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    Proud to be the off-ice and strength & conditioning partner to the Esmark Stars AAA program!


     

    Note: Because of the ongoing situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19) and following the direction of the CDC, the Office of the President the United States, the Office of the Governor of Pennsylvania, and USA Hockey ... ALL non-essential activities have been halted.

    As such, the status of our upcoming Tier I tryouts, as scheduled, is on hold.

    The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club and Pittsburgh Viper Hockey will continue to closely monitor all updates and changes from agencies ... federal, state and local.

    Information regarding Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Tier I tryouts will be updated as available.

    The health and safety of our athletes, coaches, parents and families remains priority number one.

    Please continue to check our website, Facebook and Twitter pages for additional updates! 

    ___________________________________

    Pittsburgh, PA - Tryout dates for the Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club Tier I teams for the 2020-21 season have been announced.

    As the oldest Tier I AAA program in the Mid-American District (founded in 1984 and continuously providing opportunities for elite amateur hockey players for over 35 years), the Esmark Stars AAA Hockey program offers:

    * Nationally recognized program;
    * Nationally recognized elite-level coaching staff;
    * One team at each birth-year level;
    * 2 - 3 practices per week;
    * Comprehensive off-ice testing and instruction, including use of a full service gym at the rink
    * Members of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) - Midget - 18U, 16U and 15U; Bantam - 14U
    * Participate in high-end national tournaments, selected to best showcase elite athletes;
    * Great schedule (mix of league, tournament and home and home series) with elite AAA opponents from across the US and Canada
    * Affiliated with the Johnstown Tomahawks of the NAHL;
    * Past players have gone on to play hockey at every level, including (NHL, OHL, AHL, IHL, USHL, NAHL, NCAA Div. I & III, ACHA, Div. I & III).

    All tryouts will be conducted at the Pittsburgh Ice Arena in New Kensington, PA.

    For additional tryout information or to be added to the Esmark Stars mailing list, please forward a request "to be added to our mailing list" to Dave Kosick (dwk@thekmagroup.com).

    We look forward to seeing all interested players at our tryout sessions and encourage all to "Shoot for the Stars!"

    Times and dates are subject to change ... please refer to website for up-to-date information.

    Esmark Stars AAA Hockey

    2020 – 2021 Tryout Schedule

    Bantam 14U AAA - (2006 Birth Year)

    April 13, 2020 – 6:30 p.m. – 8:50 p.m.
         6:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. – Goalies (2006)
         7:00 p.m. – 7:50 p.m. – Defenseman / Goalies (2006)
         8:00 p.m. – 8:50 p.m. – Forwards / Goalies (2006)
    April 14, 2020 – 7:00 – 8:20 p.m., scrimmage (2006)
    April 15, 2020 – 6:00 – 7:20 p.m., scrimmage (2006)

    Midget 15U AAA - (2005 Birth Year)

    April 13, 2020 – 6:30 p.m. – 9:50 p.m.
         6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Goalies
         7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. – Defenseman / Goalies
         8:40 p.m. – 9:50 p.m. – Forwards / Goalies

    April 15, 2020 – 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. (Scrimmage (1) / Assigned Teams)
    April 15, 2020 – 8:10 – 9:40 p.m. (Scrimmage (2) / Assigned Teams)

    April 16, 2020 – 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. (Scrimmage (3) / Assigned Teams)
    April 16, 2020 – 8:10 – 9:40 p.m. (Scrimmage (4) / Assigned Teams)

    Midget 16U AAA - (2004 & 2005 Birth Years)

    April 13, 2020 – 6:30 p.m. – 9:50 p.m.
         6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Goalies 
         7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. – Defenseman / Goalies
         8:40 p.m. – 9:50 p.m. – Forwards / Goalies

    April 15, 2020 – 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. (Scrimmage (1) / Assigned Teams)
    April 15, 2020 – 8:10 – 9:40 p.m. (Scrimmage (2) / Assigned Teams)

    April 16, 2020 – 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. (Scrimmage (3) / Assigned Teams)
    April 16, 2020 – 8:10 – 9:40 p.m. (Scrimmage (4) / Assigned Teams)

    Midget 18U AAA - (2002 - 2003 Birth Years)

    April 13, 2020 – 6:30 p.m. – 9:50 p.m.
         6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Goalies 
         7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. – Defenseman / Goalies
         8:40 p.m. – 9:50 p.m. – Forwards / Goalies

    April 14, 2020 – 7:30 - 8:40 p.m. (Scrimmage (1) / Assigned Teams)
    April 14, 2020 – 8:50 – 10:00 p.m. (Scrimmage (2) / Assigned Teams)

    April 15, 2020 – 7:30 - 8:40 p.m. (Scrimmage (3) / Assigned Teams)
    April 15, 2020 – 8:50 – 10:00 p.m. (Scrimmage (4) / Assigned Teams)

    Esmark Stars AAA 2019-2020 COACHES

    The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club is pleased to announce their head coaches for the 2019-2020 season.

    18U AAA - Dave Kosick
    16U AAA - Yuri Krivokhija
    15U AAA - Derik Gaworski


    Skills Director - Yuri Krivokhija

    In addition, Yuri Krivokhija will serve as "skills training" director for Esmark Stars AAA Hockey. In that role, he will focus efforts on development and skills training with all Esmark AAA teams.

    Scheduling Games with the Esmark Stars for 2020-2021 Season

    Tier I AAA teams interested in scheduling games with the Esmark Stars teams for the 2020-21 season at the Midget 18U, Midget 16U, Midget 15U and Batam Major U14 levels should contact Dave Kosick, General Manager Esmark Stars AAA Hockey, (dwk@thekmagroup.com).

    BILLET FAMILIES WANTED: 2020-2021 Season

    Know a family interested in opening their house to a travel hockey player billet for the 2020-2021 season?

    The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club is seeking families interested in serving as billet families. Families, both from within and outside of the Esmark Stars, Pittsburgh Viper Stars and Pittsburgh Viper Hockey Organization, are encouraged to participate.

    If your family would be interested in participating or if you have any questions, please contact Rachel Zupanc @ (rlzup@comcast.net).

    Esmark Stars Coaching Applications

    The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club is now accepting applications for assistant coaching positions for the 2020-2021 season.

    The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club will consist of four (4) Tier I AAA teams for the 2019-2020 season offering teams at the 14U, 15U, 16U, and 18U levels. 

    The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club is a national and internationally recognized club that provides elite level training and development.  The club provides Tier I hockey players exposure on a regional, national and international level mixed with on- and off-ice training designed to allow each player to maximize their potential ... all while providing constructive lessons that allow them to excel in life.

