Less than six weeks ago, Jared Marchi thought he might not be able to suit up for the Kimberley Dynamiters again during the 2014-15 KIJHL season.
Tuesday, the 19-year-old was back with the Nitros on home ice for the first time since that frightening moment, scoring the game-winning goal in a critical 7-2 victory over the Creston Valley Thunder Cats.
“It’s a great feeling to be back,” Marchi said Tuesday. “It’s exciting. I honestly can’t explain it.”
In the dying minutes of a 2-1 loss to the Fernie Ghostriders Dec. 29, Marchi crashed into the boards before being wheeled off the Fernie Memorial Arena ice on a stretcher.
“Extremely painful and it wasn’t fun,” Marchi recalled. “At that point, I was just really worried as to whether I’d be able to play hockey again for the rest of the year, or even skate.”
What Marchi didn’t know at the time was he had suffered a pelvic injury that, in spite of the excruciating pain, would only keep him out of the lineup for nine games through the month of January.
Marchi, a part of the Nitros leadership core, made his return to duty Jan. 30 in Creston. He credited his physiotherapist as well as the Dynamiters bench staff for his quick return to action.
Marchi cashed in on a shorthanded, two-on-one opportunity, taking a pass from captain Jason Richter, to put his team ahead 3-0 in the first period Tuesday. The goal stood as the game-winner and the Nitros built a five-point lead on the Thunder Cats for second place in the Eddie Mountain Division and home ice advantage in the first round of the KIJHL playoffs.
“He’s pretty much our heart and soul,” Richter said of Marchi. “He’s one of our hardest working guys. He’s reliable out there. You know when he’s out there that he’s not going to make many mistakes because he is such a good player and such a veteran player. He’s got tons of experience in the league. It’s definitely nice having him back.”
The Dynamiters jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period, before a pair of power-play goals from Connor Ward pulled the visitors within one early in the second period.
Trevor Van Steinburg, who opened the scoring in the first period, restored the Dynamiters two-goal advantage moments later.
Jordan Busch, Keenan Haase and Lincoln Lane all tallied power-play goals in the third period to run up the score for the hosts.
Nitros goaltender Tyson Brouwer turned aside 19 shots for his 23rd win of the campaign, while Brock Lefebvre got the hook after giving up six goals on 26 shots for the Thunder Cats. Backup Mitchell Martell stopped nine of 10 shots in relief.
Marchi wrapped up the night with a goal and an assist. Since his return Jan. 30, the 5-foot-11 forward has chipped in with two goals and four points in three games.
Richter chipped in with two assists, pushing his way into a tie for the KIJHL scoring lead with 36 goals and 62 points through 48 games.
The 5-foot-8 Cranbrook native is tied atop the KIJHL leaderboard with Fernie Ghostrider Doan Smith (35-37-62), who was injured this past weekend and out indefinitely with a lower-body injury.
“I try not to think about it. I could really care less if I win [the scoring race] or not,” Richter said. “It’s all about the team and how many points the team gets. We just want home-ice advantage.”
The Nitros host Fernie Friday at 7 p.m.