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Brandon icers to join with Kearsley, Holly



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August 17, 2011 - It's all about survival.

That is the reason the Brandon varsity hockey team must consolidate with players from the Kearsley and Holly school districts, Steve Yuchasz told the Brandon School Board during their Aug. 15 meeting.

"We don't have enough players to field a team," he said. "This (cooperative agreement) will buy a minimum of two years. Kearsley needs us next year, we need them this year. Holly has no team. This will provide an opportunity to 24 kids and potentially save money. Folks are enthusiastically embracing this."

The board unanimously approved moving forward with the application process which will allow Brandon, Kearsley and Holly to form a team that can continue to compete in the Flint Metro League under Michigan High School Athletic Association regulations.

Brandon's high school hockey program's inaugural season was 2000-2001 in the Oakland Activities Association. They moved to the Flint Metro League during their third season and went on to a string of several regional appearances. Yuchasz, who has coached the midget hockey program at Ice Mountain Arena for at least 14 years, started coaching the Brandon varsity hockey team last season.

Over the years, the number of players on the team has dropped for several reasons, he said. Some players choose to go with a travel hockey team, which is able to have twice as many games as the high school team, and also competes at a higher level. Yuchasz believes the poor economy may also be a factor in fewer players.

He learned earlier this year that he would only have 11 players for the varsity team for the regular season which begins in November, and three of those would be goalies, leaving only eight skaters. Last year he had 15 players, and still, it wasn't enough.

"We had some serious injuries and lost a couple kids right out of the gate," Yuchasz said. "We were lucky to field a team some games. Some games got ugly by virtue of not having the numbers."

The Blackhawks finished the season (which runs from Nov. 1 to March 6) with an 8-17 record. To have a decent, competitive team, Yuchasz said a minimum of 15 skaters and two goalies are needed.

He approached Bill O'Brien, the Kearsley hockey coach, about consolidation, and he liked the idea as they are also suffering a shortage of players and facing a loss of several seniors next year. O'Brien and Yuchasz will co-coach the new team, which will have a uniform incorporating the major colors of each school— royal blue, white, and red. The new team name being considered is KBH United, and the team will primarily play at Perani Arena in Flint, where Kearsley has their own locker room. The team will skate at the Polar Palace in Lapeer in January. The cooperative agreement is for the 2012 and 2013 seasons and the team will remain in the Flint Metro League, where there are nine teams, but five are combined, so only six teams compete against each other in the Metro for hockey, Yuchasz said. Fenton is the only stand alone hockey team at this point.

Yuchasz has an end goal of Brandon being a stand alone team again, and believes the consolidation move will help the team ultimately reach that goal.

"I am encouraged by what I've seen from the younger team coming up," said Yuchasz. "The numbers look good, players look good, parents are enthusiastic and I think this uis the right move to grow the program down the road."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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