The most complete Elite League performance from a Coventry Blaze player in a long time.
That’s the only way I can describe Matt Marquardt’s contribution on Sunday evening at the Skydome.
It was summed up perfectly by his celebration after his second goal of the evening. A short fist pump, a yell of exuberance embraced in a face tightened with all the tension and grimace of a man who was trying to get his team mates kicking and screaming to the end. The jump into the boards and plexi-glass chased by Robinson and Almeida. It was emotional stuff from the big Canadian.
Marquardt scores his second goal of Sunday evening, Robinson and Almeida join the celebrations
Kicking and Screaming – remember that? Something I used to say and write about Ryan O’Marra and his pivotal contribution to the Blaze cause down the stretch when we were triumphant in Nottingham at those memorable 2015 play offs.
There are remarkable similarities between both players, and the time spent with the Blaze. Both on ‘school’ deals, both had relatively slow starts whilst they possibly struggled to get to grips with the quirks and the strains of the Elite League.
The travelling, the officials, the different ice sizes etc. – but with O’Marra, and now with Marquardt, they changed, altered, developed call it whatever you will, but they learned to ‘embraced the suck’ to shamelessly quote a former Blaze coach.
Ryan O’Marra took Blaze kicking and screaming, now its the turn of Matt Marquardt
I don’t think Matt will have any issue with me saying his first half of the season, wasn’t as he had hoped it would be. With the team struggling to find any sort of consistency, Marquardt at times cut a lonely figure on the ice. Lines were changed, team mates came and went, wins were hard to come by. But then things changed when Danny Stewart and the Coventry owners took a calculated gamble on the classy yet industrious TJ Syner, and his cousin, the likeable sniper that is Barry Almeida.
Stewart fiddled with his lines to try and find the perfect blend with his new guys, Marquardt was given an opportunity with the cousins, meaning captain Pietrus was paired with the impressive Bergman and Robinson – not a bad second offensive line.
Marquardt had finally found his place, a spot and a role he looks so comfortable with, he is now making such a huge contribution to this Blaze team that cried out, no screamed out, for the influence, skill, experience and power that ‘Mags’ brings.
This change instantly struck a chord with all it effected but none more so than Marquardt. Overnight his game and persona improved, and it continues to rapidly improve. Now we have the winner. Now we have that fist pump coupled with the yell. Now he can take us, kicking and screaming. Now we have the guy who will do whatever it takes to try to get us the wins we need. Blaze fans want the “whatever it takes” attitude. In fact, they crave it.
No caption required is there?
Now we have a guy going to the net, knowing that there is every chance of an opportunity coming his way. Now we have the guy ready to battle with the likes of Fitzgerald and Nickerson in front of that net.
I will go as far as to say that the Marquardt we are seeing now, and will hopefully see until the end of this long season, can be as effective as the Chris Bruton we picked up this time last year. The guy that will stick his neck out, and battle in front of opposing netminders for a sniff of a chance. Marquardt can be that man for the Coventry Blaze.
The passion that this team perhaps sometimes lacked in the first half of the season is here now, and in abundance. A great bunch of guys but maybe a little quiet? Not anymore. In fact, passion is probably the wrong word. We maybe lacked a little bit of gumption, doggedness maybe a bit of grit? I am unsure to be honest but whatever it was, all I know is it isn’t missing now.
Marquardt is like the big brother to TJ and Barry. Diminutive maybe in size, but certainly not in heart, the cousins would probably argue that they don’t need looking after, but look after them he does. The first sign of a face wash, or a shove and the assistant captain is in the middle of things straight away. Whilst his recent form, until this weekend hasn’t been particularly rewarded with the points he deserved – and we all know they don’t tell the whole story, he has been like a new signing for the team. Here is the Chris Bruton we were missing folks.
Marquardt’s team mate Liam Stewart, going to war for his club and team mate Ross Venus
A winning mentality comes from the top, from the leadership group and it filters down to all the guys below. How proud were the Blaze faithful of Liam Stewart sticking up for Ross Venus on Sunday evening after the cheap shot from Coyle? Stewart fought for his team mate, friend and club on Sunday night and in doing so epitomized what it means to play for the Coventry Blaze.
I get the feeling that this bunch of players are now ready to go to war.
Matt Marquardt can be the man to lead us into it.
Author: Rob Plaister
Picture credits and thanks to: Scott Wiggins