    If you are interested in joining the coaching ranks of the Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club, please click on link below and complete the form.

    If you have any questions please contact Dave Kosick at dwk@thekmagroup.com.

    We appreciate your interest in joining the Esmark Stars AAA Club and helping our players ... Shoot for the Stars!

    The Registration "Home" is not currently available.


    ESMARK STARS UPDATES


    ESMARK STARS RECENT COLLEGE COMMITMENTS

    GORSCAK Commits to NIAGARA UNIVERSITY

    Pittsburgh, PA - The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club, proud members of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL), are pleased to announce that former Esmark forward Christian Gorscak has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for the Niagara University Purple Eagles of the Atlantic Hockey Association.

    Gorscak, a native of Jeannette, PA, skated for the 16U AAA Esmark Stars during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, during which he registered 159 points (77 goals and 82 assists) in 141 games played.  Those numbers included 60 points in 48 career games in NAPHL action. 

    During the 2016-17 season, he helped the Stars to the NAPHL 16U Dixon Cup Championship, appeared in the NAPHL 16U All-Star Game, and was named to the All-NAPHL 16U First Team.

    He signed a tender with the Johnstown Tomahawks of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) following his second season on the Stars 16U squad

    Through 12 games this season, his third season with the Johnstown, Gorscak (185 lbs., 5’11"), has registered 11 points (2 goals, 9 assists), and is the current team leader in assists and tied for third in assists in the entire NAHL.

    In three seasons of playing in the NAHL, Gorscak has appeared in 114 career regular season games and recorded 48 points.

    "It is so great to see Christian rewarded with his commitment to Niagara University. He is a first class human being and his play on the ice has spoken for itself," said Tomahawks head coach Mike Letizia.

    ”When we tendered Christian as a young rookie from the Esmark Stars U16 program out of the NAPHL, we knew he was a talented player, but it was remarkable to see his maturity at a young age. He has improved his game in various ways each season while maintaining his infectious positive attitude and team first mentality. I am extremely happy for him and his family because he truly deserves this. Niagara University is not just getting a great hockey player, but more importantly, an incredible person," Letizia added.

    Gorscak is part of a growing number of Ladder of Development players that began playing in the NAPHL and have seen their careers move onto the NAHL and then eventually, NCAA Division I college hockey.

    Since 2000, the Niagara University Purple Eagles have four NCAA tournament appearances, and have clinched four Conference Regular Season Championships and Three Conference Tournament Championships.

    Gorscak's commitment begins with the 2021-22 collegiate season, affording him the opportunity to remain with the Tomahawks through this year and the 2020-21 season.

    Pidro Signs NCAA Div III Commitment

    The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club, proud members of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL), are pleased to announce that goaltender Nico Pidro has committed to play NCAA Division III hockey for Wilkes University in the United Collegiate Hockey Conference (UCHC).

    Pidro, from Canonsburg, PA, earned back-to-back Dixon Cup Championships with Stars as he helped guide the 18U Stars to their first Dixon Cup Championship this past season and the U16 Stars to their first Dixon Cup Championship during the 2016-17 season.

    He was the winning goaltender in both NAPHL Playoff Championship games, defeating the 18U Tampa Scorpions 5-2 for the '17-'18 18U crown and earning the shutout and 1-0 win over the 16U Rocky Mountain RoughRiders for the '16-'17 16U crown.

    During the 2017-18 campaign, the 6'2", 195 lbs. goaltender, appeared in 34 games for the U18 AAA Stars, compiling an 18-11-1-4 record with a goals against average (GAA) of 2.42 and a save percentage of .882.  He also recorded 3 shut-outs.

    Those numbers included appearances in eight regular season NAPHL games where he complied a 3-2-0-3 record with a goals against average (GAA) of 1.96 and a save percentage of .906 and a 2-1-0-0 record with a goals against average (GAA) of 1.67 and a save percentage of .930 in three Dixon Cup Playoff appearances.

    During the  2016-17 season, Pidro skated for Esmark's U16 squad where he compiled a 6-4-0-1 record with a goals against average (GAA) of 2.25 and a save percentage of .904 in 11 regular season games and a 4-0-0-0 record with a goals against average (GAA) of 1.25 and a save percentage of .942 and two shutouts in four Dixon Cup Playoff appearances.

    "Nico will be a great fit for the Colonels," said Esmark U18 AAA head coach Dave Kosick. "He obviously demonstrated over the past two seasons that he is a big game goaltender."

    Wilkes, which is located in Wilkes-Barre, PA,  will make its program debut Oct. 26 in Canton, NY,  in a non-conference matchup against SUNY Canton. The game will be part of an ambitious 25-game regular-season schedule, which includes 18 games in the United Collegiate Hockey Conference (UCHC).

    The UCHC consists of Chatham University (PA), Elmira College (NY), King's College (PA), Lebanon Valley College (PA), Manhattanville College (NY), Nazareth College (NY), Neumann University (PA), Stevenson University (MD), and Utica College (NY).
     
    Wilkes will also play eight games in the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC). The MAC has served as Wilkes' primary conference since 1947 and the Colonels will be joined in the UCHC by fellow MAC members King's, Lebanon Valley, Manhattanville and Stevenson.

    Lamison Commits to NCAA Div. III Chatham University

    The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club, proud members of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL), are pleased to announce that former Esmark Stars AAA Hockey forward Michael Lamison has committed to play NCAA Division III hockey for Chatham University in the United Collegiate Hockey Conference (UCHC).

    Lamison, from Johnstown, PA, skated for Esmark's U18 squad during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.  During his tenure with the Stars, he would also participate in the NAPHL Top Prospects Tournament post the '15-'16 season and played in the U18 All-Star game during the '16-'17 campaign.  In addition, he would served as captain of the U18 Stars during the 2016-17 season.

    During the 2016-17 season, the 5'8", 160 lbs. center, tallied 51 points (23 goals, 28 assists) in 68 games, including 19 points (8 goals, 11 assists) in 26 NAPHL regular season and playoff games.  

    During the 2015-16 season, he had 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists) in 63 games, including 11 points (6 goals, 5 assists) in 29 NAPHL regular season and playoff games.  He also picked up 2 points (1 goal, 1 assist) in four NAPHL Top Prospects games.

    Lamison would go on to skate for the Southern Tier Xpress of the NA3HL during the 2017-18 season.  In 42 games with the Express, Lamison recorded 42 points (10 goals, 32 assists) in 42 regular season games.  He added 2 points (1 goals, 1 assists) in 2 NA3HL playoff games.  

