While there were plenty of goals, saves, and hits last season for the Dakota College at Bottineau men’s hockey team, it was the people that most impressed Elkhorn’s Piece Martin.
The son of Alanna and Brad Martin was in his first year studying and playing at the North Dakota school. He helped the Lumberjacks earn a berth into the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II national tournament, which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘What I enjoyed most about playing with the Lumberjacks this past year was just all of the people - how friendly and accepting everybody was in the program. That made me feel right at home. The veteran players and the coaches especially made us young guys feel like we belonged and also made us feel like we were all important to the team’s success.”
The Lumberjacks were pleased to have Martin. The rookie defenceman had two goals and eight points in 31 games.
“Pierce played well on our backend and was a key contributor on special teams,” Lumberjacks head coach Travis Rybchinski said. “Pierce definitely was one of our most improved players from the beginning of the season.”
Martin played two seasons for the Yellowhead Chiefs before capping his U18 AAA career by winning a 2019 league championship with the Brandon U18 Wheat Kings. With the Lumberjacks, Martin often found himself as one of the younger players on the ice. Many of his teammates and opponents developed their game at the junior level first.
“The strength of the players was different because the players I was used to playing were around my age, but most of the players that we played this year were older than me - around the age of 20-24,” said the 18-year-old. “The experience of the players was also different from how the majority of the league had already experienced junior hockey or had moved onto other places after high school, so it was different in the perspective of them being experienced more of the game than the players in U18 who are just getting ready to move onto the next level.”
Another difference between U18 and college hockey for Martin was the travel. The Lumberjacks travelled throughout North Dakota as well as to destinations in such states as Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, and Montana. The national tournament was to be played in Frisco, Texas, which is near Dallas.
“The bus rides were a lot longer than I've experienced, but it was an enjoyable experience at the same time as I was able to get a chance to look at a lot of cool places during our travels,” Martin said.
He praised Bottineau for the way it backs the Lumberjacks.
“The community as a whole was so supportive to everything that happened in the college from a fundraising event to a sporting event,” Martin said. “Everybody did their best to help us out and we were really grateful for everything they did for us throughout the course of the year.”
At Dakota College, Martin is studying business administration. He said that he has always been interested in the world of business.
“The best thing that I've liked about studying and living in Bottineau is how everything is so accessible - whether it has been from grabbing a book from class or getting help on a certain question in class. Everybody is there to help, and the tools are there for you as well if you need help after hours when nobody is around too.”
Martin said that his parents’ support has meant everything to his hockey career.
“Over the course of my hockey career I've always wanted to be prepared in the best way possible to be able to do my best whether it was getting a certain piece of equipment, getting to the rink on a certain time, or picking the right meal to eat before and after the game,” he said. “They always did their best to make sure I was satisfied with everything that I did leading up to the game. The time they've invested for me to be the best I can be has always made me as grateful as possible for them and I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for them doing what they do for me.”
Virden’s Brennan Williams also suited up for the Lumberjacks for part of last season. The former Virden Collegiate Institute standout posted 14 points in 27 games. His 10 goals were the fourth most on the team.
“Brennan decided to leave school at the beginning of the spring semester to go back home,” Rybchinski said. “He played well for us.”