JAMESTOWN — It didn't take long for the small group of ice hockey players from small schools Barker, Roy-Hart and Medina to prove how big they were.
Head coach Mike Kuchey's collective group pf 16 skaters and one goalie took the Western New York High School Club Hockey League by storm in 2017-18 and ultimately scratched and clawed their way to the league title and state championship game in unforgettable fashion.
“There has been limited opportunities in the past for boys in rural northern Niagara and Orleans counties to play hockey at the high school level,” said team manager Vicki Harris.
“Coach Kuchey noticed this need as his two sons, a sophomore and junior at Roy-Hart, wanted to add more to their season other than just travel hockey. Last summer, while his son and our son picked sweet corn at our family farm, the idea took flight and out of it was conceived RBM (Roy-Hart/Barker/Medina) hockey team — formed from the three rural high schools (and later adding boys from Akron).
RBM's season began with a big win, but losses to City Honors, Orchard Park A, East Aurora and Depew brought the team down to reality. After that, RBM turned things just as quickly back around with a five-game winning streak.
“We were beginning to see a glimpse of the raw talent we were developing,” Harris said.
RGM is a young team for the most part comprised of only four seniors, Luke Luckman, Joe DiBenedetto, Rocco Spagnolo and goalie Evan Birkemeier; juniors Rhett Wagner, Dylan Krzykowski, Drew Marsh, Tom Paisley, Michael Kuchey and Matt Saj; sophomores Trevor Crawford, Jason Kuchey, Colin Dodge and Jacob Harris; and freshmen Conner McNeil, Corey Saj and Dominic Peracciny.
“One of our greatest fears throughout the season was something happening to our only goalie, but Evan had an awesome season playing every game and even earning two shutouts,” Harris said. “He will certainly be missed next year as the search for the a goalie begins. Mid-season progressed with an equal number of losses and wins as our bench dwindled in size, sometimes with as few as 11 players.”
If it could happen, it did happen to BRM, with concussions, knee, ankle injuries, vacations and three player suspensions at key games in the season.
BRM management wished to thank everyone who saw the vision for this team and dedicated many hours, including head coach Mike Kuchey and his wife Deanna, assistant coach Todd Boci who added his many years of coaching expertise; and coaches Dory Marsh and Mark McNeil. Thanks also go out to the team's trainer and to the dedicated families that put the time getting their sons to practices and games.
BRM went on to play for the WNYHSCHL championship Mixed Schools Division on Feb. 24 at KeyBank Arena, winning 4-1 over Jamestown. The team then travelled to the state tournament in Jamestown (Mar 2-4), winning four games before losing to Jamestown in the finals, 4-2.