by Lisa McRitchie on 01/22/12 at 04:00 AM ET
The only country at the IIHF World Juniors to have two Edmonton Oilers’ prospects was Slovakia, and so for many Slovakia became a fan favourite. Defenceman Martin Marincin, at the time played for the Prince George Cougars, but has since been traded to the Regina Pats was paired up with fellow Slovakian and Oil Kings defenceman Martin Gernat. Fondly, these two were referred to as the Marty Party.
Team Slovakia finished sixth at this year’s tournament, a finish that according to Slovakia’s coach is a medal as far as they were concerned. After all, in a tournament of ten teams sixth is far better than eighth.
Both Martins got off to fast and high scoring starts in the WHL, although Marcincin had a one year advantage over Gernat.
In terms of size, these two are virtually identical. Both weigh in at 187lbs. Marincin stands at 6’ 4” and Gernat is 6’ 5”. Both defenceman also play on the left side. On paper, these two are more than just countrymen; they could also be replicas of each other.
Through the tournament, it should come as no surprise that both defencemen put up similar number son the scoresheet. Marincin scored 1 goal, had 2 assists, 2 penalty minutes and finished his six games at a +2. Gernat scored 1 goal, had 1 assist, 2 penalty minutes and finished his six games at +1.
For Slovakia’s head coach Ernest Bokros, this tournament was a team event and so was hesitant to comment on the specific play of the Martins. Usually, Bokros would make a general comment through his translator such as “Both Martins play well.” But by the end of the tournament and following their final game against the Czech Republic Bokros admitted “Both of them are very strong defencemen and I am heavily dependent on them.”
Martin Gernat came to the WHL with a good grasp of the English language, offensive skills, and a beaming smile. Gernat from all appearances is a great teammate and although a fierce competitor, Gernat seems to be able to find the positives in every situation. In Calgary following the Oil Kings’ game against the home team Hitmen Oil Kings captain Mark Pysyk joked that it was a good thing that Canada didn’t play Slovakia, that they two would have had to fight. If there are two people on the Oil Kings team with a brighter smile or more jovial personality I will be stunned.
Gernat truly enjoyed playing with Marincin. The two are Oilers draft picks, they both play in the WHL and they are quite similar. To be paired together, Gernat was moved to the right side and it was a move that seemed very natural for him, but perhaps this would not have been as easy if Gernat was paired with anyone other than Marincin.
“We had practise in the opening camp together,” Gernat said of their on ice chemistry, “And that was really good for us… We have lots of opportunities together to help with the Oilers and in the WHL it is really good for us.”
Playing in this tournament was an excellent opportunity for Gernat, “It’s a little different, [than playing in the WHL] but all guys are the best players here [from their] countries at this tournament.” And so Gernat enjoyed the spirit of competition.
Because this is still Gernat’s first year in the WHL, he is still getting used to the arenas and the ice surface. Despite the fact that Gernat plays for the Edmonton Oil Kings, he had never played a game in the Saddledome before. “Here is a lot of hard play in the WHL… short rink here, all of the time you must be careful, heads up.”
Overall, Gernat is becoming more comfortable with the short ice, “It’s good for me because I am a tall guy.”
Marincin has only one and a half seasons in the WHL, but playing with his friend and countryman Gernat was helpful. “I like to play with Martin,” says Marincin. “He’s a good player. I like to [make] more pass[es], cross pass. We know where we skate and I was hoping I would play with Martin. It’s good for maybe later with the Oilers.”
For Marincin, the transition to the WHL has been slightly more difficult than Gernat’s because Marincin came to North America with less experience speaking English. It has been a recent change of events that Marincin has been doing interviews without the aid of a translator. “I work with two girls, they are my teachers. The Oilers make me and they help me with my English. It’s better and I am very happy.”
I laughed when Marincin said the Oilers make me, I’m sure he meant that the Oilers are helping him. The English tutors will also help Marincin in his WHL games. Of course speaking with Gernat over Skype or phone calls will help as well.
Gernat suffered a slight shoulder sprain before the tournament that actually kept him from getting team photos. When the line-ups were announced, the photo of Marincin would be left up on the jumbotron as they announced Gernat’s name. Gernat went through some physio and managed to play through the tournament, but took some time off before going back to the WHL. Now, Gernat says that he is fine and ready to play.
The biggest thing that Gernat learned at this tournament was that “We are a good group and we are strong.” Slovakia may not have been a final four team, but this year they were one of the big six, and that is a true accomplishment.
While the Oilers are in desperate need of defencemen watching the prospects grow and develop can be quite exciting. Both Martins will require a lot more exposure to North American hockey before they can make the transition to the NHL, but coming to play in the WHL directly after their draft will help them through the coming years.
Both Martins are still quite young, but have big enough frames. When they fill out, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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