Corona’s Hamacher making his point with NCAA D-I RIT
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Jake Hamacher has a message for those who questioned how far he’d go in hockey.
“There’s a chip on my shoulder,” the Corona native said. “I feel like I have to prove people wrong. I’ve had a lot of people tell me I’m not good enough, not big enough (he’s 5-foot-8) or not fast enough. Every summer and every year, I keep pushing to try to prove those people wrong.”
So far, so good.
The former Wildcats and California Titans forward has become a key ingredient for the resurgent Rochester, N.Y.-based program that had points in seven of its first eight games. Not coincidentally, Hamacher has points in six of those games and was tied for the Tigers’ scoring lead one month into the NCAA season.
He’s part of a junior class at RIT that has progressively improved, longtime coach Wayne Wilson said.
“They all put in the work, and Jake was probably the leader of that pack,” Wilson said. “He worked really hard for his success. That’s fueled him. He’s hungry for more now, more of the spotlight.”
Hamacher enjoyed a breakout season as a sophomore, amassing the second-most goals (14) and third-most points (30) on a Tigers team that finished in the top third of the nation in goals. They were a goal away from playing for Atlantic Hockey’s NCAA Tournament berth.
“His intelligence, or his hockey IQ, however you want to term it – he’s a real intelligent player,” Wilson said. “He sees the whole ice. Some guys get stuck in their box, and they can only see 10 feet around themselves. He sees the big picture.
“When we’re on the power play, we’ve noticed that he can see the other side of the ice really well. It doesn’t have to be right in front of him. And he’s creative, he’s got a creative touch to him. But he’s got good skills.”
And Hamacher’s hockey brain helps facilitate playing at a higher level.
“I think his head makes up for maybe a lack of size,” Wilson added. “He’s not overly quick for someone of his size. He skates well but he’s not a burner like a lot of small guys in college are. He gets around with his head. He knows how to play.”
If it sounds like Hamacher profiles as a coach’s son, that’s because he is a coach’s son. His father Brad, who grew up in Minnesota and played collegiately at Army West Point, is a longtime hockey coach, skill development specialist and advisor.
“He was always the assistant coach, but because he was a defenseman, he always coached the ‘D,’” Jake said. “We had some separation, which was nice, but he was hard on me off the ice. He knew what it takes. He wanted me to play my best.
“I’ve had a lot of great coaches. Eugene Kabanets when I was at the Wildcats, he was really influential in my development, my skill. Peter Torsson from the Titans, he really helped me with my mental game.”
Hamacher didn’t default to ice hockey growing up. He played soccer and tried roller hockey only because a good friend, Tyler Haskell, invited him. Hamacher didn’t like it at first but stuck with it. When Haskell, who’s now a referee, jumped to ice hockey, Hamacher followed. That’s when the bug bit.
The other attribute Hamacher possesses is his studiousness, both of the game and in the classroom.
“He’s an outstanding student,” Wilson said of the two-time member of the AHA All-Academic Team. “I think he was a 4-point last year and he’s in the high 3.8s overall. He works pretty hard at his schooling as well.”
When not playing, practicing or studying for class, Hamacher likes to disect the world’s best players.
“I am a student of the game. I like to watch hockey, especially the NHL,” he said. “I can pick up some tips and tricks from those guys, which I feel every serious player should do. Being a student of the game helps you with your game. I like watching the guys who even though they’re little find ways to create time and space for themselves and their teammates.”
Add it up, and Wilson and his staff likely have a player who will play an even bigger role during his final two NCAA seasons than he already has.
“He’s got leadership material written all over him, so we’ll see what happens with that down the road,” said Wilson. “He’s got a good balance in his life of his hockey, his academics and his social life. He can be himself around the coaches. Some guys will get very quiet, but he interacts well with everyone.
“We’re very, very lucky to have to him.”
— Chris Bayee
(Dec. 6, 2019)