Jets' Priebe signs with Air Force
JANESVILLE--Austin Priebe first started goaltending because he liked the equipment that came with playing the position.
Now, just five years or so after fully committing to playing the position, the Janesville Jets goalie is on his way to playing Division I college hockey.
Priebe, who will begin his second season with the Jets when they host exhibition games on Friday and Saturday at the Janesville Ice Arena, has committed to play for Air Force beginning next fall.
“It’s a big weight off my shoulders,” Priebe said after practice on Wednesday. “I talked to them last year and throughout the summer. They invited me out on an official visit. I really enjoyed it, and they offered me while I was there.”
Priebe said he plans to major in either aeronautical engineering or finance. After four years of undergrad studies, he will serve a five-year commitment to the Air Force in his field of study and has visions of getting his masters degree.
The Wausau native, who was given a look by about five Division I schools, considered the offer for a week before deciding Colorado Springs, Colo., was the spot for him.
“We always knew (the potential) was there,” Jets assistant coach Jason Dobes said. “There were games where he would play unbelievable, like Kenai where he stopped 50 shots and we won. And there were games where sometimes he had to bite the bullet.
“Now he’s got nothing to worry about anymore. Now he can just excel on the ice.”
The 19-year-old’s journey to get to this point has been a bit unconventional and plenty quick.
After splitting time in his early years between goalie and defenseman, Priebe finally decided to settle between the pipes midway through his freshman year at Wausau East High. Crosstown rival Wausau West needed a goalie to help it make a state-title run, so Priebe transferred.
“They were really strong everywhere else,” Priebe said. “The coach had never won a state championship, and I felt if I could bring my goalie game to the next level and bring that to the table at Wausau West, we could win a state championship.”
As a sophomore, the team advanced to the title game but lost. One year later, West won a state championship.
From there, Priebe moved to the junior hockey level and played at Sioux Falls of the United States Hockey League. He was traded to the Jets early last season.
“Everybody knew who he was, because of how big he was and how fast he’s come along,” Dobes said. “Getting the opportunity to go to Sioux City and learn at the USHL level was a big step for him. It took him a while to get on board and figure out the ropes.
“Then, all of the sudden, the ball started rolling, and people really started to look into him.”
In 25 games for the Jets last year, Priebe posted a 2.93 goals against average and a .913 save percentage.
“You can’t teach size, and that’s one of my biggest assets,” the 6-foot-4, 209-pound Priebe said. “I’m still getting used to things a little bit, just little minute changes here and there. We’ve been working on my hands a lot, my hips, and movement. I think it’ll be a good year.”
Jets to host exhibitions
The Janesville Jets officially open their regular season on Sept. 18, but they’ll take to the ice in Janesville for the first time this weekend.
The Jets host the Dells Ducks on Friday night and the Wisconsin Whalers on Saturday at the Janesville Ice Skating Center. Both are exhibition contests that will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 in advance and $8 at the door.
The preseason doesn’t stop there. Janesville travels to Ann Arbor, Mich., to face the U.S. National Under-17 Team in a pair of games Sept. 13-14.
The season officially begins at the NAHL Showcase on Sept. 18 against Aberdeen. The Jets’ regular-season home opener is Sept. 27.