By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent
If you’ve only ever seen Winkler Flyers netminder Troy Martyniuk suit up in the winter, you’re only seen half of his game.
The top-notch puck stopper ditches the goalie equipment during the summer months and plays forward – where he sees the game from a much different point of view.
“When I play in my summer league with my buddies I usually play forward to get a taste of what it’s like outside the net,” he said, noting he sometimes shares the ice with recent second-overall pick and current Philadelphia Flyers’ rookie Nolan Patrick.
Sniping pucks top shelf is plenty of fun when you can come to the rink in in flip flops and shorts, but come winter Martyniuk is laser-focused on keeping the puck out, not putting the puck in. And he’s made a name for himself in the MJHL as one of the premier goaltenders, dating all the way back to his very first game – a unique situation that is not likely to be repeated anytime soon.
Martyniuk, 20, burst onto the scene in 2015 with the Dauphin Kings as the third netminder – an insurance policy really, as he was coming off his final year of midget hockey. But that policy was cashed in when he was thrust into action due injuries to fellow netminders Jordan Piccolino and Michael Stiliadis. He ended up earning a crucial win at the now defunct Western Canada Cup to get the Dauphin Kings into the RBC Cup.
From there, he played his true rookie season with a Kings’ team now in rebuilding mode after a long run to the RBC Cup, where he posted decent stats for a rookie on a young team.
He looks back that early Western Canada Cup appearance, and admits that might have skewed his expectations heading into his first full season in the MJHL.
“It was definitely a bit of an adjustment,” said Martyniuk. “I was trying to develop myself as an elite junior goalie. And it was different being on rebuilding teams with younger guys like myself, and trying to improve as a team each day.”
Following his rookie campaign, he was traded to Brooks of the AJHL, only to quickly make his way back to the MJHL where he ended up with the Waywayseecappo Wolverines – another team that was in a rebuild mode.
He again posted decent statistics on a younger team, but after he started last season with the Wolverines, he was quickly dealt to the Winkler Flyers, where he joined a team with an already established netminder in Cole Weaver.
But as time wore on, Martyniuk would not be denied, and he earned the starting spot with a sizzling 1.69 GAA and a .940 save percentage. He also played in all 10 playoff games for the Flyers, posting a 2.05 GAA and a .929 save percentage.
“It was great to join a top organization like Winkler,” said Martyniuk. “They are a team looking to win a championship every year, and they were built to win it last year, and I think we’re going to have a good push at it this year as well.”
This season the Winnipeg native is back at it. Midway through the month of October he led the league in shutouts (two), and was tied for the second best save percentage (.932) and GAA (2.01).
“I expect to be at the top or near the top of the goalies, though with the strong team we have now, the numbers don’t just reflect how I play – it reflects the team as a whole,” he noted. “The team has been really solid in front of me.”
Martyniuk has now transitioned from the young 16-year-old call up to a 20-year-old veteran, though there are still days at the rink when he feels like one of the younger players on the team.
“It’s definitely different, as I still feel like a young player, but then I look around and know I’m an older one,” he said. “So I do try to set a good example in the room and show how much fun and what a privilege it is to play junior hockey with the Flyers.”
The talented netminder hopes to continue his strong season, with an eye on a scholarship for next year. Given his lineage, that seems like a good bet to take.
His father Wayne played on the blueline with the St. James Canadians in the early ’80s, while his mother Ardis was well known in ringette circles. More recently, Troy’s brother played in the WHL with the Tri-City Americans and Regina Pats before wrapping up his junior career with the Winnipeg Blues in 2010-11. And his sister Larissa just wrapped up her college hockey career with Syracuse in Division One NCSS, serving as team captain in her final year while finishing with 141 games played on the Orange blueline.