Marino first Mallards league MVP

Originally Posted Online: March 26, 2012, 9:33 pm
Last Updated: March 27, 2012, 1:25 am
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By Steve Tappa,

Brandon Marino picked a bad day to hit the snooze alarm.

Fortunately for the Quad City Mallards star, the Central Hockey League wasn't sleeping on his successful season.

The league's leading goal-scorer, and runner-up for the CHL's Joe Burton point-scoring award, Marino was named the 14-team circuit's Most Valuable Player on Monday.

Despite winning three league titles, and playing for two others, never before Marino had a Mallards player earned his league's highest individual honor in the storied franchise's 15 seasons.

"I'm honored to receive this. It's nice to be recognized by others than those around you," said Marino, who was picked on 25 of the 50 ballots cast by CHL coaches, communications directors and select media members.

"But I was a little bit shocked (when I first heard the news). You know who the other finalists are and what they meant to their teams. They all had great years and also helped their teams into the playoffs, where we fell just short. I figured that would enter the thought process of the voters. So I was pleasantly surprised."

Ditto for the phone call from QC coach David Bell informing Marino of the award.

The right winger slept in late, so Marino missed a pair of 11 a.m. rings from his boss before needing to be awakened to Bell's next call by roommate Jared Lavender.

"First (Bell) asked me what time he was doing the walk-through at my apartment," laughed Marino, who celebrated by calling his parents and family back home in California. "Then (Bell) added he needed me back at the rink at 3 p.m., and I was like, 'For what?' And he said, 'A press conference for you being named MVP.'"

Marino was named on a dozen more ballots than runner-up Todd Robinson of Evansville, who edged the QC star for the league's scoring lead, 92 to 90.

The other finalists were Allen's Bruce Graham, Rapid City's Shawn Limpright and Wichita's Matt Robinson.

"I couldn't be happier for Brandon and this recognition," Bell said, noting Marino's unselfish play.

"He was able to have a career year yet still play within the structure of our hockey team. He was one of the hardest working and most focused players on a nightly basis, so this result is not all that surprising to me."

Marino led the league with 41 goals and 13 power-play scores in a breakout third campaign with the 37-win Mallards, whose playoff push ended up short on the second-to-last day of the season.

The 25-year-old also ranked fourth in assists (49) and game-winning goals (7) after scoring 23 goals and 82 points in two previous seasons with a defensive-minded QC club before aggressive Bell became the Flock's coach.

"Coming into the season, I talked to Bellsy and he asked me what my goals were, and I said I wanted to be around a point-a-game guy," Marino said. "I thought that would be a good jump for me from the last two years. But to say I expected to have a 40-goal, 90-point season? I'd be lying.

"But the system you play in is a big part of your success, and playing in this (offensive-minded) system this year really played into my hands and allowed me to have the individual success I had."

Marino joins Colorado's Greg Pankewicz (2004-05) as the only players to win the CHL All-Star Game MVP and the league's MVP award in the same season.

Marino also was named to the six-player All-CHL team earlier this month, and was the leading vote-getter for ``First Star'' of the month of January in the CHL's ``Three Star'' program.

Now, Marino hopes to join the ranks of the Double-A CHL's other MVP's, who received promotions to the Triple-A or European leagues.

Bell said the MVP accolade is further proof the speedy Marino can loom large on the ice despite standing only 5-foot-8.

"But if I'm back here next year, I'm fine with that, too, as long as I am playing for Bellsy," Marino said. "Hopefully I could put together this kind of a season again coupled with a championship for my team. That'd be the ultimate.

"But for me, this is definitely something I'll be able to hang my hat on, no matter what happens. When I'm done playing, I'll always have this. I can always show my kids or grandkids, 'Hey, at one time I wasn't just an old guy who couldn't do anything.'"


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