Prep girls hockey: Cooper, Spartans have plenty to smile about
Superior, which won just two games two years ago, marches on to face Hayward in Saturday’s Sectional One title game.
SUPERIOR — Junior forward Autumn Cooper was a bundle of smiles following Superior’s 8-0 playoff victory over Wisconsin Valley Union before a nice crowd Tuesday, Feb. 21, at Superior Ice Arena.
While hockey is Cooper’s first love, and has always been fun, it sure is a lot more fun these days. Cooper was part of a team that only won two games just two years ago, but she isn’t surprised by the success this year as the top-seeded Spartans (18-5) move on to face third-seeded Hayward Area (20-4) in the Sectional One title game at noon Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Spooner (Wis.) Civic Center. The game was originally scheduled for Friday at the Mosinee (Wis.) City Recreation Center.
“The program has been built up huge,” Cooper said. “The whole culture surrounding the program has just risen to a whole new level. I honestly knew (as a freshman) that we had the players coming up that would want to put in the work, the time and the effort, so I’m not totally surprised by the turnaround.”
Superior, which had a first-round bye and hadn’t played in two weeks, came out a little sluggish before Maddy Bachand got things going with a goal at 7:25 on assists from Autumn Cooper and Kenlyn Thimm.
Cooper and Isabella Thompson added goals later in the period before the Spartans put it away with five goals in the second, with the first three coming less than two minutes apart as Emma Ferg had a pair of goals and Cooper tallied another.
“We came out a little slow but we had two weeks off, but then once we got the rust off, we played much better,” said Superior coach Doug Trentor, in his third year as head coach and seventh with the program.
Sophomore Kaylie Nault had 18 saves, which Trentor said was her sixth shutout of the season, adding to her record. Grace Lawrence had 31 saves for the Eagles.
The Spartans had never played for the sectional title in his tenure until now.
“These girls are so eager to learn,” Trentor said. “They work their tails off, every single one of them. They all know their roles, and they want to get better, which is awesome.”
At the top of that list is Cooper, one of four finalists for the sixth annual Jeff Sauer Humanitarian Award, presented annually “to recognize good high school hockey players being great people.”
The nominees include two boys and two girls from throughout Wisconsin.
Cooper volunteers with Life House Duluth, combating youth homelessness, and helps with youth hockey tournaments and National Honor Society volunteering efforts in Superior.
“Coach Dougie,” Cooper said, wrote a letter of recommendation on her behalf, and he was more than willing.
Trentor said Cooper is well deserving.
“Absolutely. She’s awesome,” Trentor said. “She’s on a different level. She plays ahead of schedule. Everyone else is always on chase mode because she’s always ahead of schedule.”
That she is.
Cooper also plays soccer and golf. She was asked what’s her favorite.
“Hockey — easy,” Cooper said, laughing. “No question.”
And it sure is a lot easier these days.
Wis. Valley Union 0-0-0—0
First period — 1. Maddy Bachand (Autumn Cooper, Kenlyn Thimm), 7:25; 2. Cooper (Emma Ferg), 12:08; 3. Isabella Thompson (Grace Hansen, Cooper), 14:20.
Second period — 4. Ferg (Hailey Olby, Gabryel Olson), 1:39; 5. Ferg (Cooper, Hansen), 4:15; 6. Cooper (Hansen), 4:26; 7. Olson (Thimm, Kennedy Popplewell), 12:58; 8. Olby (Bachand), 16:26.
Third period — No scoring.
Saves — Grace Lawrence, WVU, 31; Kaylie Nault, S, 18.
This story was updated at 2:50 p.m. Feb. 22 to reflect the Sectional One title game being moved to Saturday in Spooner. It was originally posted at 10:57 p.m. Feb. 21.