SIOUX CITY | Pass to a teammate first.
Score a goal later.
Jake Guentzel’s team-first hockey philosophy was passed down from his two older brothers.
And they got it from their dad.
Guentzel’s unselfish play has translated into triumphs for the Sioux City Musketeers. Two goals and three assists in Tuesday night’s 7-4 United States Hockey League win over Tri-City extended his scoring streak to 13 games for an 18-27-11 team that heads into Green Bay tonight winners in six of their last eight games.
Linemates of the 5-9, 153-pound rookie center from Woodbury, Minn., are noticing more than selfless actions from a leader who has 21 goals and 35 assists.
Rookie left wing Jake Montgomery is amazed by Guentzel’s vision and decisions. Head coach Brett Larson feels anticipation is the strength of his team’s top scorer.
“Only a few amount of players see the ice like that,” said Montgomery. “He thinks, but he makes quick decisions out there. They’re usually the right ones. That’s why he’s on this 13-game point streak. He makes things happen.”
“He’s smart enough to know when he needs to attack and he’s smart enough to know when he needs to create opportunities for his teammates,” said Musketeers Coach Brett Larson. “It’s instinct. You can’t teach that. All those top end guys have that. He reads the game and anticipates.”
Montgomery and fellow linemate Trevor Olson have scored five and four goals, respectively, off crisp passes in a stretch that has seen Guentzel score in 16 of his last 17 games.
Jared Thomas, has scored four goals courtesy of Guentzel, when the two have lined up on the power play. Six others have also notched red-lighters from the Nebraska-Omaha recruit, who had 22 goals and 48 assists last year while leading Hill-Murray to a 25-6 record and a runner-up finish in the Minnesota Class AA state tournament.
“I feel my brain helps me out a lot, just playing the game and knowing where everyone is,” said Guentzel, who’s spending his senior year at Sioux City East.
“My linemates help me out a lot. A lot of credit goes to them because they know where each other are and we know where each other are.
“Trevor is a good, hard player who’s tough, who can score and who’s a great passer. I love playing with him. Jake is the same exact player. They both go into the corners tough and they win battles so that helps me out. I feel like we work perfectly together.”
Guentzel was taught to shoot if he saw a clear lane. Tuesday night’s win marked his third two-goal game of the season.
Still, his dad, Mike Guentzel, who had 12 goals and 75 assists in four years as a defenseman (1981-85) at the University of Minnesota, drilled passing to all three sons. It started with Ryan, a forward who scored 47 points (9 goals, 38 assists) for the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede in 2006-07.
Ryan Guentzel had 10 goals and 50 assists in four seasons at Notre Dame, then played one season (2011-12) in Germany for Klostersee EHC. He had shoulder surgery and is no longer playing.
Gabe Guentzel contributed four goals and 22 assists as a Stampede defenseman in 2007-08. The former Colorado College defenseman (16 goals, 78 assists) currently has five assists in 30 games for the AHL’s Norfolk (Va.) Admirals.
Mike Guentzel has had two stints (1994-2008, 2011-present) coaching Minnesota’s defensive corps. The Gophers’ five NCAA Frozen Four appearances in his coaching era included back-to-back national titles in the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
“My dad helped me and my brothers out a lot. And I pretty much followed in my brother’s footsteps,” said Guentzel of his father, whose coaching career also includes USHL stops at Omaha (1992-94) and Des Moines (2009-10).
Larson knew Guentzel had the potential for a streak, pegging him as a scoring leader after the trades of J.T. Stenglein and Riley Bourbonnais to Waterloo and Lincoln, respectively.
“I liked that challenge because I felt it would help rise up my game a little better,” said Guentzel. “You know you’d have to play your best and hopefully, we’d get some wins. Everyone on this team plays hard every night. No one gives up. It doesn’t matter who scores. That’s what we need, playing as a team. It’s been awesome lately.”
“I expected in the second half he would be one of the top players in this league,” said Larson. “We continue to push him. We talk with him about things like stick position and his ability in the defensive zone. His entire game has been better from the beginning of the year to right now where he is definitely one of the top forwards in this league.”