For as long as he can remember, Jake Sacratini has wanted to be a Yellow Jacket.
As a young boy, he imagined himself scoring game winners for the American International College (AIC) hockey team and wearing a jersey featuring the trademark AIC wasp logo.
The Janesville Jets forward made that goal a reality this month as he committed to play hockey for the private liberal arts college in Springfield, Massachusetts, after his time in junior hockey is up.
“It’s just a dream come true,” Sacratini said.
That dream started for Sacratini when he was just a boy who looked up to his father, Vezio, who knows AIC well. The elder Sacratini played for the Yellow Jackets in the late 1980s before moving on to professional hockey and an appearance at the 1994 Winter Olympics with Italy.
Vezio sits in the college’s top 10 in both points and assists and was inducted into the AIC Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015.
“When I was like 10 years old, we would go to his alumni events,” Sacratini said. “I always told him that I wanted to play here. Dad was stoked, Mom was happy, and I couldn’t be happier either. It’s just really a lifelong dream come true.”
Now, it’s Jake’s turn at the school.
“AIC hits pretty close to home obviously, so I’ve been talking to them for a while. Just everything about the coaches, the campus. It’s not too far from home, it just was the perfect choice for me.”
Jets coach Parker Burgess said AIC is receiving a “spark plug” of a player who loves to battle for the puck and compete.
With a smaller stature than most of his opponents at 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, Sacratini can sometimes be overlooked by opposing teams. By the time the game is over, however, Burgess said most teams know who is wearing number 27 for the Jets.
“He’s hard to play against,” Burgess said. “He may not be the biggest guy, but he’s always in the mix. He doesn’t back down, he’ll stand up for his teammates, he plays with grit and tenacity.”
“He’s one of those kids that you love to have on your team, but you probably hate to play against.”
Before reaching the North American Hockey League with the Jets, Sacratini played in an offensive-minded, top player role. This year, Sacratini is playing further down the depth chart than in his previous hockey stops and has had to adapt his game.
He has three goals in 11 games this season.
“Jake’s always been a top-line guy wherever he’s gone, and he’s had to accept a different role here with the team that we do have,” Burgess said. “He’ll eventually develop into a more offensive, you know, playing a role on power play, he’ll get there, but it’s a different role.”
Sacratini’s coach said dedication is his biggest attribute.
“Sometimes that’s a hard skill for players to learn is to find a role, accept the role and then excel at it, and Jake’s the perfect example of a young player who understands that his role may change. To not only accept that, but flourish in it—and that’s kind of what Jake has done—it’s a testament to the kid’s commitment.”
Sacratini has welcomed the new playing style, adding that he tries to mold his game in a similar way to Brad Marchand, one of the most prevalent agitators in all of professional hockey for the Boston Bruins.
“He’s hard to play against, hard nosed, and he’s just like, gritty, but he also plays with skill,” Sacratini said of Marchand. “He works hard and would do anything for the team, and that’s what I try to be, too.”
And while the family ties to the next stop on Sacratini’s hockey career are evident, Burgess said it’s that playing style and dedication to playing the right way that earned Sacratini the college commitment.
“Jake’s earned this opportunity. It was by no means given to him just because his dad played there, but I think (Jake’s) very proud,” Burgess said.
“If your dad plays college hockey, to be able to wear the same jersey as your father, that’s a huge honor and something that I think has been a dream of Jake’s for a long time. … The kid just wanted to play Division I hockey, and the fact that it’s at his dad’s alma mater, it just couldn’t be more perfect.”