Trevor Okino’s college career with the University of Jamestown Jimmies in the American Collegiate Hockey Association ended before getting a chance to challenge for a national championship.
The 25-year-old Richmond native was part of a group that won 28 games and was ranked No. 12 in the nation.
“Our mentality has been that we can always be better and improve, we never reflected on our success as a team until the end of the season,” says Okino, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the national playoffs.
Okino and the North Dakota school, in a one-game elimination tournament, would’ve had to win four games in five days.
“With 14 seniors and everything to lose, it would’ve been an exciting tournament,” he says.
Okino says as the playoffs got closer, the intensity heightened in the Division 1 action. Players put in extra to win the puck battle, or get the shot on net, and the physicality increases.
“Playoff hockey can bring out the best and worst of players, it’s a special moment to be in,” he says.
The six-foot-one, 200 pound defenceman closed out his collegiate career with a respectable season. He nearly reached 100 career points. He went into the campaign with personal goals to achieve, which included improving his defensive game. That goal resulted in the best plus/minus in his career at plus-seven. Okino improved all-round as a player.
“My shot is a bit harder and more accurate, hockey-sense has evolved,” he says. “I believe any of that comes with practice, and four years of that will help. As a person I’ve matured, gained experiences, made mistakes and tried to learn from them. Also, living in -40 winters will add a few layers of character.”
Four years of college hockey was great for Okino. It allowed him to keep playing hockey and earn a degree in information technology. Once he obtains his degree, he will move back home after seven years. His plan is to seek employment in IT, but also had interest in an officiating career. He also developed life-long friendships and reflects knowing how lucky he was every day to be there.
One of his memorable experiences with the Jimmies was playing in two outdoor games in 2019 and 2020. The most recent was against their rivals Minot State.
“There was a ton of snow which made it difficult to play, but added to the experience,” he says. “The event, Hockey Day in North Dakota, has been hosted by our campus. Both years we got to play outdoors right at school, in front of fellow students and family.”
Okino went to Jamestown, following three seasons (2013-16) with the Chase Heat of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. It was the first time being away from home. Okino says the KIJHL helped prepare him for living on his own.
“I think this was the best preparation, because nothing prepares you for it,” he says. “On the hockey spectrum, the number of games we played and how much we practiced (five times a week) definitely prepared me for the college level.”