own go on to the Division 1 level to play hockey, a sport which has always been popular in Alpena.

Many Alpena players have gone on to play after high school, but very few have gone on to play Division 1 college hockey. One of the most notable is the program’s all-time scoring leader, Tony Byers Jr., who played at Ferris State in the mid 80’s.

“The plan is to go in for the 2022-2023 hockey season at Dartmouth after I age out of Junior Hockey,” Black said. “I have been talking to the coaches and staff at Dartmouth a few times a week since late August. For me the coaching staff and education was what really sold me. I had been talking to a few other schools as well, but for me, Dartmouth felt like the right fit.”

Since graduating from Alpena High, Black has made stops in Maryland and Omaha.

Black’s first stop was playing for the Maryland Black Bears who are a Tier II Junior Hockey team in the North American Hockey League (NAHL)

Black put up stellar numbers while at Maryland and was the top option for the Black Bears recording a 9-6-3 record, a .916 save percentage, 2.58 goals against and a pair of shutouts in 19 games.

Black’s time with Maryland was cut short due to the ongoing circumstances, but Black showed enough to take the next step in his career when he was drafted by the Omaha Lancers who are a Tier I Junior Hockey team in the United States Hockey League (USHL).

“The process for tryouts to get to Maryland and Omaha was a grind, going all over the place during the summer to make teams. To make those teams you have to push yourself even in the offseason to continue to improve. Going to Omaha was a little easier due to being drafted, but there were no guarantees,” Black said. “Playing in Maryland got me introduced to junior hockey and helped me get adjusted to the lifestyle of it. The expectation of showing up to the rink for two and a half hours then working out is required. For a lot of people that’s too much, but for me it’s exactly what I love about it. It pushes you even when you’re not feeling 100 percent. For Omaha, the level and speed are pushing me to be better every day.”

Black hasn’t had the opportunity to play in a game yet with Omaha because of restrictions, but Black continues to work hard so when he gets his chance, he’s once again ready to perform at an elite level like he’s done for so long.

“The main thing is just the work required to get where you want to be. This is your job and you’re expected to do it just like anyone else working,” Black said. “That just means putting in the effort and work in your free time. As for Division 1, I’m not there yet, but I’m going to keep working to make sure I’m my best once I get there.”

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