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Gwinnett at Komets
Faceoff: 8 p.m.
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
During practice earlier this week, Komets winger Brandon Marino was making the goaltenders look great. During a shootout drill where a player had to score before he could leave the ice, Marino was goofing around trying everything to beat Marco Cousineau and Charlie Effinger.
Eventually, Marino scored, which is sort of like how his professional career has gone. Throughout his college career and his first two years as a pro, Marino never came close to averaging a point per game. During his best season, he scored 44 points in 73 games as a rookie, but then last year in his third season, he jumped to 41 goals and 90 points in 65 games to win the Central Hockey League's Most Valuable Player Award.
``I think he's a crafty player who sees the ice well and makes things happen,'' said former Quad City and current Komets teammate Eric Giosa. ``He's good around the net at finding the puck. He's got good confidence and good linemates. He's a product of the system along with linemates.''
Everything has come together again for Marino this year as he leads the Komets with eight points in four games. That's tied for fourth among ECHL leaders after two weeks.
``I had the same start last year and I'm having this year, and when you start off strong you are more confident,'' Marino said. ``You make stronger plays, and you're not afraid to try stuff and that helps going through the season ''
It's also getting used in different situations. During Marino's college career at Bemidji State and during his first two years in Quad City, the coaches stressed a more defensive system. Last year, Mallards coach David Bell encouraged Marino to take more offensive chances, and that fast start continued all year.
There's also a huge mental part of the game.
``I had those years where you work hard every summer and then you have another average year, and it makes you wonder if this is what you want to keep doing or should I just move on?'' Marino said. ``At the same time, you think that at the end of the season and about halfway through the summer you are missing it and want to get back going playing games and being back into it.''
Now that he has proven he can score, everyone expects him to produce all the time.
``There's a little bit of pressure in the sense that you want to have the same kind of year, but I'm not letting that get to me,'' Marino said. ``There's a good enough team here, as long as the team is winning, I think the fans will be happy. If I stay at eight points all year and we keep winning, everybody will be happy. As long as we keep winning, that's all that matters.''
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League recalled Komets goaltender Kenny Reiter on Thursday. He'll fill in for Anders Nilsson who has been battling an ankle injury. Through three appearances, Reiter has a 1-0-1 record and an ECHL-high 0.83 goals-against average and .973 save percentage.
The Komets still have Marco Cousineau and Charlie Effinger in nets.