    "Michael will be a great addition to the Cougars," said Esmark general manager Dave Kosick. "He represents all the great qualities a program looks for ... great student, gifted athlete, great teammate, super person."

    Chatham, which is located in Pittsburgh, PA,  is a member of the United Collegiate Hockey Conference (UCHC).

    The UCHC consists of Wilkes University (PA), Elmira College (NY), King's College (PA), Lebanon Valley College (PA), Manhattanville College (NY), Nazareth College (NY), Neumann University (PA), Stevenson University (MD), and Utica College (NY).

    Brown Commits to Air Force

    Pittsburgh, PA - The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club, proud members of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL), are pleased to announce that former Esmark forward Parker Brown has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for the Air Force Falcons of the Atlantic Hockey Conference.

    Brown a Hanahan, SC, native, skated for the 18U AAA Esmark Stars during the 2017-18 season, during which he registered 57 points (21 goals and 36 assists) in 61 games played.  Those numbers included 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) in 23 games in NAPHL action. 

    He signed a tender with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) during his 18U season for Esmark

    During his 2018-2019 campaign with Fairbanks, his rookie season, Brown (160 lbs., 5’9"), registered 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists) in 57 regular season games and helped lead the Ice Dogs to first place in the Mid-West Division.

    “I was extremely excited to hear Brownie committed to Air Force,” said Esmark Stars U18 head coach Dave Kosick. "He has world-class skating ability and always comes to the rink prepared to play."

    Brown becomes the 9th Ice Dog this season to commit to play Div I NCAA Hockey next season.

    Brown will join former Esmark defenseman Carter Ekberg in Colorado Springs.  Ekberg, who tendered with the Janesville Jets, during his 18U season with the Stars, committed to the Air Force Academy last season and appeared in 27 games with the Falcons during his freshman year last season.

    "Much like Carter, Parker will be a great addition to the Air Force roster," Kosick said. "He is a solid young man ... on and off the ice."

    The Falcons play at the nearly 2,500-seat Cadet Ice Arena in Colorado Springs, CO.  Head coach Frank Serratore has held the reigns since 1997, and two seasons ago joined a group of just 22 with his 400th career NCAA Division I win.

    With his NCAA D-I commitment secured, Brown can now focus on helping the Ice Dogs drive for a long playoff run.

    Ekberg Commits to Air Force Academy

    The Esmark Stars, proud members of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL), are pleased to announce that former Esmark Stars defenseman Carter Ekberg has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for the Air Force Falcons of Atlantic Hockey.

    Ekberg played two seasons of 16U, Pittsburgh Viper Stars (2012-13) and the Esmark Stars (2013-14), and then one season, his senior year, with Esmark (2014-15), during which he registered 23 points in 24 NAPHL games.  He signed a tender with the Janesville Jets of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) during his 18U season

    A McMurray, PA, native, Ekberg (180 lbs., 6’1") has played for the Jets for parts of four seasons.  In 84 career NAHL games, all with Janesville, Ekberg has totaled 32 points.

    Ekberg is the first Jets defenseman this season to earn his NCAA commitment.

    “I’m extremely excited to commit to Air Force,” said Ekberg. “This year has been huge for me, becoming a leader on the team and having more chances to play and make big impacts on every game. It’s had a huge impact on my confidence.”

    Ekberg joins forwards Kip Hoffmann (Robert Morris) and T.J. Polglaze (Michigan Tech) as 1997-born Jets veterans to earn their commitment this season.

    “This year Carter has taken a huge step and evolved into a complete, two-way guy on the back end,” said assistant coach Corey Leivermann, who works with the team’s defensemen. “As the ‘D’ coach, he’s meant everything to me and to our group. When he’s healthy I lean on him heavily because I know he consistently gives us what we need in all situations. Whether it’s the power play, penalty kill, five-on-five, the first minute of a period, the last minute of a period, overtime, it doesn’t matter ... Carter Ekberg is our guy.”

    "I think Carter realizes this day came to be because of a huge investment of blood, tears and sweat," said his U18 Esmark head coach Dave Kosick.  "He is an extremely bright and skilled young man who will be a great addition to the Air Force Academy."

    “As a young, developing guy, you sit out games, holding clipboards, battling to earn your spot every day. There are a lot of stories like that in this league with older guys getting commitments at the ends of their junior careers. I’m definitely not the first,” said Ekberg.

    Ekberg’s junior career began in March of 2015 with two games as an affiliate player of the Jets. He started the following season with the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers, suiting up for two games before rejoining to the Jets again in October.

    Ekberg played 22 games with the Jets before getting another crack at the USHL with a call from the Youngstown Phantoms in February.  He again returned to the Jets for the 2016-17 campaign with the Jets.

    This season, Ekberg tops Janesville's blueliners in scoring with four goals and 18 total points, playing most of the season on the Jet's top pair.

    “As a kid coming out of that Esmark Stars program, the first thing you noticed about Carter’s game was his mobility,” said former Jets head coach Joe Dibble, who brought Ekberg to the Jets and coached him for two seasons. 

    Dibble said he’s seen Ekberg take important strides both mentally and physically.

    “He’s always been an elite skater who plays with his head up and has the skill to make plays, but I was especially impressed with his development this year.  Last summer I think he really dedicated himself to becoming a college athlete. He worked on his strength and you see him now stronger on the puck, stronger in the corners, stronger in front of his own net,"  Dibble said.

    "He’s always been a confident skater and playmaker, but now you see that confidence defensively and without the puck. He’s a complete defenseman who’s ready to become a student athlete at the Division I level," he added.

    The Falcons play at the nearly 2,500-seat Cadet Ice Arena in Colorado Springs, CO.  Head coach Frank Serratore has held the reigns since 1997, and last season joined a group of just 22 with his 400th career NCAA Division I win.

    “The coaching staff was definitely one of the biggest reasons for choosing Air Force,” said Ekberg.  “A bunch of them are alumni, or they played D-1, or they played pro, so they know what they’re talking about.  They’re all great, knowledgeable people who made me feel super welcome and wanted there, which was important to me. I can’t say enough good things about that staff.”

    To Leivermann, it’s an especially great fit for Ekberg as a student and as a person.

    “That’s an amazing academic school out there in Colorado,” he said. “That works well for a smart kid like Ekberg. He’ll get good academics, he’ll get to play good hockey, and they do a great job helping their alumni find careers after their playing days, too.”

    Air Force recorded five NCAA tournament appearances from 2007 through 2012, missing just once in 2010. Last spring, the Falcons qualified again, breaking a four-year drought. Their offense includes attacking defensemen, said Ekberg, which was a major reason in choosing the school.

