SIOUX CITY | It didn’t take long for Drake Beller to be welcomed by his new line mates.
Competing as a left wing on the Sioux City Metros’ top line also consisted of center Tanner Frerichs (8 goals, 15 assists) and right wing James Page (9, 7), Beller has scored in all but one game, contributing eight goals and six assists.
Beller’s play (the season after he had two goals and 10 assists) is among the reasons Coach Dave LeGree’s Metros lead the Midwest High School Hockey League with an 8-0 record heading into this weekend’s key series at the Des Moines Oak Leafs (5-2).
“Drake has really worked on his speed,” said Frerichs, who has provided 59 goals and 87 assists in four varsity seasons. “He’s a small guy, but he’s got speed to go around guys. He doesn’t get hit. He really hit the weights big time. He worked hard in his off-ice training.”
Beller’s second game with his new line mates set the tone for the best start in LeGree’s three seasons.
Sioux City trailed 3-0 when Waterloo’s Kyle Schott scored at the 6:21 mark of first period in an Oct. 30 game at the IBP Ice Center. Beller scored a shorthanded goal four minutes later, sparking a rally that also included first-period goals from Frerichs and Chase Lewison (9, 7).
Lewison then snapped a 4-all tie with the first of his two second-period goals. Beller had two goals in the 8-4 victory, Frerichs had three goals and two assists while defenseman Jarett Heyl (1, 8) had two power-play assists in what LeGree called a character-building victory.
“When we came back down from 3-0 and tied it, it showed me the character they have,” said LeGree. “It showed me their confidence in the personnel we have and the overall confidence they have. They’re very mature. They understand situations we do during drills. This is all about team effort. That’s what these kids have been taught since they were 12 years old.”
LeGree worked with the majority of these players starting in the 2010-11 Pee Wee ranks. That year in the finals of the Midwest Pee Wee Championships, Sioux City defeated an undefeated Fremont, Nebraska team 4-3 in overtime, then followed the next season by going 9-0 in the Midwest League and then posting a 6-3 win in the tournament finals over Ames.
Fast forward to last season when the Metros took third place at the MHSHL Year-End Tournament in Ames. Twelve players are back from the 16-13-1-1 squad.
That list does not include Lewison, a Sioux City native who scored in his first six games after contributing 11 goals and four assists last season at Ames. Lewison is a center on the second line of left wing Josh Menzenberg (1, 1) and right wing Sam Chadwick (2, 2), a player Frerichs describes as an enforcer.
“(Lewison) is a great stick-handler type person,” said LeGree. “He could stick handle in a phone booth. He’s such a good puck carrier that no one can touch him. I’m happy he came back.
“Winning breeds confidence,” he added. “We’ve got a lot of things we didn’t have in past. Now these guys are juniors and seniors. You can see the difference. These kids are confident and they’re building their confidence.”
Defensemen Heyl, Logan Visser (3, 3) and Grant Newman (1, 4) are also veterans along with goaltender Carter Manthorne (4-0, 1.50 goals-against average), the son of Metros goalie coach Mike Manthorne, who also works with Blake Beller (4-0, 1.75 GAA).
“Our goaltenders help us big time,” said Frerichs, whose father, Dale Frerichs, Jr., also serves as a Metros assistant coach and has worked with LeGree since the Bantam ranks in Sioux City. “Both of them have outstanding save percentages and look really solid. They’ve got good gloves. They can stop good second and third shots. They can clear it to the corner. They do the simple things which help us a lot.”