“How can you not get excited to come to the rink here and wear the ‘M’ and what it stands for and the tradition around it?” Rymsha said. “It gives you something to play for.”
Last October, Rymsha took the ice for Dartmouth College. Uhelski suited up for the University of Alabama-Huntsville.
In March, their seasons ended, and their phones rang. Miami hockey’s head coach Enrico Blasi was calling, asking if they’d consider playing their final year of eligibility as RedHawks.
“I don’t think he was finished his sentence when he was asking if I wanted to come here,” Uhelski said. “I jumped on it and interrupted him, saying, ‘Yeah, I’m coming.’”
They came as only the second and third graduate players in Miami hockey history. Uhelski is studying to get his masters in sports leadership and management. Rymsha is working towards his masters in political science and is a teacher’s assistant in two entry-level classes.
“I love it,” Rymsha said. “It’s fun. It’s kind of different grading papers and quizzes and everything, but it’s pretty funny.”
Uhelski and Rymsha both grew up in Michigan, where they started skating at two and three years old. They each played junior hockey for two years before starting college. Uhelski redshirted his freshman year, Rymsha medically redshirted his junior year for a shoulder injury and both graduated with one more year to win a championship.
After four years on a Division I roster and three years on collegiate ice, Rymsha’s and Uhelski’s excitement to play hockey hasn’t waned. If anything, it’s reinvigorated after arriving at Miami.
Even as the oldest guy on the team at 25 years old, Uhelski smiles a lot and makes jokes as often as he makes saves.
“Every single day I come in here wanting to get better, wanting to win, wanting to do the right things,” Uhelski said.
Rymsha, 22, skates purposefully, propelled by his admiration for Miami’s facilities and appreciation for another opportunity.
“I want to go out there and play the best I can,” Rymsha said.
It’s this enthusiastic energy that Coach Blasi hopes will push the defensive core to a higher level and challenge long-time starting goaltender Ryan Larkin – Miami allowed an average of 3.28 goals per game last season, with Larkin starting 36 of the RedHawks’ 39 games.
And collegiate experience doesn’t hurt on a roster with 15 underclassmen.
“Right away, they have some respect because they’ve been through it,” Blasi said. “I think our culture kind of gives them an opportunity to be who they are without any judgment and, from day one, they’ve fit in real nice and been able to relate their experience to our younger guys in a good way, without stepping on other seniors and our captains.”
Rymsha has taken over the locker room and weight room’s music. Uhelski chirps Blasi and the rest of the bench, and Blasi laughs about “U-Haul” poking fun at him. Both thrive on the refreshing energy a new hockey season brings.
“Everybody here has been so amazing,” Uhelski said. “The Brotherhood isn’t just a sign on the wall, it really means something. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of that.”