The Lightning High School Hockey League proudly presents “Freshman Focus”, a feature article on one Freshman from every varsity team. Our first ever feature is on Cooper Barno. A well-known family name in the league, the newest Barno in town attends Freedom High School and is a top four defensive pairing for the Eastern Conference leading Freedom Patriots. Let’s get to know him a little.
Height: 5’2 Weight: 120 lbs Shoots: Left Flex: 70 Curve: Ovechkin
Preferred Brand: Bauer Favorite Food: Burritos Other Sports: Lacrosse (Mid)
After coming out to a Freedom practice on Monday night at Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, I got to talk to Cooper Barno one on one and get to know the Barno with the intent of bringing his family name to fame in the hockey world. I thought there was no better way to find out who I was dealing with than a few quick release questions. Here’s how he broke them down:
Me: Crosby or McDavid?
Me: You have to choose your first car, are you going with Lamborghini or Ferrari?
Cooper: I’m going Ferrari
Me: Disney or Universal?
Me: You have to buy a pair of shoes to impress the team. Are you going with 3-line life or Just Do It?
Cooper: I’ll take Nike
Me: You mess up a drill in practice, what coach is most likely to make you skate a lap?
Cooper: Uhh, Speciale. Yeah Coach Speciale
Me: 10 seconds on the clock, Freedom is shorthanded, and the game is tied. Puck leaves the zone, 2 on 1 and you’re crashing the net, who do you want with you? Owen “Bardown” Barno or Matthew Speciale?
Cooper: *no hesitation* Barno
I quickly found that there was no toxic rivalry between Cooper and his older brother Owen, the captain of the Freedom squad. In fact, when pressed on the issue of playing with an older brother and developing a unique style, Cooper told me, “We’re actually almost complete opposites. I play defensive defense, and he’s a goal scoring forward.” I asked what it’s like playing with him and if there’s anything to take from his game to make improvements on, he said, “It’s really fun being on the same team as him. We haven’t played on the same team since we were little, so I enjoy sharing the ice. I try to take his shooting. I think I have a better edge than him, but obviously, he has the speed. If he messes up a back check and a goal is scored, I get to roast him about it but it goes back and forth every time I don’t get a shot off at the point.” This even goes as far as the numbers the Barno brothers wear. Owen wears #10 and I asked Cooper why he wears #15, “It’s always been like a lucky number, but at the same time it’s almost like I’m one-upping him”.
Moving on from what’s sure to spark a fun dinner table conversation, I steered the interview towards the LHSHL itself. I wanted to know what went through Cooper’s mind every time he takes the ice in a league where you can have U14 rec players potentially sharing the ice with U18 AAA hot shots. “Just thinking that I can win the battle, and win the shift, and hopefully everyone on the team can do that as well, we can come out with the victory.” This mindset persists to his plans for the future as well. “I want to play hockey as long as I can, I want to go as far as I can playing hockey, and once I’m done playing, I want to get into sports somehow. Whether it’s business or sports medicine, I want to stay involved.”
Now as will become tradition with these articles, I take a second to remind Cooper that although it may feel like a lifetime has gone by already, he is still in the first semester of his Freshman year. He has four years to train, to develop, and to make a mark on the league. I want to know what he plans on his legacy being. “To start off, I want to win Freshman of the year, I think that would be pretty cool. and I want to win one state championship, hopefully this year. We have a really good team this year and I know we can
go all the way. Eventually I want to win league MVP.” I ask him what he needs to tell himself four years from now, and with a smile on his face he told 18-year-old Cooper “Put more points on the board. It’s good to be defensive and break up 2 on 1’s, but those don’t go on the scoresheet.”
To finalize the interview every player will get to send a message to the league, every first-year player out there, and of course the fans. Cooper’s was simple yet eerily mature for someone who still has to raise their hand to use the bathroom in school and is still a year out from being behind a steering wheel of his Ferrari,
“If you’re not getting a lot of ice time, it’s alright. Pick your head up. There’s a lot of kids older than you that are getting ice time and have probably been in your shoes before. As those kids get older and you get better, that ice time will eventually become yours... I want to thank my parents for getting my brother, my sister Addy, and I to all of our sports. I know it’s hard for them to get us all around and making it work. and I want to thank my current coaches for letting me get the ice time I do as a freshman and my travel coaches for getting me to where I am by letting me be a part of the teams.”
When I asked Freedom Head Coach Dave Speciale about his thoughts on little Barno, he put on record that “Cooper is a fun player to watch and coach. He’s the smallest on the team but plays like he’s the biggest and loves to take the physical plays despite his size. He’s stepped up and earned a top four position. Since he’s Owen’s little brother, he knows several of the older kids, so he has great chemistry with the upperclassmen and is a very outgoing kid with a vocal presence in the locker room.” The fans will be the first to know if Coach Speciale’s thoughts on young Barno change after he reads the quick release questions. Tune in every Friday for a new Freshman Focus.