FORT WAYNE – Brandon Marino likes the direction the Komets are heading. Otherwise, he wouldnt have returned for a second season with the team, which missed the playoffs last spring.
Definitely, the biggest thing is were trying to become a faster team, he said. With the ice sheet we have, we have to be fast. That was an area that hurt us last year. The majority of guys we have so far are very fast.
After winning four championships in five years in the IHL and CHL, the Komets went 33-35-4 in their inaugural ECHL season and missed the postseason for the first time since 2002.
Marino, a forward, was one of the few bright spots, scoring 20 goals and 74 points (fifth most in the league) in 71 games. He was chosen by his teammates as the Komets MVP.
He had offers to go elsewhere, namely to teams in Europe.
I looked into going to Europe, but I knew if I was going to stay on this side of the sea, I was going to go there (to Fort Wayne), he said. I feel like we have something to prove and changes are being made I want to be a part of.
Since last season, coach Al Sims and captain Colin Chaulk have retired, and alternate captain Brett Smith has left for Brampton of the CHL.
Fort Wayne native and former assistant coach Gary Graham has replaced Sims, and the roster thus far includes returnees Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, Matt Firman and Mathieu Gagnon, and newcomers Mickey Lang, Matthew Larke and Kyle Bochek.
Lang, who had 41 goals and 83 points in 64 games last season with Quad City of the CHL, played on a line with Marino with the Mallards in 2011-12.
Me and him played together the second half of that season. He was a rookie and still learning a little bit, but he developed really well, Marino said.
Graham has emphasized that speed and aggressiveness will be the defining traits of his team, and that appealed to Marino, 27, who got called up to the American Hockey League for one game last season.
Im excited (to re-sign), he said.
Obviously, the way things went last year wasnt how we wanted to be. Im excited to right that ship and put that uniform back on and help take it in the right direction.
Graham has yet to determine who will be the captain of the Komets – Schrock was an alternate the last three seasons – but Marino wants to shoulder more of a leadership role this season.
Its going to be my fifth year now and Ill be one of the veterans, he said.
Its time for me to step into that role. Well have a young hungry team, and Id like to be a guy that guys look up to and helps them along the way.