“When I went out there that did it for me,” Sabo said of his visit to Colorado Springs. “Meeting [associate head] coach [Andrew] Berg and [head] coach [Frank] Serratore, they made me feel at home and welcome. I knew they’re coaches that I want to play for in the future. Air Force is just a great opportunity for me to play D-I hockey, serve my country, and set up my future. I’ll get a great education there and I know they’ll work hard to set me up for success after my hockey career.”
The 2000-born forward is a native of Rosemount, Minnesota, a southeastern suburb of the Twin Cities. Sabo signed his tender agreement with the Jets in March of last year, just after finishing his senior year as captain and leading scorer of the Irish.
Sabo scored twice in the season-opener, his first career junior hockey game, and added three more points in just two games at the NAHL Showcase. A broken hand suffered versus the Austin Bruins kept him from finishing the Showcase, and sidelined him for more than a month.
“As a rookie, it’s already hard to find your bearings,” said Jets head coach Corey Leivermann. “Not many guys come in and light it up the way Jackson did. He had a very successful first ten games, and the reason for that is that he brought his hard hat, he knew where to be in the systems, he never cheated the play, and he did things the right way. That leads to points. That’s hockey. Do the right thing over and over and you’re bound to get some bounces and breaks.”
Sabo returned in late October, and tallied seven points in a six-game span from November 2 to November 22. Despite going scoreless since then, Sabo has found other ways to contribute, Leivermann said, and the game-changing potential the Falcons saw will develop soon.
Leivermann appropriately described Sabo’s year as “up and down,” but he’s kept his trust in the forward to and now through his Division I commitment, with added responsibility.
“We had great conversations with Jackson about how to get his play back to where it was at the Showcase, and it’s all about one thing,” said the second-year coach. “Simple, honest, hard effort. That’s what he gave at the Showcase, and he’ll have a great opportunity now to move up in the lineup and play with two other talented forwards in Jake Dunlap and Brandon McNamara.”
The Falcons play at the nearly 2,500-seat Cadet Ice Arena in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Head coach Frank Serratore has held the reigns since 1997, and earlier this month coached his 1,000th career NCAA game. Under Serratore, the Falcons have won seven Atlantic Hockey tournament championships, including back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018.
Former Jets defenseman Carter Ekberg is in his sophomore season with the Falcons, and fellow Jets alumni Evan Feno, Zach Yoder, and Jordan “Budge” Himley have also represented the Jets at Air Force.
“The Air Force represents an outstanding opportunity for Jackson,” said Leivermann. “I can’t say enough good things about the U.S. Air Force and the hockey program there. This is a great day for Jackson, and a great day for our program, too. Hopefully this serves as yet another good sign for players that if you come do things the right way, work your bag off, and buy into the systems, the coaching, and the culture, good things happen.”
Sabo’s commitment is the third to happen in-season, and he knows his responsibility to help grow that number.
“These teammates have gone to war for me,” Sabo said. “They’ve shown up, they’ve pushed me every day in practice and in games. Everyone works together, for each other. That’s what a team does. This is my turn, but next it’s another guy’s turn. I wanna work and do anything I can to make it possible for the next guy to go to the school he wants to go to. Whatever is needed from me is what I’m gonna do.”
Sabo becomes the 10th player on the 2019-20 Jets roster to earn his Division I commitment, joining forward Jake Dunlap (UMass Amherst), defenseman Grant Hindman (Lake Superior State), forward Max Itagaki (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), forward Parker Lindauer (Northern Michigan), forward Nick Nardella (Michigan Tech), forward Isaac Novak (Wisconsin), goaltender Grant Riley (Boston College), defenseman Casey Roepke (Wisconsin), and forward Charlie Schoen (Arizona State).