SIOUX CITY | There’s a reason why Skyler Beller wears the number eight.
One of Beller’s favorite NHL skaters is Alex Ovechkin. The Washington Capitals’ star has the same numeral and, like the Sioux City Metros' leading scorer, plays left wing.
“Kind of,” shrugged Beller when asked if he plays the same style.
“He always works hard. He’s always in the right place at the right time. Maybe that’s where I got that from.”
The Metros’ No. 8 checks hard, has a heavy shot and is unstoppable when he gets to the net. A Hinton High School senior who has competed in the state tournament level in baseball and football, the strong 6-foot-2, 200-pounder has scored in all but one game as the team captain for Coach Dave LeGree’s 6-7-0-1 squad.
Beller (16 goals, 11 assists) has been tearing up the Midwest High School Hockey League for three years with 31 multiple-point games. Six of his 21 career two-goal games have occurred this season along with two of his five lifetime hat tricks.
Oh, there’s more. As a sophomore, he scored six goals in a 9-7 win over Lincoln. Last season, he was the only Metro to score in a 10-4 loss to the Des Moines Oak Leafs.
Beller is quick to credit his linemates. Tanner Frerichs (9 goals, 17 assists) is in his second season of centering the top line while right wing James Page (6, 10) adjusted quickly to a recent line switch, assisting on two Beller goals in a 6-4 win over the Mason City Mohawks.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been on a line that is this amazing,” said Beller. “(Frerichs) is a playmaker who dishes out the puck more than he scores. Trent (Harsma) wanted to be center on another line, so we pulled up James and it’s been working out really well. James is a grinder on the corner.”
“At Mason City, Skyler got the puck on the wing and forced himself to beat the defenseman because he knows how to shield the puck,” said LeGree. “He’s strong. You can’t push him off the puck. When he goes to the net, he puts on a burst of speed. He has a shot. He sits on top of the circle and it’s by the goalie before the goalie can even move.”
Those linemates take care of each other. Frerichs, who last season led the MHSHL with 29 assists, has assisted on six of Beller’s goals. Before centering a line that also includes left wing Connor Sand (3, 2) and right wing Sam Holzrichter (1, 3), Harsma (10, 10) had assisted on five Beller goals.
Beller has produced goals for his linemates – six for Frerichs, one for Page and four for Harsma.
“Look for the open ice, that’s what Coach LeGree says,” said Beller. “I have to be a hard worker down low, make sure we get the puck out, then look for the open guy. I feel I’m better at goal scoring. Tanner is the passer on our line. I’ve always scored more goals than I have assists. That’s just who I am.”
Beller’s other passion? Baseball.
A career .433 hitter, the four-year letterman experienced a first-round state tournament loss for the second straight year last summer.
The left fielder took a 12-game hitting streak to Des Moines’ Principal Park. He earned first-team Class 2A all-state honors, batting .571 with three home runs, nine triples, 14 doubles and 39 RBIs, but Hinton lost 3-0 to Waterloo Columbus.
“I’m honestly trying to go to college to play baseball,” said Beller, who also had all-purpose totals of 1,461 yards and 20 touchdowns as a wide receiver and cornerback for a 10-2 Hinton football team that last fall, reached the Class 1A state quarterfinals.
“I have been looked at for baseball more than hockey. I really like playing baseball. We only lost one senior. We’re going to be the exact team as last year. We’re going to make a good run this year.”
Beller’s goal for the Metros is the MHSHL Year End Tournament championship.
“That’s been my whole goal my whole high school career, winning a title,” he said. “If we play our game, we’re almost unstoppable. We lost only two seniors last year. We’re basically the same team. But I don’t think we’re clicking quite yet. Hopefully after Christmas, we’ll switch that up.”
LeGree feels Beller is capable of scoring in every game. Following a 6-4, 7-2 sweep over Mason City the weekend before Christmas, the coach is also confident his squad will turn things around.
He quickly stated that Beller needs to play “100 percent” in every game.
“I know he can do it,” said LeGree. “I asked him, ‘How do you want to end your last year? Do you want your last year possibly winning a state championship?’ I think if he’s consistent with his play, we’re going to get points from Skyler and his line. That line should score at least three points a game. There’s no reason they can’t score two goals a game.
“If that happens and we get two from the other line, four goals is a lot of goals. We also need to make less mistakes in our zone.”