PHOTO: Julie Pringle/Snap Photography
In the blink of an eye, a 199-game career in West Kelowna left an experience of a lifetime for outgoing Warriors captain and 20-year-old forward Jared Marino.
The name Marino is a household one in West Kelowna and older brother Kyle played a helping hand in younger brother Jared, who was playing his Junior hockey with the Fort Erie Meteors in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL), come out to the Central Okanagan in August of 2015.
“Kyle had put in a word to the coaching staff about me playing in Ontario and how I would love a chance to come to B.C. and try out,” said Marino, who scored 11 goals and 30 points in 33 games with the Meteors before coming out to West Kelowna, “They told me to come out to camp and compete for a spot on the team and from there, things went really well.”
The Niagara Falls, Ontario native would earn a spot on the Warriors roster and join his brother for the 2015/16 season after older brother Kyle was ready to enter his second season with the team and was named as the captain earlier in the summer.
The transition to Junior ‘A’ in B.C. from Junior ‘B’ in Ontario is a big one and for the 6’3″, 205-pound power forward in Marino, it’s one that took a bit of learning, “The biggest thing would have to be the structure of the Junior ‘A’ game,” commented Marino, “Speed and physicality plays a role but for me, the structure of the game plans and the systems was the biggest adjustment.”
After experiencing 25 games of BCHL hockey, a first was achieved for Marino with 33 seconds remaining in a December 4th matchup against the Cowichan Valley Capitals, “We were down by a couple of goals and on a power play late in the game and Coach Ferster sent out the depth players to see what they could do.”
“We won a face-off in the offensive zone and I remember heading right to the front of the net and yelling at the d-man to shoot the puck and I was able to get a tip on it for my first goal.”
Soon after that game in early December, the Warriors went on an impressive run through the second half of the BCHL season. After the Christmas break, West Kelowna compiled a record of 18-3-1-0 and vaulted their way to 2nd in the Interior Division, including finishing the season with five straight victories.
It was during that stretch of hot play that Marino and the rest of his Warrior teammates knew that there may be something special brewing, “We came out of the Christmas break playing some really good hockey and kind of hit our stride late in the season and we knew if we could hit the playoffs rolling, we could make some noise.”
The 2015 playoffs started with a gruelling opening round series against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and proved to be a big test right off the bat, “Salmon Arm was built a lot like us and it was a battle every single shift you went out to play,” said Marino, “They had great goaltending, a good defence and big forwards and every game was close and I think that’s what made that series so difficult and gruelling.”
The Warriors advanced in six games to move onto the Interior Division Final and setting the stage for another playoff matchup against their foes from just down the road in the likes of the Penticton Vees, a team they had not beaten in a playoff series before.
The series started with the Vees taking a 2-0 lead with a pair of home victories but when the series shifted back to Royal LePage Place for Games #3 and 4, the Warriors build up some momentum. “Coach Ferster just said to us ‘the series doesn’t start until the home team loses’ and we just had to go back to RLP and defend home court and that’s what we were able to do before going into Penticton and winning a big Game #5 before heading back home to finish the series.”
It was the farthest the Warriors had advanced in the playoffs in their franchise’s history and the ride was not near being over as they got through the BCHL’s round robin before a series against the Chilliwack Chiefs to decide a champion of the BC Hockey League. “Momentum was a big key for us, having beat Penticton and getting through the round robin to play a very good Chilliwack team, we just had a lot of confidence rolling.”
After six games against the Chiefs, the Warriors earned their first BCHL Fred Page Cup Championship and went on to add another championship to their mantle as they made their way to Estevan and won the Western Canada Cup to advance to Junior ‘A’ hockey’s biggest stage: The RBC Cup.
Through 60+ regular season and playoff games, that team grew close but the bond between teammates was even stronger after long bus rides to Estevan and Lloydminster for the RBC Cup. “We were already a pretty close team to begin with but if you thought we couldn’t get much closer, we did.”
May 22nd, 2016: The day even more history was made.
A 4-0 victory closed a curtain on the incredible 2015/16 season that ended in the ultimate triumph and put the Warriors at the top of the Junior ‘A’ hockey world and become National Champions. “We had a 4-0 lead and there were about three minutes left and I didn’t even know what to do when I stepped on the ice. It was a surreal moment waiting for the clock to tick down and hear the final buzzer sound.”
“Finally, when the buzzer went, it was unbelievable. From that point on, it was all a blur; it was so special to go through a long season like that with the group of guys we had and do something amazing for the City of West Kelowna.”
After a shortened summer, Marino returned to West Kelowna as a 19-year-old for his second season as a Warrior and it proved to be a valuable learning experience. “We had a lot of young players come in and it made me become a better leader, kind of being a mentor for some of the younger guys and made me a better person and teammate.”
The Warriors finished the 2016/17 season with a 27-29-0-2 record and we’re knocked out of the playoffs in four games to the Merritt Centennials before Marino got a call from the Head Coach in the summer that would see the 20-year-old wear a prestigious letter on his jersey.
“Midway through the summer, I got the call that I would be wearing the “C’ and it was an unforgettable honour; having the chance to win a National Championship with this organization two years beforehand and now being named captain made me extremely proud to be represent this community.”
The Warriors forward would see his best offensive season and finish second on the team in scoring with 21 goals and 53 points in 57 games played before a three-year career in West Kelowna came to an end with a 6-3 loss in Game #4 of the Warriors first round playoff series against the Trail Smoke Eaters.
“It was pretty emotional for me ending in the way that we did on home ice and knowing that was my final game on that ice in a Warriors jersey and I just tried to soak in as much as I possible could.”
“West Kelowna has become a second home for me, and always will be, and I had the chance to meet some amazing people from my billet family in the Tipton’s, who housed me for three years and made playing hockey and living in West Kelowna easy for me to all the volunteers and fans of this community and team.”
The main goal for Marino was to find a scholarship to a Division I school and after his final season came to an end, the Colgate Raiders came calling and Marino committed to the program for the next four seasons.
“I’m very excited to head to Colgate and pursue my dream of playing college hockey but I know I couldn’t have gotten there without the help of the coaching staff and everyone within the Warriors organization. I can’t give enough thanks to guys like Owner Mark Cheyne and the coaching staff in Rylan Ferster and Shae Naka, who were instrumental in helping me become the player I am today. I’m also thankful to the City of West Kelowna and the great fans of this team for coming to cheer us on every night and supporting this team the way that they do.”
Marino will make the four-hour drive south of his hometown in Niagara Falls to the Colgate campus, located in Hamilton, New York, to begin a new chapter in his hockey career and his personal life and leave behind a lifetime of memories that has made West Kelowna a second home.