Castle Pines’ Saenger embracing city of Detroit, USPHL experience with Motor City
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Jacob Saenger planned on playing his senior season of high school hockey back home in Colorado.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic stuck around a while, Saenger started to look at alternate plans and wound up playing for the USPHL’s Motor City Hockey Club.
“I decided to play high school hockey instead of AAA so I could enjoy my senior year of high school, but COVID changed it all,” said Saenger, a 2003 birth year forward from Castle Pines. “I had been talking to several junior teams across the country who had seen me play in past AAA seasons and at several showcases. After much discussion, (Motor City) coach Jason (McCrimmon) gave me an opportunity to immediately step in and compete for playing time and contribute to the team he was rebuilding.”
Admittedly, Saenger said he didn’t know much about Motor City, but he has quickly embraced all the program has to offer.
“Coach Jason and the entire team welcomed me with open arms, and I immediately felt at home,” said Saenger. “The guys are great on and off the ice, the competition is strong, and I feel we will grow as a team and myself as a player.”
McCrimmon has enjoyed seeing Saenger in the Motor City colors this season.
“Jacob has been a great addition to our program,” said McCrimmon. “He has a great skill set and can finish plays close to the net. Jacob also has a physical side to his game that adds value to the team. We are glad that Jacob and his family chose to make the jump to juniors with our program. He will continue to get better as we make it down the home stretch.”
Last season, Saenger played for the Colorado Thunderbirds’ 16U AAA team, an organization known to produce high-end junior-, NCAA- and NHL-caliber players. He also played AAA for the Colorado Springs Tigers.
“Throughout the process of playing AAA, I have learned that mental strength is just as important as the physical aspect,” Saenger said. “From there is where I got all my looks and am where I am now, playing junior hockey in the USPHL in Detroit. Nick Combs and Nick Turcotte are my biggest influences throughout my hockey career. I have learned so much from both of them, and they helped me get to where I am today. I have also built relationships with kids from all over the country because of the team I was on or competing against them year after year.”
Also back home, Saenger skated for the Arapahoe Warriors and Colorado Evolution youth hockey programs.
Now a prime piece of the Motor City offense, Saenger, who had seven goals and 14 points in his first 14 games with the team, wants to help the squad finish the season on a strong run.
“I try and help the team in any way I can, whether it is putting up points or encouraging the team,” Saenger said. “I hope to be the best player I can and improve as much as possible so I can play at the next level. Short term, my goals are to learn as much as I can from my teammates and coaches to both improve my game and grow in life. Longer term, I hope to play hockey in college and ultimately give back to the sport by coaching the next generation of skaters. As a career, I am still trying to decide my path, but leaning toward a career in physical therapy or business.
“It was hard at first moving away to play your dream. However, after you are there for a while, it gets better and you start to realize you are there for a reason and your family supported you in your dream. My family has supported me for the last several years making sure I am happy and being the best player I can. I never thought I would be playing junior hockey in Detroit. It’s been a great experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I have learned so much and can’t wait to see how much more I improve over the rest of the season. I not only thank my parents for everything they have done for me, but I thank God for giving me all the opportunities that I have been handed to me.
“This journey has been amazing.”
— Matt Mackinder
(Jan. 25, 2021)