NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, TX — Brahmas defenseman and NAPHL tender Jared Kucharek has committed to Western Michigan University for the 2018-19 season.
Kucharek, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound defenseman from Parma, Michigan, played the majority of the 2016-17 season with Meijer AAA in the NAPHL. A smooth skater who plays in all situations (and particularly excels on the man advantage), Kucharek caught the Brahmas coaching staff’s eye early on. Impressed with the total package Kucharek offered, Lone Star signed him to a tender contract early on in the season. At the time of that signing, Kucharek was tied for the league lead in scoring among defensemen.
Kucharek rounded out his NAPHL season in fine form. He led all defensemen in overall points, as well as power play points and short-handed points, demonstrating just how effective he was for Meijer whether the team was on the power play, down a man, or playing at even strength. At the season’s end, he was recognized for his stellar year and named to the All-NAPHL 18U First Team.
“Playing for the Meijer organization in the NAPHL was a great experience,” Kucharek said. “The competition & exposure was very helpful in my development.”
Kucharek was particularly grateful for Meijer’s coaching staff over the course of the season. “Coach Brian Sherry was a big factor for me playing for Meijer,” Kucharek said. “He helped me develop my game and had confidence in me and the whole team. The biggest thing that came from Meijer was the confidence I built during the season.”
With the NAPHL regular season finishing quite some time before the NAHL’s, Kucharek and fellow tender Andy Willis joined the Brahmas for the stretch run.
Joining an already-deep Brahmas defense group, Kucharek was able to practice and travel with the team and get two NAHL games under his belt late in the regular season.
“Coach Dan Wildfong and the rest of the Lone Star staff made it possible for me to finish the season with them,” Kucharek said. “He saw something in me early on in November and gave me the opportunity to get ahead and catch up to the pace. I am very grateful I got to share in the Robertson Cup experience with the organization. It’s a memory I won’t forget.”
While the Brahmas were hoping to get a full season of Kucharek on the blue line, the organization also takes pride in advancement of Lone Star players. Kucharek is certainly doing his part in that area.
Drafted 68th overall by the Omaha Lancers, Kucharek was the first NAPHL player to be selected in the 2017 USHL Phase II Draft. He attended Omaha’s main camp earlier this summer and as he always seems to do, impressed the coaching staff.
“I enjoyed camp. Don’t get me wrong, it was tough.” Kucharek said, “But it reinforced the commitment, dedication, & expectations for a Lancer player. I am happy to be playing for Coach Wilkie.”
Kucharek will report to Omaha’s training camp this fall, where he hopes to make his mark on the USHL as he has in previous leagues. “I’m looking forward to learning more about the game of hockey, busting through barriers, and a successful season,” he said.
While Kucharek’s main focus is the upcoming season, his commitment to Western Michigan University has taken a weight off and allows him to look to the future with excitement.
Meijer, of course, is a Michigan-based organization, but North Richland Hills, Texas and Omaha, Nebraska are a long way from home.
“I’m humbled to be heading back to Michigan to play D1 at WMU. It’s a huge relief knowing my career will continue for another four years around my friends and family,” Kucharek said.
That feeling of being home played a significant part in Kucharek’s decision to commit to Western Michigan, but it wasn’t all that he considered.
“The hockey program is one of the best in the nation and arguably plays in the best conference,” Kucharek said. “Coach Murray and Coach Shyiak immediately made me feel like part of the team and were interested in my development and how the WMU Hockey Program will help. I met Scott Moldenhauer, Aidan Muir and Neal Goff who are captains, and their stories were very similar to mine.”
He’s also given some thought about what he plans to study while at school. For now, Kucharek is leaning towards Kinesiology. “A few years ago, I experienced the environment thoroughly and that’s when I started to really consider it. I was able to see what it would be like and took a liking to it.”
College hockey is still a while away, but Kucharek is already looking forward to playing in front of the crowd at Western Michigan. “I want to be a part of reason why the famous Lawson Lunatics — WMU fans — cheer and celebrate. I want to be a part of bringing home a National Championship to WMU,” he said.
If his past performance has any bearing on the future, Kucharek will certainly make significant on-ice contributions to his teams, whether in the NAHL, USHL, or NCAA.