    “They like to get their ‘D’ involved in the offense,” Ekberg said. “Coach Serratore told me they try to activate them through the zones, which is a good fit for me. I like to take my chances when I see fit, and that’s something they’re big on. It’s a good opportunity for me to be an offensive guy on the back end.”

    With his NCAA D-I commitment secured, Ekberg said he feels even more ready for a long playoff run with the Jets.

    2019-2020 ESMARK STARS TENDERS


    Strobel Signs with Johnstown

    Pittsburgh, PA - The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) are pleased to announce that 18U goaltender Connor Strobel has signed a North American Hockey League (NAHL) tender agreement with the Johnstown Tomahawks.

    The 17-year old Butler, PA native, who is a senior at Butler High School, is in his first season with the U18 AAA Stars. Prior to joining the U18 squad, Strobel tended the nets for the U16 Esmark Stars during the 2018-19 season.

    To date this season, Strobel (6'2", 170 lbs.) has a record of 21-0-3-1 in 25 overall appearances, with a .943 save percentage and a goals against average (GAA) of 1.37, including seven shutouts. In nine North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) appearances this season, Stobel has a 7-0-0-1 record, with a .940 save percentage, a goals against average (GAA) of 1.50, and has recorded three shutouts. 

    During the 2018-19 NAPHL 16U season, Strobel had an overall record of 23-11-2-0, with a .913 save percentage, a goals against average (GAA) of 2.34, including five shutouts, in 35 appearances. That included a 8-6-0-0 record, with a .889 save percentage, a goals against average (GAA) of 2.36, with three shutouts, in 14 regular season and NAPHL Dixon Cup playoff appearances.

    "Connor has demonstrated that he among the top goaltenders in our league and certainly among the best midget major goalies in the nation this season," said Esmark 18U head coach Dave Kosick. "He simply does not get rattled."

    "Connor is part of an elite goaltending tandem our squad offers," Kosick added. "He and his playing partner give us a chance to win every night. Johnstown landed an outstanding young man with a bright future." 

    Strobel is the fourth member of the 2019-2020 Esmark Stars to secure a tender with an NAHL squad for the 2020-2021 season.  Teammates Dustin Gergerach, Johnstown Tomahawks; Lane Ruffner, Wichita Falls Warriors; and Ryder Brophy, Lone Stars Brahmas; had previously signed with the NAHL clubs.

    Ruffner Signs with Wichita Falls

    Pittsburgh, PA - The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) are pleased to announce that 18U defenseman Lane Ruffner has signed a North American Hockey League (NAHL) tender agreement with the Wichita Falls (TX) Warriors.

    The 18-year old western Pennsylvania native, who is a senior at Greater Latrobe High School in Latrobe, PA, is in his second season with the U18 AAA Stars. Prior to joining the U18 Stars squad, Ruffner had previously skated for the U16, U15 and U13 Esmark Stars.

    To date this season, Ruffner (6'1", 180 lbs.) has tallied 5 points, all assists, in 12 North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) games. Overall, to date, he has recorded 17 points (1 goals, 16 assists), including 1 power play goal, in 33 games played.

    During the 2018-19 NAPHL season, he registered 2 points (1 goal, 1 assist), in 19 North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) games. Overall, he recorded 13 points (2 goals, 11 assists), including 1 power play goal, in 60 games.

    During the 2017-18 NAPHL season, Ruffner registered 6 points (1 goal, 5 assists), in 25 16U AAA league games. Overall, he recorded 7 points (1 goal, 6 assists), including 1 power play goal, in 48 games.

    During the 2016-17 NAPHL season at U15, he registered 2 points (2 assists), in league games. 

    Last season, Ruffner helped lead Esmark's U18 squad to the Mid-American District Championship and a spot at the USA Hockey 18U Tier I National Championships. 

    "Lane earned this opportunity because of the hard work and dedication he has brought to the rink every day for the past five years," said Esmark 18U head coach Dave Kosick. "He is an outstanding defensive player, certainly among the best in our league, and he now being given an opportunity to take his game to the next level."

    Ruffner is the second member of the 2019-2020 Esmark Stars to secure a tender with an NAHL squad for the 2020-2021 season.  Teammate Dustin Gergerach previously signed with the NAHL's Johnstown Tomahawks.

    Wichita Falls will be returning to the NAHL and the league's Southern Division after a three-year hiatus

    The team, which is owned by Robbie Hockey LLC, an entity owned and operated by Mary Anne Choi, will begin play during the 2020-21 season and play out of the 6,500 seat Kay Yeager Coliseum.

    The NAHL has had a team in the Southern part of the United States since 199, with the South Division first forming in 2003.

    The division currently has seven teams competing in the NAHL: Amarillo Bulls (Amarillo, TX), Corpus Christi IceRays (Corpus Christi, TX), Lone Star Brahmas (North Richland Hills, Texas), New Mexico Ice Wolves (Albuquerque, New Mexico), Odessa Jackalopes (Odessa, TX), Shreveport Mudbugs (Shreveport, LA), and Topeka Pilots (Topeka, KS). 

    Stewart Signs with Fairbanks

    Esmark Stars 18U AAA forward Tyler Stewart has signed a North American Hockey League (NAHL) tender agreement with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the NAHL’s Midwest Division.

    A native of Burrell, PA, the 18-year old senior at Burrell High School is in his second season with the Stars. 

    During the 2019-20 season, Stewart (5'10", 160 lbs.) registered three points (2 goals, 1 assist) in five regular season games after returning to the Stars and a league-leading 19 points (10 goals, 9 assists) in five Dixon Cup Playoff games. Overall, Stewart registered 53 points (24 goals, 29 assists) in 26 games played, helping lead the AAA 18U Stars to the Mid-American District Championship and a spot as District Champions in the 2020 USA Hockey 18U Tier I National Championships.

    Stewart, who was tendered by the Johnstown Tomahawks of the NAHL's Eastern Division at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season and then spent time with the Odessa Jackalopes of the NAHL's Southern Division, returned to the 18U AAA Stars mid-season. He registered one point, an assist, in seven appearances with the Jackalopes.

    During the 2018-19 season, Stewart registered 19 points (11 goals, 8 assist), in 16 regular season games and 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) in four Dixon Cup Playoff games. Overall, Stewart registered 89 points (36 goals, 53 assists) in 61 games played, helping lead the AAA 18U Stars to the Mid-American District Championship and a spot as District Champions in the 2019 USA Hockey 18U Tier I National Championships.

    "Tyler is determined  to make the next step," said Esmark 18U head coach Dave Kosick, "and there is no denying his has world-class skills in the offensive zone."

