Luke Swadron is a student in the Sport Journalism program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @LukeSwadron
As the 2019 OMHA U13 AAA season ended, standout defenceman Frankie Marrelli celebrated the third championship of his young career with the Markham Waxers.
Then COVID-19 hit, shutting down leagues, playoffs and championships during the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Now he and the Waxers are back in championship play in their OHL draft year and in what could be his final season in minor hockey, Marrelli wants badly to make up for missed time and defend the three-year-old title.
“It’s our last battle as a team,” said Marrelli. “We're doing anything we can for each other to win that (championship) game. We're not going out easy.”
Marrelli has been with the Waxers since he was seven years old and is familiar with the difficulties that high-level youth hockey brings.
But the last two seasons were a new challenge.
“There were spans where we'd play and then stop for like a month,” said Marrelli. “We had to work harder. We didn't have that much ice time, so you have to utilize what we had.”
As captain and the only player on his team to sport a letter on his jersey, Marrelli’s leadership is arguably just as important as his play according to his coach, former NHLer Dan Daoust.
“(Marrelli) is the type of person that if there’s one puck on the ice, he wants it all the time – and that's what a leader does,” explained Daoust. “He's our captain, our leader. He's been like that since the beginning.”
Nearing the end of his likely final season with the Waxers, Marrelli is meeting with coaches and executives in preparation for the OHL draft, though he sees this more as motivation than a distraction.
“All my hard work is coming together now, and I hope to see what the future holds for me,” said Marrelli. “Some guys are going different places (next season). So, it's just coming together, making this last memory a moment we'll never forget.”
Daoust is very familiar with Marelli’s hard-working attitude and is acutely aware of the upside the young defenceman offers.
“He’s the kind of kid anybody wants under a team,” Daoust said. “If his game he has now keeps [developing] later on, he’ll be playing in the NHL.”
Marrelli’s resilience through the COVID seasons has shown in his game, as he led all ETA defencemen this season with 34 points (12 goals, 22 assists) and led his team to the second-best record over the regular season (20-4-3).
Finishing first was Markham’s biggest rival and the team the Waxers beat in the OMHA finals in 2019, the Quinte Red Devils, who went undefeated.
“We know we can beat them… we need to show them they don't have a chance of winning against us,” said Marrelli, who added that if the two teams meet in the final, “we're going to bear down and we're going to win that game.”
Share with your friends on Facebook and join the largest network of hockey parents.
Quinte and Markham have advanced to the OMHA Championships starting March 27, with the Waxers getting the better of the Red Devils the two times they met in the qualifiers.
With COVID, rivalry rematches, a three-year-old championship defence and the upcoming OHL draft all in the background of this year’s OMHA U16 Championship, Marrelli has his eyes fixed on the present.
“Winning it was… special but defending it the next year and showing we're the team that gets the Red Hat means a lot. Not being able to do that – it's very disappointing, but at least we have the opportunity this year to get it done,” said Marrelli. “You have to be prepared for every moment. There's never an easy game and if you take a game easy, it's not going to end well.”