Sunday, 10 April 2016

Martin comes up clutch for Rebels

Career WHL backup goalie becomes playoff star in Red Deer

Goalie Trevor Martin celebrates a win with his Rebels teammates.
    RED DEER, Alta. - Not that long ago, the idea that Trevor Martin would be a money goaltender in the WHL playoffs was unthinkable.
    At best, it seemed like he would hold a career backup role in the major junior ranks. Entering this season, Martin has played in 20 career regular season games all coming in his 18-year-old campaign with the Saskatoon Blades and Red Deer Rebels.
    Back on Jan. 5, 2015, the Blades traded Martin to the Rebels in exchange for defenceman Kolton Dixon. In 19 appearances with the Blades, Martin posted a 3-10-2 record, a 4.16 goals against average and a .886 save percentage. Anyone familiar with major junior hockey knows those type of numbers usually don’t help a goaltender last long at that level of play, especially when the individual is slated to be a 19-year-old sophomore.
    Fast forward to Sunday night in Red Deer, Martin came through with a huge 35-save performance to back the Rebels to a 4-3 victory over the visiting Regina Pats before 4,802 spectators at the Enmax Centrium in Game 2 of a second round playoff series. The win allowed the Rebels to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series heading into Game 3 in Regina on Tuesday night.
    The only tally Martin could have been faulted on came on Regina’s third goal. With the Rebels trying to kill off a Pats power play, Martin fumbled a point shot from Pats defenceman Connor Hobbs, and WHL scoring champ Adam Brooks potted home the rebound with 0.3 seconds to play in the second period.
Trevor Martin makes a shoulder save on Cole Sanford.
    Brooks’ goal forced a 3-3 tie, but Martin made a number of key stops on odd man rushes to allow the Rebels to win the game.
    “He (Martin) was solid,” said Rebels head coach, general manager and owner Brent Sutter. “In the third period, he just shut the door.
    “He made some big saves in the third as he did throughout the whole night. You need that. You have to have goaltending at this time of year.
    “You have to have good goaltending. There is a lot of parity in this league. You get to this stage teams are good hockey teams, and you are going to need saves from your goalies.”
    Martin was the Rebels backup until a lower body injury knocked 19-year-old starter Rylan Toth out of the line-up back in the middle of February. Toth was in a walking boot just before the playoffs started. With Toth out for an extended time, Martin became the man for the Rebels, and he has made the best of his opportunity.
    In the regular season, he posted an 18-8-2 record, a 2.63 goals against average and a .911 save percentage in 38 appearances. The Ardrossan, Alta., product has been even better in his seven post-season starts posting a 6-1 record, a 2.29 goals against average, a .924 save percentage and one shutout - the first in his WHL career.
    Martin played a key part in the Rebels 3-2 victory over the Pats in Game 1 of their series on Saturday. He made 20 saves to pick up that win, and almost half of the stops were high quality. Red Deer’s defenceman made a number of giveaways in that contest, which resulted in Martin making a number of bailout saves.
Trevor Martin holds the fort during a net scramble.
    In Game 2, Martin was still making bailout and game changing stops. Early in the second, he turned away Pats left-winger Austin Wagner with a kick save on a breakaway chance. Martin late stoned Pats star sniper Cole Sanford from in close later on in the frame with a shoulder stop.
    During the third period, Martin was key in helping the Rebels kill off a double minor penalty assessed to star defenceman Haydn Fleury for high-sticking. Martin also made a robbery stop on Pats standout Sam Steel and denied Brooks in the final seconds of the frame to preserve the Rebels fifth consecutive win in the post-season.
    Rebels 18-year-old defenceman Josh Mahura gave Martin huge credit for the success the team has had.
    “When (Rylan) Toth came out there, he (Martin) stepped in and has been unbelievable for us,” said Mahura. “He is a backbone obviously in the net there. He has been playing unbelievable this playoffs.”
    When Toth went down, one had to wonder what the Rebels fate would be in the post-season and what their chances would be as hosts of the Memorial Cup tournament in May.
Trevor Martin makes a sprawling kick save on Riley Woods.
    Martin has become that clutch goalie every team needs to have success in the playoffs. When a netminder comes through with bailout saves like Martin has, it energizes a team.
    With Toth nearing a possible return to the Red Deer line-up, Sutter has told the Red Deer media that Martin will remain the team’s starter for the foreseeable future. At the moment, Martin has the Rebels two wins away from their first WHL Eastern Conference finals appearance since 2004.
    In Sunday’s clash, the Rebels went ahead 4-3 at the 11:18 mark of the third, when Adam Musil deflected home a point shot from Mahura. Mahura, Michael Spacek and Adam Helewka all netted singles for the Rebels, who were 2-for-4 with the power play.
    The Pats netted all their goals with the man advantage going 3-for-6 on the power play. Steel and Sanford had the other power-play markers for Regina. Tyler Brown made 28 stops to take the loss in goal for the Pats.
Trevor Martin makes a glove save in the Rebels goal.
    In Martin, the Rebels found their clutch playoff goaltender in an unexpected way. He has become one of the most uplifting individual stories in the league. When the dust settles, Martin might be the piece that allows the Rebels to go all the way in possibly winning both a league title and the franchise’s second Memorial Cup championship.

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