Wednesday, 12 February 2014 15:26

Hopefully, Broncos and Martin are back on the right track

Written by  Brad Brown, A Bard’s Eye View
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Brycen Martin might be his own worst critic.

So you can imagine his relief after Sunday’s game when the Swift Current Broncos defenceman not only scored twice, but also helped goalie Eetu Laurikainen stop 24 biscuits in a 3-0 shutout win over the Brandon Wheat Kings.
(Sadly, no word yet on whether Laurikainen later dunked the biscuits into a bowl of chili after he was done stopping them.)
Martin unleashed a pair of Sakic-esque wrist shots to beat Brandon goalie Curtis Honey and secure a home win for Swift Current, just two nights after an 8-1 loss to the Wheaties in Brandon. On the way home Saturday, the Broncos also won a 6-3 game over the Moose Jaw Warriors.
The weekend set marked only the Broncos’ third set of back-to-back wins since Dec. 4 but were also enough to vault them back past Brandon into first place in the East Division.
“It was a first-place game Sunday and we had to overcome some adversity ... so I put a lot on my shoulders to get the ball rolling,” said Martin, the second overall pick in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft.
Martin’s first goal Sunday came on a give-and-go play with winger Andrew Johnson that saw Martin snipe short side past Honey’s blocker. The second was another absurdly quick release, this time to Honey’s glove side from the top of the circles.
They both followed a 2014 that, to that point, had seen Martin score just once and register a minus-10 rating in 16 games.
Sometimes plus-minus ratings can be deceptive. In Martin’s case, it was well-earned — a perfect storm of untimely giveaways and other assorted defensive zone miscues to kick off the new year for the projected first-round NHL draft pick.
“It comes (to mind) sometimes but I have to (force) it to the back of my mind that the scouts come to watch me play,” said Martin. “I have to play to the best of my ability and if I do that then hopefully it helps the team too.
“I’m very hard on myself and at the same time, I think that’s what’s got me to where I am today and brought me success.”
On a personal level, his struggles culminated Saturday when he was moved from his usual defence pairing with Brett Lernout to a new assignment alongside rookie Jordan Harris.
From a team standpoint, things bottomed out with a players-only meeting prior to the Moose Jaw game.
So far, on both counts, so good.
“We definitely had to take a look in the mirror and think about moving forward,” said Martin. “We sat down that day and we were pretty embarrassed ... The captains took some initiative and put a lot on their own shoulders for the losses, so they definitely led the way but it was all the players’ decision to get the ball rolling.”
Martin called last Friday’s loss the worst of his young WHL career, but Broncos head coach Mark Lamb doesn’t want his team to forget it.
“The way we lost, it was an eye-opener,” he said Monday. “It changed a lot of thoughts of how good we really are and the importance of doing things the right way. So I think the loss was just as important as (Sunday’s) win because it really got us thinking the right way.”
By all appearances that includes Martin, from whom Lamb still expects big things over the final games of the regular season and into his second playoffs in as many years.
Martin is already well into career-high territory this season with six goals and 29 points in 57 games, after finishing with two goals and 19 points in 67 games as a rookie in 2012-13.
“There’s been a lot of struggles at times and there’s been some dynamic hockey at times, and that’s why he’s rated so high,” said Lamb. “It’s just a process with all these young teenagers where you go through some good things and some bad things, and the biggest thing is just trying to keep him even-keeled and balanced.
“His defensive play has come a long way and so has his maturity.”

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