Aussie keeper on ice for North Stars

OLIVIER Martin plans to use this Australian Ice Hockey League season to prove not only is he the right man to replace Matt Ezzy as the Newcastle North Stars goaltender but also as the Australian gloveman.

The 23-year-old joined the team from the Adelaide Adrenaline after Ezzy retired from the sport to become a commercial pilot.

At last week’s division one group B International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships in Krynica, Poland, Martin suffered a meniscus tear in his right knee, which limited him to Australia’s first-round 8-4 loss to South Korea.

He was given first shot at replacing Ezzy as Australia’s top goalie, but Gold Coast Bluetongues gloveman Anthony Kimlin played the rest of the tournament.

Martin would have gone head-to-head with Kimlin tomorrow in the AIHL season opener against the Bluetongues at the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium, but he is likely to miss the game due to the injury suffered in Poland.

When he returns in round two, Martin wants to quickly assert his authority in the net.

‘‘Every year you’ve got to go out and improve yourself,’’ Martin said. ‘‘I’m at the age now that day in, day out I can be one of the top goaltenders in the league.’’

The task of filling Ezzy’s skates at the North Stars does not faze Martin, who left Newcastle in 2006 in search of a starting spot with Adelaide. ‘‘They’re big shoes to fill, but I’m pretty comfortable I can achieve similar results to what Matt achieved,’’ he said.

‘‘Matt has great attributes, I have great attributes, but we’re different. Matt’s a very big goalie, he’s a big guy.

‘‘I’m smaller, so I have to be more athletic to stop the pucks. I’ve got to work harder.’’

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