    "His performance at the NAPHL Playoffs and at the Mid-American District Championships created tremendous interest in him," Kosick continued. "And due to that and his overall skill set, we fielded a lot of calls from junior teams across the nation who have been overwhelmingly impressed by what he does in the offensive zone."

    Stewart joins teammates Ryder Brophy, forward, (Lone Star Brahmas); Connor Strobel, goaltender, (Johnston Tomahawks); Dustin Geregach, defenseman, (Johnston Tomahawks); and Lane Ruffner, defenseman, (Wichita Falls Warriors) who all had previously signed NAHL tenders for this upcoming season.

    Brophy Signs With Lone Star

    Pittsburgh, PA - The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) are pleased to announce that 18U forward Ryder Brophy has signed a North American Hockey League (NAHL) tender agreement with the Lone Star (TX) Brahmas.

    The 17-year old western Pennsylvania native, who is a senior at Franklin Area High School in Franklin, PA, is in his first season with the U18 AAA Stars. Prior to joining the U18 squad, Brophy previously skated for two seasons with the U16 Esmark Stars.

    To date this season, Brophy (6'1", 190 lbs.) has tallied 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists), including one power play and one shorthanded goal, in 17 North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) games. Brophy was also selected to participate in the 2019-202 NAPHL All-Star game and scored a goal for Team Warroad. Overall this season to date, he has recorded 89 points (44 goals, 45 assists), including 10 power play goals and 2 shorthanded goals, in 48 games played.

    During the 2018-19 NAPHL 16U season, he registered 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists), in 20 overall North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) games, including three power play goals. Overall, he recorded 70 points (34 goals, 36 assists), including 6 power play goals and one shorthanded goal in 53 games.

    During the 2017-18 NAPHL season, Brophy registered 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists), in 21 overall 16U AAA league games. He also helped guide Esmark to the Tier I Mid-American District Championship at 16U and a spot at the USA Hockey 16U Tier I National Championships. 

    "Ryder has demonstrated without question that he is among the best 18U players in the country," said Esmark 18U head coach Dave Kosick. "He has worked his backside off over the course of these last three years and that has resulted in considerable interest and multiple offers from several NAHL teams.

    "Ryder is proof that hard work, focused attention to skill development and disciplined play can result in junior placement," Kosick added. "Like his teammates who have previously tendered, he earned his tender." 

    Brophy is the third member of the 2019-2020 Esmark Stars to secure a tender with an NAHL squad for the 2020-2021 season.  Teammates Dustin Gergerach, Johnstown Tomahawks, and Lane Ruffner, Wichita Falls Warriors, previously signed with the NAHL clubs.

    The Brahmas, who are in the South Division of the NAHL, skate out of the NYTEX Sports Center in North Richland Hills, Texas.

    Geregach Signs with Johnstown Tomahawks

    Pittsburgh, PA - The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) are pleased to announce that 18U defenseman Dustin Geregach has signed a North American Hockey League (NAHL) tender agreement with the Johnstown Tomahawks of the NAHL’s East Division. 

    The 18-year old western Pennsylvania native, who is a senior at Montour High School in Robinson, PA, is in his second season with the U18 AAA Stars. Prior to joining the U18 Stars squad, Geregach skated for the U16 Armstrong Arrows.

    To date this season, Geregach (6'0", 185 lbs.) has tallied 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists), including 2 power play goals, in 12 North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) games. Overall, to date, he has recorded 27 points (7 goals, 20 assists), including 5 power play goals, in 30 games played.

    During the 2018-19 NAPHL season, Geregach registered 17 points (3 goals, 14 assists), in 19 North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) games. Overall, he recorded 47 points (14 goals, 33 assists), including 5 power play goals, in 61 games.

    Last season, Geregach helped lead Esmark's U18 squad to the Mid-American District Championship and a spot at the USA Hockey 18U Tier I National Championships. He was also selected to play in the NAPHL's Top Prospects Showcase at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.

    "Dusty has busted his tail and worked hard on his game over the past year and a half ," said Esmark 18U head coach Dave Kosick. "His overall game and calm on the ice has had him on  a number of team's radar.  Johnstown landed themselves a truly solid d-man."

    Geregach is the first member of the 2019-2020 Esmark Stars to secure a tender with an NAHL squad for the 2020-2021 season.

    2018-2019 Esmark Stars Tenders

    Yerameichyk Signs Tender with Chippewa Steel

    Pittsburgh, PA - The Esmark Stars of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) are pleased to announce that 18U forward Raman Yerameichyk has signed a North American Hockey League (NAHL) tender agreement with the Chippewa Steel of the NAHL’s Mid-West Division.  The Steel are located in Chippewa Falls, WI.

    A native of Minsk, Belarus, the 18-year old senior at Westmont Hilltop High School in Johnstown, PA, is in his second season with the U18 AAA Stars. Prior to joining the U18 Stars squad, Yerameichyk skated one season for the U16 AAA Esmark Stars.

    During the 2018-19 NAPHL regular-season NAPHL, Yerameichyk (6'0", 175 lbs.) registered 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists), in 16 NAPHL games. Last season, 2017-18, Yerameichyk registered 9 points (7 goals, 2 assists), including one power play goal, in 18 NAPHL games. And during the 2016-17 season as a member of the U16 Esmark Stars, Yerameichyk recorded 11 points (4 goals and 7 assists) in 18 games.

    He helped lead Esmark to their first 16U Dixon Cup as Playoff Champions of the NAPHL’s 16U Division in 2016-17 and then the 18U Stars to their first 18U Dixon Cup as Playoff Champions of the NAPHL’s 18U Division in 2017-18.

    Overall this season, Yerameichyk has recorded 46 points (23 goals, 23 assists), including one power play goal, and a +/- rating of +24 in 42 overall games, helping pace the Stars to a 32-9-1-1 record to date.  During the 2017-18 season, he recorded 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists), including two power play goals, in 61 games played, helping the Stars to a 36-17-2-6 record.  And during the 2016-17 U16 campaign, Yerameichyk recorded 27 points (16 goals and 11 assists), including two power play goals and one short-handed goal, in 51 games as the Stars amassed a 56-13-5-3 record.

    "Raman has worked hard to integrate the North American style of the game with his world-class skill set," said Esmark 18U head coach Dave Kosick. "And this is a great reward for that hard work and sweat equity."

    Yerameichyk joins teammates Tyler Stewart and Jackson Dobbs, both of whom had previously signed tenders with the Johnstown Tomahawks, of the NAHL’s East Division.

