Mark Cooper is striving to be the hardest working player every time he steps on the ice.
He’s also attempting to do the so-called little things well on a consistent basis.
The Bowling Green senior believes the combination of hard work and attention to detail will pay off.
So far, he’s off to a good start.
The center has four goals in the Falcons’ first five games, entering this weekend’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association series at Alaska-Anchorage.
The Falcons, 3-1-1 overall and ranked 12th nationally, visit UAA (4-1-1, 1-0-1) Saturday and Sunday nights at 6:07 BG time. The series marks the start of league play for the Falcons.
Cooper totaled 23 goals and 17 assists in 76 games during his first two seasons at BG, but slumped last season. He had just six goals and 13 assists in 39 games but had just one goal in the first 22 games.
“I want to keep rolling with the start I’ve had,” said Cooper, who had a goal in each game against Ohio State, and a goal in each game of BG’s trip to Canisius and RIT. Two of his goals have been game-winners. He also has an on-ice rating of plus-4, just one penalty and has won 51.2 percent of his 84 faceoffs.
“Those goals really helped my confidence,” Cooper said.
Expectations are high for Cooper, who came to BG as a goal-scorer. He had 49 goals and 62 assists in 95 games with the St. Michael’s Buzzers of the Ontario Hockey League before coming to BG.
The 6-foot-2, 188-pounder has played regularly for the Falcons, and has skated on the power play.
But last season, he didn’t score a goal until his ninth game and then went 13 more games until he scored again. He totaled four goals and four assists during BG’s last eight games.
“I’m just trying to be more consistent and I’m trying to work hard on the parts of my game that I need to improve on,” Cooper said. “If you work on the details of your game, everything else will take care of itself.
“Those things can make a big difference in the long run and they’re things you can control.”
Most notably, Cooper said he’s improved his skating and he’s trying to finish every check. The power forward is at his best when he’s playing a physical style and playing in the tough areas to take advantage of his size and skill, and big-time shot.
“He’s getting rewarded for lots of hard work,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “We’re on him to make sure every day is that — to compete really hard, to be the hardest working player on the ice and everything else will take care of itself just because of his talent level.”
Cooper has skated on BG’s best and most consistent line this season, joining classmates and roommates Brent Tate and Ben Murphy. Tate plays left wing, while Murphy skates on the right side.
Murphy has a goal and two assists, and Tate has two assists.
The three have a good mix of size and skill. Murphy and Cooper both have good shots, and Tate is a grinder. All three have the size and strength to dominate and control the puck down low in the offensive zone. Tate is 6-2, 176, and Murphy is 6-0, 206.
“We’re seniors and being through a lot helps us with our consistency and what to expect game in and game out,” Cooper said.
The three have lived together since they came to BG.
“We’re close friends, but we’re not afraid to get after each other when that needs to happen or pick each other up when that needs to happen. The friendship we’ve built and the experiences we’ve had, it’s been a fun combination.”
Cooper, who has a 3.5 grade-point average with a major in finance, is looking to sign a pro contract when the season is over. The NHL scouts have been interested in Cooper since his freshman season. He’s an undrafted free agent.
“Just improving the details has helped my game and my lifestyle in general, whether it be hockey, school work or relationships,” Cooper said. “
“He’s a point producer and involved offensively,” Bergeron said. “What we tell him is we agree with that, but you don’t cut corners to get there. You have to do it the right way. There’s a process to getting points. Focus on that and let the points be the result of that. “