Sports seasons have ups and downs and wins and losses.
The Mitchell Marlins Bantam A hockey team, which consists of players age 14 and under, has had some of both. Its record is 6-11 as the season begins to wind down.
But for the Marlins, Josh Machado provided one of the highlights of the season.
Machado, a forward for the Marlins, has only played hockey for the last few years, his coach Josh Engquist said.
Machado was described as someone who doesn’t have the greatest talent or skill, but makes up for it his effort and desire for the game by his coach, and who is smart and supportive for the team.
“He has a big heart,” Engquist said. “He’s always supporting his teammates. … He is the guy you want on your team.”
On Sunday, Feb. 14, that heart was rewarded by his team and their opponent, the Aberdeen Cougars. Late in the game, which the Cougars led 15-1, Machado got a shift on the ice.
Engquist checked in with the Aberdeen coaching staff and let them know Machado was going to be on the ice.
When the puck was on Machado’s stick with less than 20 seconds to go, he wrapped around the back of the net, squared up to the net and scored on the goalie’s near side to record his first career goal. It was also the first time he’d taken a shot on goal all year. Teammate Henry Swenson was credited with the assist.
As he was skating away with joy, his teammates swarmed him on the way to the bench in celebration. The crowd at the Mitchell Activities Center let out its biggest cheers of the season, seeing a player be rewarded.
“I’m not going to lie, it will be a life-long highlight to me,” Engquist said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen something so sportsmanlike (from Aberdeen). I just asked and they didn’t have to do it but I think the reaction shows what Josh means to our team.”
How Machado’s teammates feel about him is apparent in the video, lifting him off the ice and carrying him to the Mitchell bench. At practice, Machado is frequently one of the players with the most positive attitudes.
“When you’re around him, you can’t help but feel better,” Engquist said. “There are kids that get to this age and they complain about not getting playing time or whatever. He doesn’t do that.”
Because of the nature of the season and with the desire for the Marlin teams to win, Engquist said there sometimes are few chances to get every player a scoring chance during the season.
“It can be tough to score in practice, let alone in a game,” Engquist said. “Sometimes the opportunities are hard to come by.”
Engquist said it shows what hockey and sports can be, especially in light of a tough few years for the Mitchell Skating and Hockey Association. The program was tarnished by the locker-boxing incident in late 2019 that resulted in the remainder of the Mitchell boys varsity season being suspended and disqualified from postseason play. Engquist was the head coach of that team, and he said he wants the public to know that the Marlins players and the program represent what’s good about sports: sportsmanship, teamwork, mutual respect and dedication.
“You can’t judge one incident and hold that against all hockey players,” Engquist said. “There is good in us all and Aberdeen proved that Sunday evening. It’s a moment and memory that hopefully everybody there will never forget.”