Seemingly everyone in local hockey circles knows the names Kevin Ogiba and Nick Melligan. In turn, the Niagara-Wheatfield club hockey program has also become a known commodity throughout Western New York despite the lack of so-called glitz and glamour that the Federation league provides.

“In ninth grade we started a foundation here at Wheatfield and people started recognizing our team and our club,” Ogiba said.

Over the four-year run of Ogiba, Melligan and Co., the Falcons have won four consecutive Super Sunday titles and advanced to the New York state club hockey championships on three separate occasions, including this year. With that success, though, came expectations.

“We didn’t have many expectations in ninth grade because we didn’t know better and the team didn’t do so well the year before,” Melligan said. “But late in 10th grade and into last season people started recognizing us and we started to have big expectations for ourselves.”

And despite answering most every call put in front of them for the past four years, the Falcons still felt they had something to prove this year. The first chance to respond came in the form of December’s prestigious National Invitational Scholastic Showcase in Jamestown, which included club and preparatory teams from throughout the country. Even with its reputation in area circles, N-W knew this would be a tough challenge.

“We just wanted to make it to the next round,” junior defenseman Nick Schiro said.

The Falcons did that and much more. N-W advanced all the way to the championship game, where it earned the title and some validation.

“We went down there to challenge ourselves and it turned out we played so well that we won,” coach Tom Beamish said.

Melligan added, “We won some things we probably shouldn’t have won. I think it’s great to prove everybody wrong.”

How about not having the opportunity to test their abilities against what most consider Western New York’s best — the Federation teams?

“The last couple years we’ve really wondered what we could’ve done if we played in the Federation,” Melligan said. “There’s talk that we wouldn’t compete in Fed, but I think that we’d be able to skate with the good teams and beat most of the lower teams. We try to prove it in every game in club too.”

That schedule of proof continued into WNY club hockey large schools action and went all the way to the sectional title two weeks ago and the Super Sunday title at HSBC Arena last weekend. But now it’s the ultimate prize, a chance at a New York state club hockey title, perhaps the one thing that has eluded N-W.

“We want to prove that we are the best team in Western New York and New York state,” Schiro said.

Standing in the way this weekend at the Cheektowaga Town Rink, though, is 10-time defending champion St. Mary’s of Long Island.

“They are going to be tough as heck to beat, so we’ve got to be on top of our game,” Ogiba admitted.

Beamish agreed, while adding that his team needs to play like it did in Jamestown a few months back.

“That’s the level we need to reach again,” he said. “It’s hard to reach that level and it’s a tough draw with St. Mary’s in our bracket, but either way we need to play well.”

Win or lose this weekend and Ogiba and Melligan are set to move on. But only one more Falcon is scheduled to graduate, so the rest of the club hockey league shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the Falcons and their chance at Super Sunday title No. 5.

“There’s a lot of talk that Melligan and Ogiba are our whole team, so we’d like to show that we have some other really good players too,” Schiro said.

Contact reporter Nate Beutel at 282-2311, ext. 2262.

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