SIOUX CITY | Only two of the three Beller boys who play for the Sioux City Metros are brothers, left wing Drake and left defenseman Max.
Yet, as far as goaltender Blake Beller is concerned, Drake and Max, who are distant cousins, are brothers. Blake feels the same way about the entire roster which has carried the Metros to 12 consecutive wins and atop the Midwest High School Hockey League standings.
Drake, a senior at North High, leads the MHSHL’s goal leader (82) with 44 points (19 goals, 25 assists) while Max, a junior, ranks third among the team’s blue-liners with nine points (5, 4). Blake, a Hinton junior, has three shutouts while playing every minute between the pipes for the team that has allowed the league’s second-fewest goals (28).
As fourth-year head coach Dave LeGree puts it, there are no superstars on the squad that has posted a 16-1-1 record. The squad’s chemistry and goal to improve last year’s runner-up finish in the MHSHL Tournament has fueled the enthusiasm of squad members, including the Bellers.
“Every day, it feels like it’s one big family,” said Blake. “Everyone is awesome. Everyone’s friendly. There might be an argument, but everyone gets along. You need that to be successful. It’s huge to have a team like that who gets along with each other and has fun.”
“That’s definitely how we roll,” said Max. “We’re all family and we have each other’s backs. It’s as simple as that. We work as a team. If guys are down, you lift them up and do what you can. This is more than a game. It’s life.”
Drake found himself being picked up by his younger, but more physical brother on one series of the previous weekend’s sweep at Ames. Drake was hit at the boards and Max came to his rescue.
“I avoid the hits and beat teams by just outsmarting them,” said Drake. “When I got hit from behind on the boards, he was the first one there. He pushed the other guys off and asked me if I was all right. It means a lot. At home, we might not always get along, but we’re still brothers. We care about each other.”
Drake, who has scored in all but one game this season, has scored in each of his last six games. Playing on a line that also includes center Connor Sand (12, 17) and right wing James Page (19, 16), Drake has four multiple-goal games and 12 multiple-point games.
As a sophomore, Drake was a defenseman, a role LeGree sometimes utilizes in shorthanded situations. He contributed 21 goals and 26 assists a year ago in his first year as a forward and accompanied three teammates – Page, defenseman Grant Newman and forward Tanner Frerichs at the America’s Showcase in Pittsburgh, Pa., where they were part of a MHSHL all-star squad.
“Last year I was on a line with Tanner and James,” said Drake. “Tanner helped me and James out. He elevated our games. This year, all three of us can get it to the net. We’re seniors on this team and we’re supposed to lead this team.”
“Blake’s a tricky hockey player,” said LeGree. “He’s smooth with the puck. He’s a good skater with skills and knows how to put the puck in the net. He’s not a big kid, but he gets in the corners. He’s very smart and sees what is developing.”
Max, who describes Drake’s scoring and skills as “filthy,” also plays in the corners, teaming up with his blue-line partner, Ethan Burge (1 assist). It’s the first year they’ve worked together and they look out for each other, because when Max brings up the puck, Burge plays back and vice-versa.
Max said one of his roles as an defenseman is to stop rushes. His grittiness is one of the reasons the Metros have not allowed more than three goals in a game this season.
“I’m more of a gritty player in the corner,” said Max. “I like the big hits. We’re just working together as one big unit. It’s been a grind, but it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve learned to not just stare at the puck.”
“Max has good speed, he carries the puck well, he has a good shot and he plays defense,” said LeGree. “He’s a little more physical than Drake, a little bit bigger than Drake. Sometimes, you have to tone him down. But that’s good. You just can’t lose your head. He’s come a long way in that.”
Blake is the younger brother of Skyler Beller, who from 2013-16, had three-year totals of 84 goals and 55 assists. Relying upon the butterfly style taught to him by assistant coaches Kyle Dirks and Jesse Monell, Blake has also been told to by LeGree to utilize his stick.
“The last three years of working with Blake, I’ve told him anywhere near the crease, get that stick out and poke the puck off the stick,” said LeGree, a former Sioux City Musketeers goaltender. “Blake goes behind the net to stop the puck. When he plays the puck, he can shoot to the wing. That’s a big part of the game which is missing from the goaltenders of today.”
Blake insists he’s not tired, this goalie who has started every game for the Metros since February of a year ago.
“I don’t get tired with a great team in front of me helping me out all the time,” he said. “Dave (LeGree) tells all of us to keep our heads in the game and stay mentally strong. That helps a lot. My teammates block a ton of shots in front of me because everybody wants to make sure the puck doesn’t get to the net. That helps momentum, stopping potential goals. It’s huge.”