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First-year coach Guentzel hopes to put Bucs back on the map

 

By Matt “It’s MillerTime” Miller

 

Last season is one that the Des Moines Buccaneers would soon like to forget. Sitting at the bottom of the East Division of the USHL, the Bucs suffered a 12-43 record. But that was then, and this is now. The Buccaneers, fresh off of hiring a new coach, are looking to regain prominence and put Des Moines back on the USHL map.

“This season is going to be a big challenge, but we have a great group of guys that are working hard to turn things around,” said head coach Mike Guentzel, who was hired Aug. 31. “We’re in the midst of creating an identity, so we’re a work in progress. We want to establish a foundation in Des Moines that our players, fans and staff are proud of.”

Creating an identity following a season that found the Buccaneers at the bottom in the East Division of the USHL will be an uphill battle for Guentzel, but he believes his team is equipped to tangle the 60-game schedule. Already this season, the Bucs flashed a 3-0 record during the USHL Fall Classic. They opened the regular season on the road Oct. 2 with an overtime 7-6 win against the Sioux Falls Stampede. Rookie T.J. Tynan scored twice in the win. The Bucs’ second game of the season was a 7-6 loss to the Cedar Rapids Roughriders in their home opener on Oct. 3. The Bucs next home game is Saturday, Oct. 10 against the Youngstown Phantoms — a team they beat 3-2 two weeks ago in the tournament. Ryan Walters, T.J. Tynan and DJ Vandercook each scored for the Bucs.

“I believe we’re going to have a good season,” said captain H.T. Lenz. “The last few seasons our mentality as a team has suffered after we would fall behind in a game. That’s not going to happen this year.”

Guentzel believes his past coaching experience will help guide this year’s squad. Guentzel replaced head coach Dave Allison, who accepted a position with the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League. A 23-year veteran of coaching, Guentzel spent the 2008-09 season as an assistant coach for Colorado College. Before that, he spent 14 seasons as an assistant with the University of Minnesota where he helped lead the Gophers to back-to-back NCAA Championships. Besides a few other coaching positions, Guentzel also played four seasons for the Gophers (1981-85) and was selected by the New York Rangers in the seventh round in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft.

“I’ve been a part of some high-level program and understand the nuances of the game,” he said. “In those programs, like many others, there is an expectation level or performance level that you have to get your players to strive for.”

Lenz says Guentzel brings a lot of knowledge of the game to the Bucs.

“Everyone is responding positively to what coach has to say,” he said. “He has a lot of hockey history, so that will only help us.”

Guentzel admits that not everything is going to go right this season, but says his team has to come to play each night.

“There is a heck of an advantage playing in Buccaneer Arena because the fans are so passionate,” he said. “It’s great for our players, too, because we can pick up some big wins. But winning on the road is just as important. If you can do that, it’s a signal that you have the right type of team chemistry. We’re going to find out a lot about ourselves this season and discover where we are in the pecking order of the division.” CV
Ryan Walters and the Des Moines Buccaneers host the Youngstown Phantoms on Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo courtesy of the Des Moines Buccaneers. CV



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