    Rey Signs Tender with Jersey Hitmen (NCDC)

    Pittsburgh, PA - The Esmark Stars of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) are pleased to announce that 18U AAA goaltender Parker Rey has signed a tender agreement with the Jersey Hitmen of the USPHL's "National Collegiate Development Conference" (NCDC) Division.  The Hitmen are located in Wayne, NJ.

    The 2018-19 season was Rey's first year with the U18 AAA Stars. Prior to his season with the Stars, Rey skated for the U18 Cleveland Barons of the TOEHL during the 2017-18 season.

    For the 2018-2019 season, the 18 year old net-minder appeared in 36 games for the Stars, finishing with a 24-10-0-1 record, including five shutout wins. Rey finished the season with a goals against average (GAA) of 2.11 and a 92.92% save percentage.

    He backstopped the 18U Stars to the Mid-American District Championship running off three straight round-robin wins ... Cleveland Barons (4-3), Ohio AAA Blue Jackets (4-3 OT/SO win), Gilmour Academy (6-5 OT/SO win) ... and then earning the win in goal and the Mid-American title with a 2-1 overtime win over Culver Military Academy in which he stopped 48 of 49 shots he faced.

    "Parker's performance against Culver was a masterpiece and a clear showing of his capabilities," said Esmark 18U head coach Dave Kosick.

    "He brings a great work ethic and mindset to the rink every day. Add that to his physical size and athletic ability and you have a goaltender who checks off all the boxes that elite junior and collegiate teams seek," Kosick added.

    Post-season, Rey was selected to participate in the NAPHL's Top Prospects Tournament, which was held in conjunction with the NAHL's Robertson Cup Championship in Blaine, MN. That event brought together ten elite all-star teams, including teams from the NAPHL, AYHL, TOEHL, NA3HL, Minnesota, Michigan and Europe.

    Rey joins four other members of the 2018-19 Esmark 18U club (Andrew Jacobs, New Mexico Ice Wolves; Raman Yerameichyk, Chippewa Steel; and Tyler Stewart and Jackson Dobbs, Johnstown Tomahawks, all of the North American Hockey League), in signing junior tenders.

    Dobbs Tenders with Tomahawks

    18U forward Jackson Dobbs has signed a North American Hockey League (NAHL) tender agreement with the Johnstown Tomahawks of the NAHL’s East Division.

    A native of Wixom, MI, Dobbs, 17, is in his first season with the U18 Stars. To date the 6', 180 lbs. forward has registered 7 points (3 goal, 4 assists) in 12 NAPHL games. The junior at Bishop McCort High School has recorded 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists), including 5 power play goals, in 38 overall games, helping pace the Stars to a 28-8-1-1 record to date.

    "Jackson has been on the Tomahawks radar for a while," said Esmark 18U head coach Dave Kosick. "He had a really good showing at the Tomahawks camp and we were was asked to work with him on some aspects of his game. And work he has."

    Dobbs joins teammate Tyler Stewart, who also signed with the Tomahawks, as the first Esmark players to sign NAHL tenders this season.

    Stewart Signs Tender with Tomahawks

    18U forward Tyler Stewart has signed a North American Hockey League (NAHL) tender agreement with the Johnstown Tomahawks of the NAHL’s East Division.

    A native of Burrell, PA, the 17-year old junior at Burrell High School is in his first season with the U18 AAA Stars. He skated the past two seasons with the highly regarded and nationally ranked top 10 Pittsburgh Vipers AA U16 squad under Si Bishop.

    To date, Stewart (5'10", 160 lbs.) has registered 15 points (8 goals, 7 assists), including 1 power play goal,  in 12 NAPHL games this season to lead the Stars in NAPHL scoring.

    Overall he leads the Stars Midget Major club in scoring recording 52 points (24 goals, 28 assists), including 2 power play goals, in 38 overall games, and helping pace the Stars to a 28-8-1-1 record to date.

    "Tyler most definitely has world-class skills," said Esmark 18U head coach Dave Kosick. "And because of that ... we have fielded a lot of calls from junior teams across the nation who have been overwhelmingly impressed by what he does in the offensive zone."

    Stewart joins teammate Jackson Dobbs, who also signed with the Tomahawks, as the first Esmark players to sign NAHL tenders this season.

    Jacobs Signs Tender with New Mexico Ice Wolves

    Pittsburgh, PA - The Esmark Stars of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) are pleased to announce that 18U defenseman Andrew Jacobs has signed a North American Hockey League (NAHL) tender agreement with the New Mexico Ice Wolves of the NAHL’s South Division.

    The Ice Wolves, who will play out of the Outpost Ice Arena in northeast Albuquerque, NM, are one of two new expansion teams in the NAHL for the 2019-2020 season, joining the Maine Nordiques.

    A native of Conneaut Lake, PA, the 18-year old senior at Conneaut Lake High School just completed his second season with the U18 AAA Stars, helping lead Esmark to the U18 Tier I Mid American District Championship and the USA Hockey U18 Tier I National Championships.

    During the 2018-19 NAPHL regular-season NAPHL, Jacobs (6'0", 180 lbs.) registered 3 points (0 goals, 3 assists), in 20 NAPHL games. Last season, 2017-18, he registered 6 points (2 goals, 4 assists), including one power play goal, in 24 NAPHL games, and helped lead Esmark to their first Dixon Cup Championship as Playoff Champions of the NAPHL's 18U Division.

    Overall this season, Jacobs recorded 31 points (5 goals, 26 assists), including two power play goals, and a +/- rating of +29 in 62 games played, helping pace the Stars to a 46-14-1-1 record and a spot in USA Hockey's National Championship Tournament.  During the 2017-18 season, he recorded 15 points (3 goals, 12 assists), including one power play goal and a +/- rating of +26, in 59 games played, helping the Stars to a 36-17-2-6 record. 

    "Drew is a young man who showed up at practice everyday determined to be a better player," said Esmark 18U head coach Dave Kosick. "He is an elite-level d-man with great skating ability and an outstanding overall skill set."

    Jacobs is the fourth player from the Esmark Stars 18U team who has signed an NAHL tender so far this season. He joins teammates Raman Yerameichyk, Chippewa Steel,  and Tyler Stewart and Jackson Dobbs, both  Johnstown Tomahawks, in signing tenders for NAHL teams for the 2019-2020 season.

    ESMARK STARS IN THE NEWS

    Hepler Signs Pro Contract with Huntsville

    HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Lebanon Valley College's Cole Hepler has signed a professional contract with the Huntsville Havoc and will report to Huntsville immediately. The Havoc are members of the Southern Professional Hockey League.
     
