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Wednesday, 10 October 2012 15:57

Martin learning to hit his stride on the ice

Written by  Brad Brown
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It’s a chicken-and-egg “problem” any team would love to deal with.

Did strong goaltending give the defence renewed confidence? Or was it the other way around?
Losers in four of their first five games, the Swift Current Broncos responded last weekend with two solid defensive performances in a 10-1 road win over the Saskatoon Blades and 2-1 home win over the Regina Pats.
Broncos head coach and general manager Mark Lamb is quick to credit the inspired play of goaltender Eetu Laurikainen, who was named the Canadian Hockey League’s goaltender of the week prior to Tuesday’s home game against the Red Deer Rebels.
But there’s something to be said too for a more composed and disciplined defence corps that took just eight penalty minutes and gave Laurikainen a fighting chance on almost all of the 73 shots he faced over the weekend set.
“It basically comes down to tightening up our game when we need to,” said fourth-year blueliner Reece Scarlett. “Those games when we were letting them slip, we weren’t tightening up in the defensive zone and we were letting the game just happen instead of taking control of it.”
Any resurgence on the Broncos’ back end can be traced to both Scarlett’s absence and his return.
The New Jersey Devils draft pick was sidelined for three games after being clubbed from behind by Moose Jaw’s Justin Kirsch in Swift Current’s season opener, and returned Sept. 29 against Saskatoon. Oct. 5 Scarlett put up a career-high four assists in the Broncos’ 10-1 win over the Blades.
In the meantime, it was 16-year-old rookie and 2011 first-round bantam draft pick Brycen Martin taking Scarlett’s place on the top power play unit.
Entering this weekend’s play, Martin had three assists to show for eight games this year.
“He’s a real heady player for his age,” said Broncos head coach and general manager Mark Lamb. “He’s probably our best puck handler. He probably could be our best passer. He’s got so much potential and we want to bring him along slow, but when a guy goes down like [Scarlett] he can jump right in and not miss a beat.”
Martin and second-year D-man Dillon Heatherington are the two junior members of a Broncos defence team largely populated by 19 and 20-year-olds in Scarlett, Richard Nedomlel, Graeme Craig and Dalton Reum.
But they’re not hurting for playing time. Heatherington has found a home on the team’s top pairing with Scarlett, while Martin has spent most of the season on the No. 2 pairing with Nedomlel.
All the better to learn the WHL game with, really.
“Any time you get out there you get stronger and you’re going to figure out the league a little bit so as a 16-year-old the more ice time you get the more beneficial it is down the road,” said Scarlett, who was also a Broncos regular as a 16-year-old under Lamb.
“[Martin’s] a great player. He sees the ice well and he’s a great skater. The sky’s the limit for him.”
As with any young player there are going to be rough patches along the way, but Martin believes he can fill whatever role the team asks of him.
“I don’t think I blocked a shot last season and this year I had to,” he said after the Broncos’ win against Regina. “I think I had three in one game a couple games ago and it’s a big difference, but I’m definitely (most comfortable) on the power play.”

Read 868 times Last modified on Thursday, 11 October 2012 08:34