In his coaching career, Pine Creek’s Ed Saxer has experienced his share of success. To his players – he found out – this was a new concept.
“We found out from talking to parents – their youth hockey teams weren’t very good and they weren’t used to winning,” Saxer said. “We had to teach them how to win.”
The former Air Force assistant coach took over at Pine Creek three years ago when his longtime friend, Hal Jordan, told him about the vacancy. Jordan then joined Saxer’s Eagles staff after resigning as head coach of Lewis-Palmer following the 2016-17 season.
Together, they coached Pine Creek to a turnaround season. The Eagles went from a 2-15-2 overall record – winless in league play – to a 7-6-1 mark in the Peak Conference, 8-10-2 overall. They also made the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
Saxer, who was named the Gazette Preps Ice Hockey Coach of the Year, said years of encouragement paid off, as a deep junior class took the reins.
“When it wasn’t going as well, we said, ‘We have to turn this thing around,'” he said. “We told them, ‘You're the future. You’re our leaders.’”
And there are signs that the Eagles could get used to winning. Underclassmen saw valuable minutes, including in a first-round playoff exit against Kent Denver. The team graduated only two seniors and retains its leading scorers, Alexander Brooks (9 goals, 16 assists) and Jonathan Cole Jr. (18 goals, 7 assists). Cole was just a freshman as he finished tied for third in Peak Conference goal-scoring.
“Team chemistry and camaraderie was the best it’s been in three years,” Saxer said. “On the bench, they were always very supportive of each other. They cared.”