    "We're very excited that Cole is getting this opportunity to play professional hockey," said Lebanon Valley's head men's ice hockey coach Don Parsons. "Cole is an asset in every aspect of the game, including in the locker room, and on and off the ice. I have no doubt in my mind that he'll do a tremendous job and be welcomed on the Huntsville Havoc hockey team. I have had the opportunity to play with Coach Detullio (the coach of the Havoc), and I know the type of player he was and that he'll love the way Cole plays the game."
     
    Recently, Hepler capped an impressive career wearing a Flying Dutchmen sweater. Earlier this week, the team captain was named to the All-Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Second Team for the third straight season, after amassing 15 points this season, good for second on the team. He scored seven goals, which was tied for first, and notched eight assists. He paced the offense with three power-play goals, as well as one game-winning goal and one short-handed tally.
     
    In both his junior and sophomore seasons, Hepler also garnered All-MAC Second Team honors. In 2018-19, he finished third on the team with 25 points and tied for second with 17 helpers. During his sophomore season, he ranked third on the squad with 10 goals and 21 points, while leading the Dutchmen with three short-handed goals.
     
    In LVC's return to the NCAA during his freshman year, Hepler led the squad with 32 points and 16 tallies. He earned ECAC West Rookie of the Year honors and was an Honorable Mention pick. Lebanon Valley College plays is a Div. III NCAA school who plays in the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC).
     
    "LVC has molded my ability on the ice and in the classroom to the person I am today," said Hepler. "I'm thankful to Coach Parsons to the opportunity to play college hockey as a Dutchman. I have gained many memorable experiences and friends that will last a lifetime. I'm excited to start my pro career and am looking forward to where it will take me."

    Hepler skated six seasons for the Stars program (from 2008 through the 2014 season), spending seasons with the Stars U14 (two seasons), U15, U16 and U18 (two seasons) squads. He wrapped up his amateur career with the Stars 18U Midget Major AAA squad during the 2013-14 season.

    "This is great for Cole," said Stars General Manager Dave Kosick.  "You talk about a classy young man who plays the game the right way and brings a passion and love for the game to the rink every night ... that's Cole."

    Following the 2013-14 season, Hepler signed an NAHL tender with the Kenai River (AK) Brown Bears. He would go on to skate the 2014-15 and 2015-16 season with the Elliot Lake Wildcats of the NOJHL.

     The Huntsville Havoc are 25-14-3 so far this season and sit in fourth place in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). The regular season wraps up in early April, with playoffs to follow.

    Tkac Earns Roster Spot with Team Slovakia

    Former Esmark Stars forward Daniel Tkac has made Team Slovakia’s final roster for the 2020 World Junior Championships.

    The 19-year-old, who was born in Pittsburgh and who currently skates for the Merritt Centennials in the British Columbia Hockey League, a dual American-Slovakian citizen, was invited to Team Slovakia's camp earlier this month and was named to the finalized roster for the event.

    “Every kid growing up wants to make that tournament,” said Tkac upon his invitation to camp. “It’s the biggest tournament in junior hockey. When you get that chance, you want to make it happen.”

    This year’s World Junior tournament is taking place, Dec. 26 - Jan. 5, in Ostrava and Třinec in the Czech Republic, right near the Slovakian border, which means Slovakia should have plenty of support all tournament long.

    “I think there will be a lot of fans there,” said Tkac. “It would be amazing to play in that kind of atmosphere. I’ll be really excited.”

    Although he was born in the U.S., Tkac and his family moved back to Slovakia seven years ago and that’s the country he currently calls home. He played most of his youth hockey in Slovakia, but decided to come back to North America to further his hockey career.  He skated for Yuri Kroivokhija's U16 Esmark Stars squads during both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.

    Last year, he had 14 points in 46 regular-season games for the Centennials, but so far this year he’s the team’s third-leading scorer with 23 points in 29 contests.

    Slovakia is in Group A of the World Juniors along with Finland, Kazakhstan, Sweden and Switzerland.

    Tkac and the rest of his teammates are scheduled to open the tournament Dec. 27 against Kazakhstan.

    Former Star on Cusp of Junior World Championship Roster

    Former Esmark Stars forward Daniel Tkac, who currently skates for the Merritt Centennials of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), has been invited to Team Slovakia’s selection camp for the 2020 World Junior Championships.

    The 18-year-old is a dual American-Slovakian citizen who was born in Pittsburgh, but both of his parents are from Slovakia.

    He left for training camp in Slovakia this past Saturday.

    “I have to go into camp and play my best hockey and see how that goes,” he said. “But the opportunity is unbelievable to get that chance. You’ve just got to work hard and play your best hockey when you get there. I can’t wait.”

    This year’s World Junior tournament takes place from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Ostrava and Třinec in the Czech Republic, right near the Slovakian border, which means Slovakia should have plenty of support all tournament long.

    “I think there will be a lot of fans there,” said Tkac. “It would be amazing to play in that kind of atmosphere. If it does happen, which I really hope it does, I’ll be really excited.”

    The World Juniors have become a holiday tradition in Canada and it’s often said that no one cares about the tournament as much as Canadians, but for someone who’s lived in Slovakia and the U.S. his whole life, the tournament is still something he’s always dreamed of playing in.

    “Every kid growing up wants to make that tournament,” said Tkac. “It’s the biggest tournament in junior hockey. When you get that chance, you want to make it happen.”

    This isn’t the first time Tkac has represented his country on the international stage as he played for Slovakia at the IIHF Under-18 World Championships in 2018.

    “It was an unbelievable experience to play against the top guys around the world,” he said. “It was really nice to see what that kind of hockey is like.”

    Although he was born in the U.S., Tkac and his family moved back to Slovakia seven years ago and that’s the country he currently calls home. He played a lot of his youth hockey in Slovakia, but decided to come back to North America to further his hockey career.

    After playing in the U.S. for the Stars, he ventured north to Merritt in 2018 to start his junior career.

    With any hockey player, there’s always an adjustment period when they make the jump to the next level and Tkac was no different.

    Last year, he had 14 points in 46 regular-season games, but so far this year he’s at almost a point per game with 20 in 24 contests.

    “It’s a really fast league,” he said. “You have to make decisions quickly, so you have to get used to it. It took some time, but I think I’m used to it now.”

    Slovakia is in Group A of the World Juniors along with Finland, Kazakhstan, Sweden and Switzerland.

    Slovakia opens the tournament Dec. 27, 2019, against Kazakhstan.

    STROBEL EARNS CALL-UP TO YOUNGSTOWN PHANTOMS (USHL)

    Pittsburgh, PA - The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) have announced that 18U goaltender Connor Strobel has been called up by the Youngstown Phantoms Junior A club of the United States Hockey League (USHL).

