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Komets at Cincinnati
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
TV: MyTV, Comcast Ch. 18, Frontier Ch. 9
For decades, Kevin Marino got up at 3:30 a.m. every day to go to work and probably figured no one else noticed. No one else was up then to see. He's still doing it, in fact, working 12-hour days as a foreman at an asphalt factory in Riverside, Calif.
Just like he was there every afternoon to take his son to hockey practice, staying to watch every one of them, even the ones that started late and lasted past midnight.
Wonder why Brandon Marino never seems to take a shift off or have a slow start to a season or how when he makes a mistake it's always because maybe he's trying too hard?
It's all his dad's fault.
"My dad always told me you can only control how hard you work,'' Brandon said. "You can't always control the bounces or the things that happen in a game, but you never want to come out of a game thinking you could have worked harder here or there. I try not to leave the rink after a practice or a game thinking I could have worked harder.''
When somebody complains about practice lasting more than an hour and 15 minutes, Marino always has the answer of his dad's work ethic. He reminds everyone that their life is way too easy right now.
"C'mon, we're hockey players,'' he'll say. "We could be working a lot more in another job.''
The Komets' right wing leads the ECHL in points this season with 58. He also leads the league in energy burned per shift because he's rarely not working, hustling or trying to make something happen. That anxiousness gets him into trouble sometimes when he turns the puck over while trying to make an offensive play, but nobody sitting in the stands ever doubted his effort.
No, his motor and his drive are always engaged. After a shift, it never takes him long to recover his breath, and he's always ready for the next one. It's a wonder he doesn't tear through four pairs of skates per season.
"That's one of those things from my mentality growing up,'' he said. "You may be tired in games, but you can still control how hard you are playing. Dad always told me about controlling your work ethic and how you approach how you want to play. He taught me hard work and instilled in me to try to do everything you can every time.''
What most people don't know is that Brandon Marino works just as hard off the ice. Instead of constantly playing video games every afternoon, last year he finished his master's degree in exercise physiology. He even wrote his own conditioning program last summer. This year, he's studying for a certified strength and conditioning specialist exam. When others are sacking out on the bus before games, he's studying, reading and highlighting books, pushing himself.
He's always pushing himself to maintain the level he's established. Because he's the league scoring leader, he doesn't think he has to push extra every game, he has do something harder: maintain.
"I've always approached the game the same way,'' he said. "I try to play hard every night and play the right way. I think that's why I'm enjoying the success that I am because I don't play any differently because I've been successful. What has gotten me there is the way I play every night.''
For two years he's been Mr. Konsistent. Last year he was the team's Most Valuable Player after scoring 74 points in 71 games. This year he's scored 53 points in 45 games, failing to score a point in only 11 games.
Despite all that, he's only gotten a one-game call-up to the American Hockey League. No one knows why. Maybe it's because he's only 5-foot-9 or he's 27. Maybe it's because he's not 200 pounds. There are a lot of maybes but no solid answers.
"It's always in the back of my mind,'' he said. "I'd definitely like the opportunity, and I frankly feel I haven't gotten as much opportunity as I should after the last three years that I've had. I don't know what that reasoning is. I'm going to ask my agent to look into it, but if I'm here, I'm here. My main focus isn't moving up, but coming to play every night and our team winning games. Everyone is having more fun when you are winning.''
That's the attitude that Kevin Marino will be proud to see when he comes this weekend to watch his son play in Fort Wayne for the first time. Really, that's all that Brandon Marino cares about. If he's living up to his dad's standards, the rest will take care of itself.