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      Esmark to Junior to NCAA - Success Stories

      Tryout Success Stories - Christian Gorscak

      Former Esmark Stars forward Christian Gorscak used an NAHL tryout camp to get on to the Johnstown Tomahawks radar. Three seasons later, Gorscak was named the North American Hockey League's Most Valuable Player. From Esmark to Johnstown to Niagara University, to earn his way into NCAA Division I hockey.

      Christian Gorscak

      NAHL MVP - former Esmark Stars Christian Gorscak

      TRYOUT SUCCESS STORIES - Dusty Geregach

      Former Esmark Stars defenseman Dustin Geregach successfully followed the NAPHL to NAHL to NCAA pathway, from Esmark to Johnstown to Mercyhurst University, to earn his way into NCAA Division I hockey.


      Esmark Stars AAA 2022-2023 COACHES

      The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club is pleased to announce their head coaches and skills instructors for the 2022-2023 season.

      18U AAA - Dave Kosick; Yuri Krivokhija (National Bound)
      16U AAA - Yuri Krivokhija; Dave Kosick (National Bound)
      15U AAA - (2007) Chris Stern (National Bound)
      14U AAA - (2008) Tony Trovato (National Bound)
      13U AAA - (2009) Dalton Moore; Luke Kopchak
      12U AAA - (2010) Nate Nehnevajsa; CJ Stellabotte
      11U AAA - (2011) CJ Stellabotte; Nate Nehnevajsa


      General Manager - Dave Kosick
      Skills and Training Director - Yuri Krivokhija
      Skills and Training Director - Nilan Nagy
      Skills and Instruction Coach - MIke Heltman
      Skills and Instruction Coach - Luke Kopchak
      Skills and Instruction Coach - CJ Stellabotte
      Goaltender Skills and Instruction Coach - Nick Mish

      Yuri Krivokhija and Nilan Nagy will serve as "skills training" directors and Nick Mish will again serve as the goaltending coach for Esmark Stars AAA Hockey. In these roles, they will focus efforts on development and skills training with all Esmark AAA teams.

      Scheduling Games with the Esmark Stars for 2022-2023 Season

      Tier I AAA teams interested in scheduling games with the Esmark Stars teams for the 2022-23 season at the Midget 18U, Midget 16U, Midget 15U, Bantam 14U, Bantam 13U, Pee Wee U12 and Pee Wee U11 levels should contact Dave Kosick, General Manager Esmark Stars AAA Hockey, (dwk@thekmagroup.com).

      Esmark Stars Coaching Applications

      The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club is now accepting applications for head and assistant coaching positions for the 2022-2023 season.

      The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club will consist of seven (7) Tier I AAA teams for the 2022-2023 season offering teams at the 18U, 16U, 15U, 14U, 13U, 12U, and 11U 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!

      BILLET FAMILIES WANTED: 2022-2023 Season

      Know a family interested in opening their house to a travel hockey player billet for the 2022-2023 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 Dave Kosick @ (dwk@thekmagroup.com).


      ESMARK STARS UPDATES

      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.