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Utica High grad achieving hockey dreams

By: Timothy Pontzer | Shelby - Utica News | Published December 4, 2017

 Tyler Martin captained the Utica High squad during his senior season. In addition to hockey, Martin played baseball and golf for the Chieftains.

Tyler Martin captained the Utica High squad during his senior season. In addition to hockey, Martin played baseball and golf for the Chieftains.

Photo provided by Tyler Martin

UTICA — Since he was only 3 years old, Tyler Martin has had dreams of being a college hockey player.

In a military household, Martin skated on teams all over the country to help prepare for that goal. While in Arizona as a child, Martin played in a league with kids five years older because that was his only option.    

Martin eventually made his way to the more hockey-friendly state of Michigan, where he spent four years playing at Utica High.

Those varsity seasons with the Chieftains opened a door to the University of Louisville. He plays just down the street from where much of his extended family resides.

“Anytime you’ve had a goal for this long and you can accomplish that, it definitely feels good and you have some pride,” said Martin after a Nov. 28 practice. “My family is all from Kentucky, and while we were frequently moving, it is great to come back down here. That really sealed the deal for my college choice.”

A 2017 Utica graduate, Martin called his time with the Chieftains crucial to earning a spot with the Cardinals.

“Utica was by far my four favorite years of hockey,” Martin explained. “I got to play for the best coach I’ve ever had anywhere. Bob Clouston knew what it took to get to that next level. He knew my goal has been to play college hockey for a long time, and he helped me tremendously to set up a path to do it.”

Clouston took over the helm of the Utica program last season and said he immediately recognized the talent and potential of Martin.

“By the time I got there, he was a four-year varsity player, definitely one of the leaders on the team,” Clouston said. “But I told him how success in hockey isn’t measured by what you do on the ice; it’s what you do out of the rink. He did just that, getting much stronger physically. I’m so excited for him; he’s a great young man.”

Martin took his advice and it paid off.

“(Clouston) really encouraged me and told me things to work on, like getting stronger legs and to push through any setbacks,” Martin said. “I did well at a recruit skate with Louisville my junior year, but when I came back during my senior year the coaches were really impressed and said I had really improved.”

Martin earned the right to wear the captain’s “C” on his jersey during his senior year, something he called a true honor.

“I’ve been a captain of a couple club teams, but that was amazing getting to lead a program like Utica,” Martin recalled. “That year meant a lot because I got to co-captain with my best friend, Jason Peraino, who now plays at Oakland (University). My brother, Isaiah, also made varsity as a freshman that year, so it was a really cool year.”

Clouston praised the leadership of Martin.

“He was a great captain for us,” Clouston remarked. “Off the ice he was a remarkable young man who led by example, especially in the classroom. On the ice he worked hard every single day. He was everything you wanted as a coach.”

Martin did admit that playing in the Bluegrass State has been a bit of an adjustment, especially since it is a far cry from Hockeytown.

“Other students will see me in class in my warmup gear and ask what team I play for,” Martin said. “When I say hockey, they immediately assume field hockey. But we’re getting more fans at our games, and this year we have more students coming out, which is really good to see.”

At press time, Louisville was 10-9 overall. The Cardinals are gunning for a fourth straight title in the Tri-State Collegiate Hockey League, a Division II conference of the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

“Right now I know my place: I’m just a younger guy trying to earn playing time,” Martin said. “This is a sensational program, and I hope to earn an opportunity to be a go-to guy in a year or two. I love everything down here, and they’ve really made me feel welcomed on the team.”

Martin has already gotten his first goal out of the way, tallying it in a 10-2 victory over Akron Oct. 21.

“It was really special because I’m not getting a ton of minutes yet,” Martin said. “I was the first freshman to score this year. My teammates made a big deal of it. … The puck went in the corner and the goalie misplayed it, and it came right to my feet. I was able to fire it in. When you do good things and what your coach says to do, good things happen.”