Bedford sophomore goalie Mark Blankenship stops a shot as teammates Jacob Kelch, left, and Jared Kujawa come to help. The Mules are 15-5.
TEMPERANCE A special blend of a bond and a rivalry between two sets of brothers propelled the Bedford hockey program to a fourth straight league title this season.
The Mules, led by Garryt and Jared Kujawa and Jesse and Drew Bachli, clinched yet another Northwest Hockey Conference White Division title on Sunday. The two pairs of brothers are Bedford s top four leading scorers.
The Kujawas and Bachlis have played with each other since they were in midget hockey and a friendly competition has developed. That sibling showdown ultimately led to another 9-1 season for the Mules(15-5 overall) in the NHC for thesecond straight season.
Bedford senior Garryt Kujawa leads the team with 54 points (23 goals, 31 assists).
Garryt Kujawa, a senior center and the team s captain, leads the team in points with 23 goals and 31 assists.
It s a bit of a rivalry over who will end up with more points, Garryt said.
His sophomore brother Jared, a defenseman/forward, has a team-high 32 goals along with 21 assists.
If we get on a hot streak we ll joke around with them and talk trash, Jared said. It s not too serious. We just want to win.
Jesse Bachli, a senior left winger and assistant captain, is tied with Jared Kujawa with 53 points (25 goals and 28 assists). Drew Bachli, a junior left winger, is fourth on the team with 25 points (eight goals and 17 assists).
It encourages you to play harder, Drew Bachli said. After high school this is what we ll always be talking about who had more points.
Coach Randy Menchaca, who has turned a fledgling program into a perennial contender over five years, said he puts all four on his top power-play and penalty-kill units.
The chemistry makes them all stronger individually, he said.
Bedford senior Jesse Bachli is tied for second in team points with 53 (25 G, 28 A).
He said the brothers always talk about who scored and how they did it. It s not a negative rivalry. Both sets of brothers are my gladiators. They re like my boys.
Menchaca said the camaraderie extends beyond the brothers to their teammates.
They feed off each other, Menchaca said. It s nice to have them in the room. The leadership they brought is uncanny. They talk in the locker room and lead by example.
Sophomore goalie Mark Blankenship, who also is given much credit for the fourth straight title, said he often is in awe of the chemistry.
From my perspective they always seem to make perfect passes to each other, Blankenship said. They work so well together. Jared always knows where Garryt is on the ice and Drew always knows where Jesse is.
Drew Bachli is fourth on the team with 25 points (8 G, 17A).
Jared and Garryt Kujawa finished as the top two scorers in the NHC White. Jared had 14 goals and 16 assists in league games and Garryt had 13 goals and 16 assists. Jesse Bachli ranked third (14 G, 12 A) and Drew was sixth (4, 11).
The Kujawas have played together since Garryt was 11 and Jared was 9.
Because we know each other so well we always have a feel for each other, Jared said. We know where to put the puck.
Garryt said it s even more special because he and his brother get the majority of ice time especially at crunch time.
We can yell at each other and it s not a problem, he said.
The Bachlis have skated together since they were 2.
We ve played a lot of pond hockey, Drew said. He s fun to play with because he s not selfish with the puck and he s quick.
Justin Bachli, a brother, also played for Bedford, graduating in 2003.
The whole family revolves around hockey, Drew Bachli said. My dad played too. Our dinner conversations are usually all about hockey.
Although the Mules were the three-time defending division champions, they were picked to finish third.
We re used to being underrated, Drew Bachli said. They haven t picked us to win once.
Bedford started out 4-0 after beating Clay 10-0, Central Catholic 7-5, Whitmer 11-3 and Maumee 8-3. The first loss was 4-2 against Perrysburg. The Mules finished the regular season with a 5-0 run capped by a dramatic win over the Yellow Jackets avenging the loss with a 5-3 thriller.
The game was tied at 3 with less than a minute left when Jared Kujawa fed a perfect pass from behind the net to Drew Bachli who netted the winner.
That was intense, Drew said. It was so sweet to finish a win like that.
Everyone went crazy, Jared said.
Blankenship said the loss to Perrysburg on Jan. 23 marked a turning point in the season for himself and the team. Blankenship was called upon to fill the big skates left behind by Luke Fornier, who is considered the best goalie ever to play atBedford.
Coach told me many times that he did not expect me to be Luke, Blankenship said. He said I had a team that would play hard in front of me.
Blankenship finished with a 7-1 record, 3.22 goals against average and .859 save percentage in league play.
Last year I stood on the bench and watched how excited they were, Blankenship said. I wanted to lift that trophy. I wanted to prove that Bedford was still the team to fear.
Bedford has compiled a 33-6-1 record over the last four years in the NHC. This year the Mules outscored foes 68-32.
Bedford also plays in the Southeastern Conference in Michigan where it has a 2-3 record with five games remaining. The Mules have never won a playoff game in their history.
Bedford has a first-round bye and will play March 5 against the winner of the Saline/Brownstown Woodhaven contest. Saline has knocked Bedford out of the playoffs each of the last four years.
Menchaca said each team has stepped up to the challenge the last four years.
I m happy with how the program keeps rolling. Tradition is what I look at. It s pride, he said. The players of the past put us on the map and the present players are keeping us there.