April has been a good month for the Guentzel family.
Mike Guentzel, the Gophers men's hockey associate head coach, on Wednesday was honored with the Terry Flanagan Award recognizing his career work as one of the top assistant coaches in college hockey.
Mike’s youngest son, Jake, starred in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The NHL rookie scored a league-best five goals for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round highlighted by an overtime-winner on April 16.
The Guentzel family, minus Jake, gathered in Naples, Fla., Wednesday to see Mike honored by his peers at the American Hockey Coaches Association convention. His wife Sally, sons Ryan and Gabe were in attendance, while Jake and the Penguins prepared for Thursday night's second-round opener against the Washington Capitals.
Jake, the former Hill-Murray star from Woodbury, has the attention of the hockey world after his standout effort on a team featuring superstar Sydney Crosby and former Gophers star Phil Kessel. Jake scored in three of the five first-round games against Columbus including a hat trick in Game 3.
The Associated Press featured Jake this week for his big "splash" early the playoffs.
"The NHL's leading goal scorer in the playoffs heading into the second round isn't Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin or Connor McDavid. It's the son of a coach from the middle of flyover country who hasn't been overwhelmed by the prospect of sharing a line with the best player in the world or intimidated by his sport's biggest stage," the article said.
“Guentzel became the first rookie since Hall of Famer Maurice Richard in 1944 to score five goals in his first four playoff games. Yes, it is weird to have your name mentioned in the same breath as hockey royalty. Guentzel just calls it a "crazy journey" though his teammates insist he's underselling himself.”
Crosby and Penguins coach Mike Sullivan praised Jake’s “hockey IQ,” something the 22-year-old’s father surely helped develop.
Mike, a native of Marble, Minn., is a former Gophers hockey captain and played briefly in the minor leagues. He started his coaching career in 1988 as an assistant for the St. Paul Vulcans of the USHL and was hired by the Gophers in 1994. His first stint with the Gophers ended in 2008 and he returned as the associate head coach in 2011.
In total, he has 28 years of coaching experience and 20 season with the Gophers. He also spent two seasons as an assistant at Colorado College and Nebraska Omaha.
Mike oversees the Gophers defense and has coached two Hobey Baker Award winners, 16 All-Americans and helped develop 29 NHL defenseman.
“No one better represents the Gopher Hockey program and college hockey than Mike Guentzel,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said in a statement earlier this season. “Mike was a great leader on the ice for the Gophers as a captain, and he has dedicated his career to being an equally great coach for us. In my opinion there isn’t a better coach in the nation for defensive prospects and for that matter, there isn’t a coach that cares more about his players and his program.”
Mike was at Jake’s first NHL game in November when he scored two goals in his debut. The chances are Mike will be in the stands for most of the Penguins’ remaining playoffs journey. And if Jake continues to score like he did in the first round, the Guentzel family will have a lot more to celebrate in the coming months.