    He will join the Phantoms (16-17-0-6) for a weekend series, Feb. 7 & 8, 2020, with the Des Moines Buccaneers (18-17-0-3) at the Mystique Ice Center in Des Moines, IA

    The 17-year old Butler, PA native, a senior at Butler High School who is in his first season with the U18 AAA Stars, has an overall record of 21-1-3-1 in 26 overall appearances, with a .941 save percentage and a goals against average (GAA) of 1.47, with seven shutouts.

    In nine North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) appearances this season, Stobel (6'2", 170 lbs.) has a 7-0-0-1 record, with a .940 save percentage, a goals against average (GAA) of 1.50, and has recorded three shutouts.

    "What a great opportunity for Connor," said Esmark 18U head coach Dave Kosick. “From the long bus ride, to the crowd, to the entire junior environment.  It is an opportunity well earned.”

    Strobel recently signed a tender for the 2020-2021 season with the Johnstown Tomahawks of the North American Hockey League (NAHL).

    J.T. Schimizzi and Blake Rossi share a 'Latrobe connection'

    Reprinted from the Post

    by Jack Gleckler 

    J.T. Schimizzi and Blake Rossi hobbled out from the locker room, skates on and panting from that day’s practice.

    Rossi and Schimizzi share a friendship that has forged over the last decade. They are roommates, teammates and have what they call “the Latrobe connection.”

    The Pennsylvania natives are as close as two teammates can be. Both were raised near Latrobe, a suburb of Pittsburgh, and grew up 15 minutes away from each other. They began playing hockey at young ages, and both began skating before they were in kindergarten. 

    The duo played together on the same team for nine years — from elementary school to the Esmark Stars 18U team. Rossi tallied 18 points in 26 games, and Schimizzi totaled 29 points in 30 games over two seasons.

    “It’s an awesome organization,” Rossi said. “We played our whole entire lives, but the past two years we were both on (the Stars), and last year, we made it to nationals, which is the first that team had made it in probably 10 years.”

    The nine-year streak was broken when Rossi joined the Amarillo Bulls and Schimizzi joined the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the North American Hockey League last season. Neither saw much action. They can count on one hand the number of games they played for their respective teams. The two returned to the Stars at the end of the season. 

    Scouts took notice of the duo during their time at Latrobe and with the Stars. Former assistant coach for Ohio Mike Gugin approached each of them with offers to join the Bobcats. Schimizzi had family ties to Ohio, his older sister and cousins were alumni. The offer was too good to pass up.

    “I let (Rossi) know that OU was gonna be my plan, and he was like, ‘Well, now I got to look into it, too,‘“ Schimizzi said. “It really worked out for the best that we were able to come here together.”

    Rossi and Schimizzi are looking to refine their skills together again this season. They’re only two of an 11-player freshmen class, and they both want to prove they can step into key roles immediately. Schimizzi plays center and is actively looking to be more defensive-minded. Rossi wants to be more aggressive around the net and develop a stronger presence on the ice. 

    Improving is how the pair plans to contribute to the cause this season. The goal of any team is to win the national championship, but the Bobcats say it’s now or never. The two want to give back to the seniors that have provided for them by winning the American Collegiate Hockey Association national championship. The Bobcats lost in the national quarterfinals last year to Iowa State.

    “The consensus from the seniors this year is that we gotta win this year,” Schimizzi said. “These guys have been working their butts off for years to get to that point, and we both just want to contribute and make that happen.”

    Schimizzi and Rossi will get their chance to contribute once the season kicks into gear with the Green and White scrimmage on Sept. 14.

    Kucharski Selected in 2018 NHL Draft

    Pittsburgh, PA - Former Esmark Stars AAA Hockey goaltender Jake Kucharski was selected by the Carolina Hurricanes on Day Two of the 2018 NHL Draft.

    The 6’4"/193 lbs. native of Erie, PA, who began his climb up the ladder of development with the Esmark program's U16 club during the 2015-16 season, was selected in the seventh round, 197th overall. 

    During the '15-'16 season, Kucharski posted a 1.77 goals against average and .917 save percentage for the Stars, including three shut-outs, in 14 NAPHL games. Overall, in 32 Esmark 16U AAA game appearances, he finished with a .896% save percentage and a a 2.41 GAA with five shut-outs.

    After the '15-'16 season, Kucharski signed a tender agreement with the Austin Bruins of the North American Hockey League (NAHL).  In addition, he was also selected in the ninth round of the 2016 USHL Draft, pick #140, by the Chicago Steele.

    Kucharski spent most of the 2016-17 with  Austin. where he played in 34 games with a save percentage of .894 and posted a goals against average of 3.31.

    During the 2017-18 campaign, Kucharski skated for the Des Moines Buccaneers in the USHL, where he returned for the current campaign.

    Kucharski has also signed a letter of commitment to play NCAA Division I hockey for the Providence Friars beginning with the 2019-20 season.

    "I was very proud to see Jake get selected in the Draft," said Esmark Stars U16 head coach Yuri Krivokhija, who himself was selected by the Montreal Canadians in the 10th round of the 1988 NHL draft. "He has worked really hard and stayed focused on achieving his goal," Krivokhija added, "and he is now one step closer to reaching it," 

    Kucharski joins former Stars players Grant Lewis (2004 draft, second round, 40th overall) and Miles Liberati (2013 Draft, seventh round, 205th overall) in being selected in the annual NHL draft.

    "As both Lewis and Liberati did, Jake has parlayed the opportunity that playing with the Stars provided him ... to chase his dreams all the way to the NHL Draft," said Stars founder and General Manager Dave Kosick.  "Proving that dreams, mixed with sweat and hard work, can come true."

    Former Stars Earn All-MAC Honors

    Two former members of the Esmark Stars AAA program were among four players from Lebanon Valley College Dutchman that were named to the  2017-18 All-Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Teams, as chosen by the league's coaches.

    Forward Cole Hepler and goaltender Tyler Perhac each garnered Second-Team recognition for the league’s inaugural All-League Teams.

    Hepler picked up 20 points this season, and was fourth on the team in goals, with nine, and fifth on the squad in assists, with 11.  He netted four goals on the man-advantage, and led LVC with three short-handed goals, including two in LVC's outdoor game against Chatham last month. The assistant captain also registered two game-winning goals on the year.

    Perhac enjoyed a breakout season in 2017-18, going 6-3-1 and recording one shutout. The sophomore allowed just 2.62 goals per game and had a saves percentage of .913. His lone shutout of the season came at the Dutchmen Outdoor Classic where he stopped all 16 shots he faced against Chatham.