Game seven in overtime with the puck on your stick. That’s a fantasy that countless hockey players act out as they climb the youth ranks. For former Miami University standout Alec Martinez, that fantasy turned to reality on Sunday night.
Martinez’ goal 5:47 into overtime capped a thoroughly entertaining Western Conference Final between the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks. With the Kings cycling through the Blackhawks’ zone, the puck found its way to Martinez at the left point, where wrist shot from the left point found the net 5:47 into overtime. His fourth goal of the playoffs was arguably the most dramatic of his career as it sent the Kings into the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three years.
“Every kid playing in his driveway in his head is playing a game seven,” Martinez said. "I think it’s something you dream of. There was obviously a lot riding on this series and while being the one to score in overtime was special, I don’t care who scores as long as we win."
After becoming the third former RedHawk to win a Stanley Cup when the Kings triumphed over the New Jersey Devils in 2012, Martinez is four wins away from making further Miami history in the National Hockey League. With a series victory over the New York Rangers, the Rochester Hills, Mich., native would be the first former Miami player to see his name on the Stanley Cup twice.
“It’s awesome getting back to the finals,” Martinez said. “This is what you play for all year. I know it’s a cliché, but that’s because it’s true. This is the most fun part of the year. Everyone is preparing to play in June at the start of the year and I feel incredibly fortunate to get another opportunity for a Cup.”
In his fourth full season with in the NHL, Martinez once again improved as a mainstay on Los Angeles’ blue line. He suited up for a career-high 61 games, netting a career-best 11 goals and 22 points while tying for third on the team with a +17 rating (also a career-best). He has raised his game to another level in the playoffs with nine points on four goals and five assists to rank third among LA defensemen.
Martinez starred on Miami’s defense for three seasons, registering 67 points (21 goals, 46 assists) in 123 games. After qualifying for the NCAA Tournament three times in program history prior to his arrival, the RedHawks made the postseason in all three of his campaigns. Like on Sunday night, Martinez showed a flair for the dramatic in his freshman campaign as he closed the old Goggin Ice Arena out with a dramatic overtime goal against Western Michigan in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association Playoffs on March 11, 2006. He was named a Second-Team West All-American following the 2007-08 campaign, where he tallied a career-high 32 points and was named the CCHA’s Defensive Defenseman of the Year.
“Miami was a big part of my development as a hockey player,” Martinez said. “Enrico Blasi, Jeff Blashill and Chris Bergeron all were outstanding coaches who helped develop me into the player I am today. That is part of the process that they want to develop good hockey players and good people. I learned a lot on and off the ice about the game and how to play the right way. I am still learning, but Miami was a big part of that.”
The Stanley Cup Final begins on Wednesday night with NBC and NBCSN alternating live coverage.
Alec Martinez Overtime Goal (courtesy NHL.com)