and Matt Martin
made the most of their short time in the American Hockey League and were quickly given the chances they needed to become a permanent fixture on Long Island.
Last season, there were two New York Islanders mainstays that didn’t make the Opening Night roster. Disappointed, but set out to prove they belonged in the National Hockey League, rookies
Saturday night, Hamonic and Martin will start the 2011-12 season out right, playing in their first NHL Season Opener at home in front of the fans who bleed blue and orange at Nassau Coliseum.
|Matt Martin skates during the third period of a preseason game against the New Jersey Devils at Nassau Coliseum on September 24, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images) |
“It’s going to be awesome,” Martin said. “I know this building is old, but it’s one of the best buildings in the league when it’s sold out and gets loud. We have great fans and they come out and support us. It’s going to be an exciting year for this team, we have a lot of confidence and we are looking forward to having a great year.”
The Islanders retooled the defensive corps in the summer of 2010 and Hamonic, now 21, didn’t initially fit the bill. Islanders management and coaches thought he would benefit from lots of playing time with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, but after 19 AHL games and leading all defensemen in scoring with 2 goals and 5 assists, he got the call.
“It’s going to be a special experience tomorrow, my first opening night,” Hamonic said. “That’s what we dream about playing when we are young kids.”
After posting 5 goals and 21 assists in 68 games with a +4 rating last season, the 21-year-old defenseman showed the coaching staff he deserved to stay on Long Island.
“I played my way onto the team last year, so this year it’s obviously a little bit different,” Hamonic said. “From day one of training camp, I wanted to come in and re-earn my roster spot.”
Martin, a power forward, was predicted to make the roster out of camp last season, but suffered a foot injury during training camp. His recovery set him back and he missed the first eight games of the 2010-11 season. Playing the first seven games of the season for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Martin scored a goal and two assists before being recalled to the Islanders.
“This is definitely really exciting,” Martin said. “Opening night is an exciting game and I wasn’t able to make it last year. It was disappointing, but you just move forward from that. It’s going to be a fun game and I’m looking forward to it.”
Eight o’clock can’t come soon enough on Saturday. Hopefully the crowd is going to be our sixth man out there. - Travis Hamonic
Martin completed the year with 5 goals and 9 assists in 68 games.
After a season full of devastating injuries and a second half that showed the young core’s promise, winning the Islanders season opener would bring the franchise even more confidence than they’ve already exuded in the 2011 preseason.
“This is a great opportunity, not only for me, but for the team to come off and have a really good start to the season,” Hamonic said. “We’ve been working hard for the last three-and-a-half weeks. We’ve been striving for this game and a good start to the season.”
He added, “Eight o’clock can’t come soon enough on Saturday. Hopefully the crowd is going to be our sixth man out there.”