Ryan Martinez is among the 14 returners on the Montclair State University men’s ice hockey team this season. The sophomore defenseman is also apart of the core group of players that looks to bring the team to new heights.
Coming off of a shaky season last year, the team has five wins in their current season. Martinez has transitioned from playing forward to defense this season in order to improve the team. The switch has worked out quite well; he has five goals and six assists after about three quarters of the season.
The men’s ice hockey head coach is Robert Martinez, who happens to be Ryan Martinez’s uncle and a Montclair State men’s ice hockey alumnus. Robert Martinez talked about why he decided on the position change.
“We moved [Ryan Martinez] from forward to defense this season because we needed to add a little more size and presence on the back end,” Robert Martinez said. “He also has a pretty good shot, so adding him back there gives us a threat at the point when he is on the ice and on our power play.”
One of his five goals was a game winner in an intense game against Siena College. Martinez scored in the first period on a power play to put the Red Hawks up 1-0. This gave the team a momentum shifting win and sophomore goaltender Danny Porth, who is Martinez’s best friend, a 39 save shutout.
Porth has an especially close connection with Ryan Martinez.
“I think a good word to describe [Martinez] would be underrated, both as a player and a person,” Porth said. “As a player, his game isn’t necessarily the flashiest and he doesn’t have the most points, but there is few players at our level as well rounded both offensively and defensively as [Martinez] is.”
Porth went on to talk about Martinez as a person.
“As a person, he comes off to new people as very quiet and often even comes off as cold. But after living with him freshman year, I have yet to meet a more loyal or caring human,” Porth said. “I legitimately cannot imagine my life at Montclair State without him and I will forever owe his uncle, Coach Rob Martinez, for bringing us together.”
Another important goal from Martinez came in a game against Sacred Heart University, where he scored late in the third period to tie up a 2-1 game. The team went on to tie the Pioneers, avoiding a loss and giving the Red Hawks momentum.
Martinez has always had a passion for ice hockey and he started playing at a very young age. He was practically born into the sport, both his father Victor Martinez and uncle Robert Martinez played and coached ice hockey.
Martinez talked about how he developed his love for ice hockey.
“I started skating when I was around the age of three,” Martinez said. “As soon as I got a little older I fell in love with it, and have been playing ever since.”
Martinez has lived in four different towns during his life — Paterson, Clifton, Rutherford and he now resides in Denville. He went on to play ice hockey for Morris Knolls High School.
Now in his second year with the Red Hawks, he is loving every minute of it. Martinez spoke about his experience as a Red Hawk.
“I love it,” Martinez said. “The team is a special atmosphere and most will be friends for life. The school itself is a great education as well. I am fortunate enough to where I can continue my hockey career and get an education at the same time.”
Being on the team has created bonds for Martinez that he will cherish for the rest of his life. He has become close with many members of the team, especially the group of freshman players Robert Martinez brought in last year like Porth and defensemen Steve Ramos and Will Prinz.
Martinez elaborated on the connection he has with his teammates.
“Some of them I actually grew up playing with like [junior forward] Shawn Meneghin and Will Prinz,” Martinez said. “I’d say I’m very close with Danny Porth, he is like an older brother to me, as well as my roommate. I’m also close with Steve Ramos, who is just a great individual and will always have my back.”
These bonds have created memorable team experiences for Martinez. The team is like a second family to him.
“It’s a great time being with the guys,” Martinez said. “Taking long bus trips together and playing the game we all love along with a lot of us having the same interests makes us bond even more.”
Robert Martinez also commented on the bond this created between him and his nephew as his coach.
“He is a very dedicated teammate and a pretty hard worker as well,” Robert Martinez said. “I am happy he is here playing, as it is a tradition in our family that I hope continues with his brother, and even maybe their children some day.”
Robert Martinez talked about how his nephew has been a part of his hockey life since he was young.
“Ryan [Martinez] was 1-1/2 years old when he watched me play here and was present when we won a championship in 2001,” Robert Martinez said. “I hope that he has the same experience here that I did as a player and student as Montclair State has given me so much.”
Although the men’s ice hockey team is done for the semester, Martinez is looking forward to getting back on the ice for the Red Hawks in January to continue his successful season.
The team will be back in action on Jan. 12 at Army, where they look to steal some wins and pursue their goal of making the playoffs. Martinez will be a significant contributor to this playoff pursuit.
When it comes to inspiration, Martinez has a general view, but credits most to pro players along with his father and uncle. For him, it depends on who you work well with.
“To me when you play a sport you develop a bond with different people, which is another reason why the game is so great,” Martinez said.