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Motivated to be a hockey coach, Zander Marino is a 4-year varsity player

By Ross Forman, 01/29/23, 5:30PM CST


Zander Marino wasn’t turned off by hockey early on, shockingly.

He was a mite, playing his first-ever game in the NWHL, and his team lost, 14-0. Still, “I had so much fun with all my friends,” he said.

Then, when he was 6 years-old, Marino told his skills coach, Kenny McCudden, that he too was going to be hockey coach when he got older. McCudden smiled and told Marino that he hopes Marino eventually is better than him. “I have spent the last 12 years and will continue to spend my (entire) hockey career, in hopes to be at least half as good as Coach Kenny is,” Marino said.

Flash-forward to 2023. Marino, who lives in Crystal Lake and is a senior at Prairie Ridge High School, is a 4-year player for the co-op D155 Predators. The right-handed shooting defenseman has 5 goals, 9 assists as the team carries a 10-4-4 record, good for second place in the 9-team Gold League of the IHSHL North-Central Division.

Marino, who formerly skated for the Yellowjackets, is a mix of a defensive defenseman and an offensive defenseman.

“When I made the varsity team as a freshman, it proved to me that all my hard work throughout my youth hockey career paid off. Being named captain my junior year, even though I was one of the youngest players on the team, proved to me that I am a leader, both on and off the ice,” said Marino, in uniform No. 6. “When I am on the ice, I always give everything I’ve got. You need to stay focused and positive, both on the ice and off. Do not forget to have fun with your friends.”

That’s why, beyond the wins and losses, Marino said his highlight this season is simply skating with his friends.

Marino tagged his parents as the biggest influence – “for always supporting my hockey career,” he said.

Marino also excels in the classroom. “I have always been a hard worker and it carries over to my schoolwork to ensure I always do well in my studies,” he said. “I use my free time during school to work on homework and study, which helps me have time for practices, work and free time. I also manage my time to make sure I have time for the private lessons I give to young players, which I really enjoy. Sometimes this means setting my alarm early or staying up late to get my homework done.”

Marino volunteers at the Crystal Ice House, teaching young players how to skate and play hockey, which he has done for four years.

“I love working with younger players and giving back to my hockey community,” he said.

Marino will be attending the University of Tampa in the fall, where he plans to pursue a sports management degree.

Slapshots With …. D155 Predators defenseman Zander Marino

Awards: Was selected as the Blackhawks Player of the Month and Volunteer of the Month during his freshman year.

Honors: Was selected as an Illinois State Scholar for his academic achievements.

Away From Hockey: “Spend time with my girlfriend and family and play video games. We also love to do escape rooms and travel.”

Helping His Game: He works out and watches what he eats. Plus, he researches different hockey plays and coaching techniques

Favorite NHL Team: Tampa Bay Lightning

Favorite NHL Player: Cale Makar

Favorite Sports-themed Movie: Miracle

Favorite Pre-game Meal: Turkey club

Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: “My two hockey idols are Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith, but I have already met both, so I do not know who else I would like to meet.”

Best Hockey Tip: “My squirt hockey coach told us ‘not to suck.’ I always keep that in the back of my head when I play.” 

Most Accurate Shot on D155 Predators: Garrett Pater

Fastest Skater: KJ Jarzabek