Lalonde, Martz Provide Thunder Offense

By Scott Linesburgh
Staff Writer
The Stockton Record

Nathan Martz and Mike Lalonde prove that fans of acoustic rock and hard rock can be in tune as hockey teammates.

Martz, who prefers bands like the Dave Matthews Band, is the patient, mellow playmaker who is looking to set up his teammates for a score. Lalonde is more of an AC/DC type of guy, hoping to use his slap shot to make a lot of noise.

The Stockton Thunder forwards are linemates on the ice and roommates off of it and are the team’s top scoring combo in its first two seasons. They hope to continue their recent success when the Thunder plays host to the Las Vegas Wranglers at 4 p.m. today at Stockton Arena.

“I know Nathan well, and we do know each other’s tendencies,” Lalonde said. “Nathan likes to pass the puck, and I like to shoot it, so it works well for us.”

It has also worked for the good of the Thunder, which has struggled on offense in recent weeks.

Lalonde, a left winger, leads the Thunder with 20 goals and 41 points and has scored seven goals in the Thunder’s last eight games. Martz, a center, has had assists on 16 of Lalonde’s goals and leads Stockton with 31 assists and has 37 points.

Occasionally they reverse roles, such as when Martz who scored Stockton’s only goal off an assist by Lalonde and Bryan Young in Bakersfield’s 2-1 overtime win against Stockton on Friday. Lalonde and Martz have been involved in six of the Thunder’s last seven goals.

“The fact is that those two guys have been carrying the offense lately and just have a way for getting the puck in the net,” Thunder coach Chris Cichocki said. “We really do need to get more people involved, and you hope that maybe Nathan and Mike can ignite the rest of the team.”

Cichocki was hoping for this type of success when he decided to try to re-sign both players after last season and keep them on the same line. He understands that continuity is always a problem with the nomadic atmosphere of minor league hockey.

Teams tend to change drastically from season to season. The Alaska Aces have 11 players back from their championship team of last season, but that’s a rare occurrence.The Thunder has four players who played for the Thunder a year ago – Martz, Lalonde, Steve Slonina and Jeff Lang.

“I thought it was very important to keep Nathan and Mike on the same line because I knew about their chemistry,” Cichocki said. “That’s the goal of any coach, to find guys that can read each other without having to communicate.”

Martz said musical differences aside, they are both “laid-back guys.” They also live with Lang, and they hang out together quite a bit off the ice.

Because of injuries, Lalonde and Martz have played with different linemates, but have remained productive.

“It’s just something that comes with time, and it just comes naturally at this point,” Martz said. “We play together on the line, on the penalty kill and on 4-on-4 situations, so you just learn where to put the puck and where he’ll be. He’s a talented guy with a good shot, and you just have to get him the puck.”

Lalonde, who led the Thunder last season with 29 goals, said Martz has earned his reputation as the team’s primary playmaker.

“Nathan is so good with the puck, and he helps anyone he plays with,” Lalonde said. “I’ve been pretty lucky because Nathan can set you up and I’ve had some luck bounces.”

Cichocki is hoping the “luck” continues.

“We’ve been able to count on them since this team started, and we’re still counting on them,” Cichocki said. “You know every game that they are going to do their best to try to get the puck in the net.”