Hooper Signs With CP Dynamo 18U As First Step In Plan
BY DAVE SHEA
Ogdensburg Free Academy senior Kelson Hooper enjoyed a hockey season to match any by a goalie in school or Section 10 history.
He forged a .951 save percentage and a 1.39 goals against average climaxing with a extreme larceny in a shootout win after a four-overtime tie against Salmon River in the semi-finals and in an overtime victory over St. Lawrence Central in the Section 10 Championships. He was honored as the Northern Conference Division II Goalie of the Year and the division's Overall Most Valuable Player and earned First Team Division II All-State selection.
The combination of instinct, athleticism and quickness in the crease established him as a definite Division I Hockey prospect but the transition from the high school ranks to Division I hockey is one that takes place in years not months.
"Playing Division I hockey is much different than in other sports. Division I programs want 21 year old freshmen so it is a very tough and long process," said OFA Coach Jon Frederick.
"Kelson had a great career but players just don't go from high school to Division I. Players have to make their mark in Junior Hockey."
Hooper and his parents, Greg and Beth Hooper, found themselves with a host of options and big decisions as they discussed the future of the Blue Devil netminder who is also an outstanding student who also excelled in golf and soccer at OFA. They pondered the opportunities and made the decision of accepting an offer to play for the CP Dynamo's AAA 18 Under team.
The CP Dynamo program is located in Clifton Park and its 18U Triple A Midget teams plays the in US Premier Hockey League and regularly faces the best Prep School and Tier I teams in the New England area. The Dynamo also squares off with teams from all over the country in tournaments.
Hooper felt comfortable playing in the CP Dynamo system, was recruited by the Albany Academy Prep School and was invited to the camps of Junior Hockey teams in Ontario.
"My save percentage were the kind of numbers which earned me a lot of attention but my family and I were kind of shied away from what goes on with Division I Hockey. So we hired an advisor from Paragon Athletics in New Jersey which was a great decision. Now we have a plan," says Hooper.
"I will play for the team (CP Dynamo) for one year to prepare for Junior Hockey and hopefully earn a Division I Scholarship. Training camp will begin in August and I will be settled in with a family in the Albany area in September. I am really excited to play for the Triple A Midget state bound team and for Coach Brad Shaver who does a great job developing players. We will play in the USPL League and in showcase tournaments and get a lot of exposure. I can also take some college courses through my dad's union so I think things will work out very well."
Hooper's long range career plan is to someday work in his dad's counseling company but right now he is excited to make hockey his major focus and like high school seniors all over the country to move on past the COVID-19 pandemic which shut down schools and high school sports this spring.
"It has really been tough to have school closed and losing our senior golf season. I haven't had much chance to get out on the ice so I am really excited about getting started. The team will have two starting goalies and one backup goalie and I will be one of the starters," says Hooper.
"Even though I haven't had much ice time because of the pandemic I have done everything possible to stay in shape and staying in contact with my goalie coach in Ontario. I know I will get back into the swing of things quickly."
"Kelson is going to a very good program which also contacted me about Jared Barr after his senior year but Jared decided that he wanted to go to college," says OFA Coach Jon Frederick.
OFA Assistant Coach Jim Howard has worked with Hooper for two years. As the father of Detroit Red Wings stalwart Jimmy Howard he is well schooled in the movement of netminders up the ladder through the various levels of hockey.
"It is a great opportunity for Kelson. It will take a lot of hard work but he is ready to do the work. Kelson has always worked very hard and he is very coachable," says Coach Howard.