Jensen Finds His Niche
by Ben Birnell/Special to USCHO
To say senior forward Joe Jensen has made some contributions to St. Cloud State is a large understatement.
"He is a competitor," sophomore linemate Andrew Gordon said. "Everything he does, he wants to win."
You can't deny the Plymouth native's impact through the first part of the 2005-06 season. Jensen leads the team in goals and plays on a line that accounts for 40 percent of the team's scoring.
"Joe has a pretty dominant personality," senior linemate Billy Hengen said. "He wants the puck and he wants to play as much as possible. The one word that you can say with him that you cannot say with a lot of other players is that he's consistent."
Jensen's season suffered a setback recently, and an injury has kept him out of the lineup the last four games. But the team has won those games anyway, making the thought of his return a scintillating one.
"The success we have had so far (this year) beating Minnesota and North Dakota, it just makes the game a lot more fun," said Jensen, who was an eighth round (232 overall) draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. "It is just a lot more fun to win.
"Your last year, you kind of put things in perspective and smell the flowers a lot more often. It's the last time you're going to play Division I hockey, especially for St. Cloud State, and every time I come down (to the National Hockey Center), either for a practice or a game, I make sure I'm doing everything I can (to help the team) and I make sure I'm cherishing it."
An interesting living situation with fellow Pens draftee and SCSU goaltender Bobby Goepfert helped drive Jensen's desire to finish out his career on a high note. Jensen said the pair felt compelled to work hard over the summer, with it being his last season and also as Goepfert's first year on the active roster since transferring from Providence.
"It was a different situation," Jensen said. "He's always talking and there is never a time when he's quiet. It was pretty funny living with him. But, I think we kind of pushed each other to work out over the summer. I had to push him a little more than he pushed me to get going. But I got to know him better, which was good."
For anyone that has kept tabs on Jensen through his career already probably knows he has done everything he can to help his team and seldom needs pushing or coaxing from anyone to perform at his best.
"You don't see many nights where he does not come play the same hard-nosed game," Hengen said. "This year he's really put together his scoring. I think he's found that little extra scoring touch."
January 3, 2003 is a night in which most Husky fans probably realized Jensen had somewhat of a scoring touch. After skating on the team's fourth line and going without a goal for nearly half the season, Jensen exploded for a hat trick against Minnesota at Mariucci Arena, including the game-winner late in regulation. The next night, he got his first goal in front of a home crowd at the NHC.
"I scored the hat trick and I got bumped up to the second line and I scored again," Jensen said. "That was definitely the thing that kind of turned things around for me my freshman year."
Jensen said the transition from playing junior hockey at Sioux Falls for current SCSU head coach Bob Motzko to playing Division I hockey was a large step, but learned quite a bit from the likes of Ryan Malone and Joe Motzko.
"Getting to learn from those guys helped me out a lot," Jensen said. "Those guys are all in the pros and doing well, I got a lot of little tidbits or little things that can help you or make you successful (in this game)."
Jensen also pointed to a summer hockey conditioning camp he's been attending for pro and college players since he was a freshman — located in Brainerd and put on by Pittsburgh Penguins scout Chuck Grillo, as something that has helped propel his game.
"It's a great camp, a lot Pittsburgh and San Jose (Sharks) players are there. Plus, Pittsburgh does not have a rookie camp so everyone they are looking at is there," Jensen said. "You get to skate with guys you are going to be competing with in a few years. You get to see how top-end guys like Malone and (former Husky) Mark Hartigan work out to make it to the next level."
Jensen said he has tried to mold his game after Joe Motzko's, stating he likes the former Husky's work ethic and leadership skills he brings to the game.
"He has always been the hardest worker since I've seen him play," Jensen said. "He scores big goals, he's a leader on and off the ice and he does the little things that help him become the player that he is. I try to pass what I've learned to the younger guys, so they have someone to look up to and learn from."
Jensen said he knows he doesn't need a "C" or an "A" stitched to his jersey to be someone that other players on the roster look to for leadership.
"I've always kind of tried to model myself after some of the NHL-type captains like (Detroit's) Steve Yzerman and Colorado's Joe Sakic. Those guys, they lead on the ice and the only time they say something is when it needs to be said. I try to pick my times to say something and let the other seniors do the talking. For me to lead this team, I have to score goals and be a big part of this offense. I've accepted that."
Whatever Jensen is saying or doing, the younger players are watching and taking notice.
"Joe brings a lot of intensity and he brings his game every night," Gordon said. "He's one guy that you can count on every time that he steps on the ice that plays the exact same game shift in, shift out. He brings his 'A' game every night and that's why he's so successful. I've always used the cliché, 'where Joe goes, we go.' I think he leads a lot by example and I find that helps the team a lot."