OGDENSBURG — The calmness, maturity and dedication shown by Ogdensburg Free Academy goalie Kelson Hooper helped the Blue Devils (15-7-2 overall) win a second Section 10 Division II championship in the last two years.
Hooper, the Most Valuable Player on the Times All-North hockey team, wasn’t just the best goalie in the north country, he was named to the all-state first team for Division II.
Hooper finished his senior season with a 1.39 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage and was the first goalie since 2015 to record a shutout in the Section 10 Division II championship game, as OFA beat defending champion Norwood-Norfolk 1-0.
“I just thought he was steady the whole time,” Blue Devils coach Jon Frederick said. “He made a couple toe saves in that last five minutes of the game.”
What made this championship special for Hooper is he was on the bench two years ago when the Blue Devils beat St. Lawrence Central in overtime, as a backup to OFA starter Jacob Ball.
“I had a tough decision and I went to my captains and they said, ‘Ball’” Frederick said of that game. “I knew all along (Hooper) was going to take over eventually. That happened last year. He took over because he outworked (Ball) and because of his ability to stay in the moment and stay extra and work on things.”
Said Hooper, “Obviously not playing (in the championship game) my sophomore year was a bummer. The outcome of that game was a crazy overtime winner.”
The memories earned this postseason should wipe away any disappointment Hooper had as a sophomore.
To get to the championship game Hooper and his teammates survived a four-overtime game with Salmon River. The game was recorded as a 2-2 tie but OFA won in a shootout.
“In that game he had 25 saves and stopped five of six in the shootout,” Frederick said.
OFA won the championship game by blanking Norwood-Norfolk before seeing its season end with a 3-1 state quarterfinal loss to Webster Thomas.
“Having a shutout in the (championship) game was huge,” Hooper said. “Our game-winning goal in the last couple minutes was just unreal. I was just making sure (after the goal) that the mentality had to be ‘I have to shut the door and close it now.’ I had to make sure I didn’t let in a goal.
“It was a great game, back and forth. We put a lot of pressure on (Norwood-Norfolk) and our team just let me make the saves I needed to make. I wasn’t pressured too hard. I had to stay in the moment and make save after save and keep my mind focused on that. I was making sure to make the routine saves to keep the momentum.”
Hooper has loftier goals than what he achieved as a high school athlete. He would like to be an NCAA Division I goalie and he’s starting the process of working toward that goal, realizing it will take two or three years at the prep school or junior level before he may get a chance.
Playing in Clarkson’s Cheel Arena in the Section 10 championship game only made his desire to play at the highest level of college hockey even stronger.
“That rink is super nice,” Hooper said. “It’s kind of like our home rink, it’s hot and it’s big. I feel like we were more well-conditioned going into that game with it being so hot in that arena. An arena like that is something you look forward to, hopefully I want to play there.”
Hooper has been working out at home, since the COVID-19 conoravirus limitations have made traveling for workouts impossible. He is not sure yet where he will go next season.
“I have a lot of opportunities that were pushed back and new ones that have come up,” Hooper said. “I was accepted to the Albany Academy Prep School. That’s an option I have. My camps for junior teams are pushed back now. A lot is still up in the air.”