Grier Cooper was destined to be a goaltender.
The 14-year-old St. Catharines native donned the pads at an early age and quickly took to the position.
“I’ve always wanted to be a goalie ever since I was a little kid,” Cooper said. “Even in tyke when they needed a goalie, I was always first to jump on it.
“I loved to see the goalies slide around and make saves.”
Cooper tried out for the position at the atom A level and quickly made the team despite her lack of experience between the pipes.
“I loved it. I was decent for being a new goalie and never went back,” she said.
Fast forward and Cooper is now a member of the Niagara Rapids U18AA squad and has shown enough promise to already be garnering interest from schools south of the border.
“I’ve already had two or three teams off the top of my head, D1 teams contact me about her,” Rapids coach Matt Masterson said. “Grier has always been a good athlete. She’s a great team player. She has a positive attitude, works hard and gets along with everyone.”
Cooper, who joined the Rapids three years ago after suiting up for the Stoney Creek Sabres, feels her game has improved significantly working with Rapids goalie coach Lucas Lobsinger.
“I really liked him and I like to do goalie training outside of my team so I started with him,” Cooper said. “If I didn’t like him I would have went to a different goalie coach but he’s been the best goalie coach I’ve ever had. I love his teaching style. He always wants to make sure you understand what you’re doing. He works with your until you get it.”
Cooper said Lobsinger’s positive reinforcement has enabled her to dream big.
“I’ve improved a lot. I think now I could make a lot of AA teams. I used to think to go to school and maybe become a doctor but I never thought I could play hockey later on but now he’s definitely let me set my dreams a lot higher and set a lot bigger goals for myself.
“Now I’m hoping I can go D1.”
Cooper suited up for Team Ontario at the 2022 Ontario Summer Games which gave her a first-hand look at what it will take to play at the next level.
“There was another goalie who was a year older but she’s already signed with a school in the OUA. I know that’s very early but it makes you think,” she said. “I don’t think I’m going to sign now or even next year but I know it’s not that far in the future and it gives me a lot to think about if I ever have a bad game, I can think about my goals to improve.”
Lobsinger, who played one season for the Niagara IceDogs before turning to coaching with the IceDogs and at Brock University, feels Cooper is the total package.
“Grier has a great combination of size and athleticism,” he said. “She fills the net well not allowing shooters to see much open space but also uses her athleticism to get cross crease with speed on east/west plays.
“I think a major factor in her development is that she’s a multi-sport athlete who plays both high level competitive lacrosse and soccer in the summers and is one of the most coachable goalies that I have ever personally worked with, she really listens and tries to implement and understand what we’re working on.”
Cooper, who won a gold medal at the 2002 Ontario Women’s Field Lacrosse Association Provincial A championships, is excited about the future of women’s hockey.
“It’s amazing. The PWHL (Provincial Women’s Hockey League) is playing at Meridian Centre and that’s exciting,” she said. “I love watching all of their highlights. I love goalie highlights, but love watching the women because I can look at that and think I can do that. The NHL, I don’t know if women will get there in my generation, but I can look at the women’s league and know I can do that one day if I work hard. It’s very inspiring.”
Cooper, who maintains a 94 per cent average, also plays for the boys hockey team at Denis Morris.
She gives credit to her father, Martin Cooper, and older brother, Owen Cooper, for their support. Mom Emily Cooper also gets in on the act and has been a certified hockey trainer for eight years.
“My dad always helped me. We would go in the basement and throw pucks at my glove. He would do that every night if I let him.”
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