By MICHAEL HOLZMAN, Staff Reporter
On the left shoulder of Jase Paciocco’s University of Michigan-Dearborn hockey jersey, an ‘A’ patch rests comfortably, carefully sewn on with caution and precision. Soon, the patch — which represents his title as alternate captain — will be replaced by a ‘C’ before the start of another hockey season for the junior.
Paciocco is no stranger to the UM-Dearborn hockey program. After coming to the school three seasons ago, he has finished second and first in points during his two full-time seasons. It would only be fitting that he takes the reigns as captain of the Wolverines next season with current captain Anthony Olson graduating.
“It’s an honor,” Paciocco said. “Every kid wants to grow up playing for the Michigan Wolverines and to be a captain is just second to none. It’s unbelievable.”
For hockey head coach Chris Haltinner, it wasn’t about the points Paciocco nets when deciding next season’s captain; it was about leading by example.
“You kinda watch and see how players carry themselves and each of my captains were named for specific reasons,” said head coach Chris Haltinner. “You don’t always name a captain based on how many points they get, it’s how they lead and each one of my captains lead in a different way. I think Jase is going to be a vocal guy and lead by example through hard work and he’s gonna kinda push everyone else to work hard.
“All three of these guys could be wearing the ‘C’ but in the end you have to pick one and Jase is going to be the guy to lead the ship and I know he can do well.”
Paciocco represented the program in more ways than one this season. He led the team in points and was the face of the program for university athletics marketing campaigns. More recently, he was named to the 2014 ACHA Division-I All-Star game, held in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He joined sophomore Ryan Kelly as the two lone representatives for UM-Dearborn.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Paciocco, after his team fell to Kelly’s 11-8. “There was a lot of talent out there and it was also good to be here with a teammate, and we had a little fun out there.”
Paciocco’s road to UM-Dearborn and collegiate hockey is a road less traveled. A 2008 graduate of John Glenn High School, he was the alternate captain of the Belle Tire AAA junior hockey club in 2009. He took a few years off before coming to UM-Dearborn to try to become a firefighter.
When that didn’t work out, he decided to go back to school. Growing up as a big Michigan fan and with a father who works for the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) athletic program, he could not see himself going anywhere else than UM-Dearborn.
Paciocco started wearing the maize and blue back during the 2011-12 season but only played in 10 games.
Back then, UM-Dearborn’s team was stacked with talent with players like Michael Macari, Brandon Contratto, Bobby Steele and Kyle Papke dominating the scoreboard, so it was easy for Paciocco to be flying under the radar. He finished his freshman year with just one goal but had six assists.
With many of those players moving on, the 2012-13 season would be a great opportunity for anybody to make a name for themselves; Paciocco seized that opportunity.
He finished in a tie for first in goals with 20, tied with Olson and came in second in both assists and points with 39 and 63, respectively.
The 2013-14 season was a big one for the junior out of Howell; he led the teams in points and assists with 66 and 40 respectively and came in second for goals with 26, one less than Kelly.
So what comes next for Paciocco? After his time at UM-Dearborn and with the Wolverines, he plans to go back into public service by joining the police academy, either in Michigan or somewhere else, depending on where he can find a job afterwards.
But for now, he’ll just keep gliding across the Fieldhouse’s ice, soon donning a fresh ‘C’ patch.