Carbondale native, Aspen, Rampage alum Jacober enjoying ‘amazing experience’ with NAHL’s Grit
Wilder Jacober has always had high expectations of himself.
After playing last season in the USPHL, the Carbondale native challenged himself to move up the junior hockey ladder for 2023-24, and that ended up with Jacober playing for the NAHL’s first-year Colorado Grit franchise.
“After falling short of playing Tier II juniors last season, I was obviously exited when I heard the NAHL was coming to Colorado,” said Jacober. “I was invited to the pre-draft camp and played well and received the invite for main camp. After main camp, I was unfortunately not invited to training camp, despite playing well. Fortunately for me, some things shifted in the roster and I was invited back to training camp to try and work my way into the lineup as a day-to-day player. I’ve been with the Grit ever since and have had an amazing experience in a great organization.
“It’s super exiting and special. As a kid growing up in Colorado, all you dream of is playing near home at the level you want. My goals don’t stop with junior hockey, but it feels pretty special to play at a high level and be close to home.”
Growing up, Jacober skated his first several years with Aspen Junior Hockey before making the jump to AAA hockey with the Colorado Rampage, where he played the rest of his years before heading to the USPHL’s Provo Predators last season.
“Aspen Junior Hockey was a huge part of developing and where I fell in love with the game,” said Jacober. “When I was 13, I understood in order to pursue hockey as a career or fulfill my goals, I’d have to move on to AAA hockey. I don’t believe you always have to rush moving up in the sport, but this was the right time for me. I played for the Rampage the rest of my youth career. From Andrew Sherman, the owner, all the way through the organization, it was nothing short of amazing learning from every coach and or player. I grew so much throughout being a part of Rampage. From off the ice to on the ice, it was the biggest growth period in my life.
“Playing in Provo was a great experience, and I was able to develop my game a ton.”
Jacober explained how hockey has been his passion for as long as he can remember.
“I was introduced to hockey at a very young age by my dad, who was a ski racer,” Jacober said. “He grew up ski racing and started playing hockey in college and he found a love for the game so when I was born, he would bring me out to the pond. From the age of three, that’s all I’ve wanted to do.
“I have so many amazing memories from hockey in Colorado that it’s impossible to list them. From growing up at the rink to making so many lifelong friends, it’s been the majority of my life to this point and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The amount of learning and experience you can gain from the sport is, in my opinion, equal to an education through school. From family, coaches, friends, etcetera, there are so many memories to be had.”
And he intends to keep the memories flowing, too.
“It’s crazy to say, but my short-term goal is to commit and play hockey at the NCAA Division I level,” said Jacober. “It’s been the biggest goal thus far in my life and to think it’s a short-term goal is bizarre. With 25 games left in the season, the window is closing fast. It’s all I’ve ever dreamed of, but whether or not it becomes a reality, the amount of work and time I’ve put into the sport will never be a waste of time. The lessons and principles I’ve learned from being an athlete and hockey player are so much bigger than the game itself, and it has given me everything I know.
“Long-term goals, I hope to be successful. Successful in the term of waking up and doing what I love, whether it’s still related to hockey or not, I believe this sport has given me the tools and work ethic to be able to accomplish what I’d like.”
Photo/Kristy Lourance Photography
— Matt Mackinder
(January 31, 2024)