Jordan Steinmetz was an absolute phenom on the ice for Chippewa Falls.
The hockey program’s all-time leading scorer, he totaled 165 points over four seasons, earning Leader-Telegram Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2017.
Yet after graduation, he started his junior hockey career with no promises. He headed to Janesville without a college commitment, needing to prove to scouts he was worthy of jumping to the next level.
“You’ve just got to trust your path, trust the process,” Steinmetz said. “You’ve just got to believe in yourself and work hard.”
Two years later, he’s back in the Chippewa Valley with a full scholarship in hand, preparing to kick off his college career this fall at St. Lawrence University. He’s training both on and off the ice while still making time to play baseball with the Tilden Tigers of the Chippewa River Baseball League.
His hard work has paid off as he’s proven his worth as a Division I athlete.
“It’s Jordan to a T,” said Luke Strand, Steinmetz’s junior coach at Sioux City and a former player and coach at UW-Eau Claire. “You look at their whole family. They earn the way they do things.”
Steinmetz’s post-Cardinals journey began in his home state with the Janesville Jets, a member of the Tier II North American Hockey League. After a 19-point season, a jump to the top tier of American junior hockey seemed logical, and the Sioux City Musketeers were a logical fit.
Steinmetz had a background with Strand, having played for him at the club level with Team Wisconsin. The former Blugold also has a long history of Wisconsin-born players on his roster — he’ll be coaching another Chippewa Valley great this winter when Eau Claire North’s Sam Stange jumps to the USHL.
The decision to bring in Steinmetz proved to be a good one, as his statistics increased while facing tougher competition. He notched eight goals and 18 assists in 60 games for the Musketeers. Strand said he saw improvements in his playmaking, and said people who hadn’t seen him play in a year were blown away by his progress.
“I think maybe in Janesville he wasn’t utilized to his fullest capacity,” Strand said. “For the first time it was full-time ahead with hockey. It wasn’t balancing three sports. It wasn’t trying to train for three different ways. You can definitely see where his game took off in hockey.”
During his year in Sioux City, Steinmetz’s body of work earned him his ticket to the next chapter of his career. Division I St. Lawrence, located in Canton, New York, offered him a scholarship to join the Saints for the 2019-20 season. He announced his commitment on Dec. 22.
“I just really enjoyed the school,” Steinmetz said. “It’s a smaller city, smaller school. I kind of enjoyed that. It kind of feels like — or it did feel like — home. The community felt really tight knit and I just felt the academics were really strong.”
Strand said St. Lawrence originally started spending time in Sioux City to watch one of Steinmetz’s teammates, Calgary Flames draft pick Martin Pospisil. In time, Steinmetz started to catch their attention, too.
“They spent enough time trying to watch Martin but they couldn’t get their eyes off Jordan,” Strand said. “As the Spring went through, they kept upping their offer and upping their offer until now it’s a full scholarship, which is almost unheard of because you want to balance out your roster.”
He’ll join a Saints squad under the direction of a new head coach, Brent Brekke, which competes in the highly competitive ECAC. Strand expects the school will be very pleased with the type of player it’s adding.
“He’s a pesky player with an edge and skill,” Strand said. “His ability to make plays in traffic under pressure in key situations is really high. But it’s his leadership, his grittiness. He’s so determined out there. He’s that pesky fly that won’t go away.”
While he’s not playing baseball at the same level of intensity as he did while at Chi-Hi, Steinmetz’s recent success hasn’t been constrained to the ice. He was named a CRBL All-Star this season, one of eight Tilden players and three Steinmetz to make the cut. His Tigers squad sits in second in the North Division standings, trailing only the Eau Claire Cavaliers.
Steinmetz said he sees baseball as a chance to relax and step away from all the stresses of high-level hockey.
“Baseball’s kind of a little getaway,” he said. “Take my mind off of hockey and all the training, all the skating. ... I love playing baseball, and obviously my dad had pretty strong ties with Tilden, played there forever. It’s real easy for me to come back and play.”
Steinmetz, who is training this summer at ETS in Menomonie, is heading out east in mid-August. Until then, he’s looking to put on muscle weight in preparation for facing older, bigger competition.
Of course, there’s also some mental preparation needed for those pesky classes after two years completely dedicated to hockey.
“The last two seasons I’ve played hockey over the course of eight or nine months,” Steinmetz said. “I’m used to all the hockey. Hopefully I’m ready to go to school again.”