Being the coach that Mike Guentzel is and being the former player that Ryan Guentzel is, it should come as no shock that their proudest moment Monday night wasn’t even when Mike’s youngest son and Ryan’s youngest brother, Jake, scored on his first NHL shot on his first shift for Pittsburgh against the New York Rangers.
It wasn’t Jake scoring a second goal either or the fact that somehow this 22-year-old kid born in Nebraska and raised in the eastern St. Paul burbs was playing his first NHL game on a line with … Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin?
“The coolest moment came late in the first period. There was a 4-on-4, and [Penguins coach Mike Sullivan] throws Jake out there with [Sidney] Crosby,” Ryan Guentzel said after returning to the Twin Cities from Pittsburgh on Tuesday with his dad — the associate men’s hockey coach for the Gophers — and his mom, Sally.
“Four-on-four with Crosby in his first-ever period? Me and my dad just looked at each other and were like, ‘Wow, that’s a special situation and some trust.’ After he scored his second goal, they showed him on the [big] screen and there was a loud, loud roar from everybody in the stands. It gave me goose bumps.”
Monday was a proud night for the Guentzels, including middle brother, Gabe, who stayed up to watch the game from Germany, where he plays hockey.
Mike Guentzel merely hoped Jake, a former Hill-Murray standout, didn’t make any mistakes. But it was Gabe who predicted that Jake would score.
The first period Monday was a blur for the family. Ryan, 30, who played four years at Notre Dame, said, “To see who his linemates were, it was just surreal.”
When the game started, Ryan was busy snapchatting Jake’s first shift when suddenly the play developed and, “Bam, he scored,” Mike Guentzel said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Mike put his hand on his head in disbelief. Sally cheered. And, Ryan welled up. He also slightly elbowed his mom in the head.
“Not my best moment, but one of my proudest, that’s for sure,” Ryan said.
“Even when he was a young kid, 10 years old, when I was in high school, eight years older than him, I always told people that he was going to be the best one of all of us.”
Everybody’s phone blew up. Jake Guentzel may have attended Nebraska Omaha, but he was around the Gophers’ program starting at age 4. He hung around the locker room, was on the ice after two national championships and even got to skate as a kid with his current linemate, Kessel.
Jake’s expected to play his second NHL game at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. If that goes well, there will be a return home to face the Wild on Friday.
After Monday’s grand debut, Jake visited with his mom, dad and oldest brother.
“Typical Jake,” Mike Guentzel said. “He’s quiet, he pulls out his phone, says, ‘Dad, I got 200 text messages. Here’s the puck, but I’ve got to go because I have to ride with these two veterans, and I don’t want to keep them waiting.’ So, two-minute conversation, and that’s just the way he is … He just moved on.”