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      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."

      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.

      Esmark Stars AAA 2018-2019 COACHES

      The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club is pleased to announce their head coaches for the 2018-2019 season.

      18U AAA - Dave Kosick / Yuri Krivokhija / Mark Hastings / Mike Heltman
      16U AAA - Dave Kosick / Yuri Krivokhija / Mark Hastings / Mike Heltman
      15U AAA - Derik Gaworski / Luke Kopchak

      In addition, Yuri Krivokhija will oversee skills training as the "Skills Coordinator" for Esmark Stars AAA Hockey. He will focus these efforts on development and skills training for the U15 Esmark AAA teams ... in addition to his work with the U16 and U18 squads.

      Skills Director - Yuri Krivokhija

       

      Scheduling Games with the Esmark Stars

      Tier I AAA teams interested in scheduling games with the Esmark Stars teams (Midget 18U, Midget 16U, Midget 15U, should contact Dave Kosick, General Manager Esmark Stars AAA Hockey.

      BILLET FAMILIES WANTED: 2018-2019 Season

      Know a family interested in opening their house to a travel hockey player billet for the 2018-2019 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 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 Tara Gorscak @ (724) 689-9911.

      Esmark Stars Coaching Applications

      The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club is now accepting applications for assistant coaching positions for the 2018-2019 season.

      The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club will consist of seven (7) Tier I AAA teams for the 2018-2019 season offering teams at the '07, ’06, ’05 and ’04 birth years along with a 15U, 16U, and 18U team. 

      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!


      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).


      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.

      Former Stars Forward keeps teammates laughing

      By Steve Stein

      Former Esmark Stars player Matt Amelio has a great sense of humor.  That's a big reason why he's so popular with his teammates on the Vermont Lumberjacks team in the Eastern Hockey League (EHL).

      "The guys enjoy playing with Matt," said Lumberjack';s head coach Jim Mosso.  "He's the glue in our locker room and the center of our team, a real character guy."

      Amelio doesn't mind being a character at times - and a leader all the time.

      "I like to keep the guys loose," he said.  "You're not going to play well if you're uptight.  Because I am one of the older guys on the team, I also feel it's important to show them the ropes."

      Amelia is dead serious about an important part of his hockey life.  Now in his final season of junior eligibility, he wants to continue his hockey career at a Division III college.

      "Anywhere," he said.  "I don't have a timeline for making a decision.  I'll know when it's the right place.  I love hockey.  I've been playing since I was five and I want to keep playing."

      Amelio has had some club team offers, but the goal for the 5-foot-8-inch, 185-pound forward is to land at a D-3 school.

      "We've gotten some calls from D-3 coaches," Mosso said.  "Any college team would be happy to have Matt in their locker room and his playing style will make him successful in the college game.  Playing D-3 is Matt's hope and dream."

      This is Amelio's second season with Lumberjacks' Premier Division team and he has made an impression on Motto.

      "Matt is the full package as a player," Mosso said.  "He's fast and strong, a good scorer, a real offensive threat.  He also takes care of his responsibilities on the defensive end."

      Amelio takes his defensive role seriously.

      "You need to play solid defense to create offense," he said.  "I understand the importance of protecting your zone.  I'll do whatever needs to be done to help my team."

      Amelio has a team-leading 20 goals along with 26 assists through 33 games this season.  His 46 points rank second on the Lumberjacks team.

      The Venetia, PA, native, who skated for the U18 Esmark Stars during the 2014-15 & 2015 seasons, has four power play goals, four power play assists, and two game-winning goals on his stat sheet this season.

      "I've adjusted to the pace of the game (in the Premier Division), and I'm stronger than I was last year," Amelio said.

      Amelio's output was a big reason why the Lumberjacks were doing well at the holiday break.  They currently sit in first-place in the North Conference at 26-6-0-1 for 53 points.

      Hastings signs with Kanata Lasers

      The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club, proud members of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL), are pleased to announce that Esmark Stars U16 AAA Hockey defenseman Ryan Hastings has committed to play hockey for the Kanata Lasers Jr. A club for the 2018-19 season.

      The Lasers, members of the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) are located in Kanata, Ontario, just outside of Ottawa City. The Lasers compete in the CCHL's Robinson Division.

      The 6’0”/175 lbs. native of Apollo, PA, led Esmark's U16 defenseman in team NAPHL scoring during the 2017-18 season with 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists in 17 regular season games, including 4 power play goals. He added 1 assist in four NAPHL playoff games. He also skated for the East team at the 2018 16U NAPHL All-Star game and scored a goal.

      Overall, Hastings, who captained the U16 Stars to the Mid-American District  championship and a spot at the 2018 USA Hockey National Championships in Philadelphia, PA, recorded 23 points (8 goals, 15 assists) in 52 games for the Stars.

      During the 2016-17 season, Hastings recorded 15 points (2 goals, 13 assists) in 77 games for the U16 Stars, including 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) in 27 NAPHL games. He helped lead the Stars to their first ever Dixon Cup as league 16U playoff champions of the NAPHL during the '16-'17 season.

      Hastings began his Stars career skating for the Stars U13 team during the 2014-15 season.  He would then go on to skate for the Stars U15 team during the 2015-16 season.

      "Ryan has worked hard for this opportunity,” said Esmark's 16U head coach Yuri Krivokhija.  “He is a high-skilled defenseman with a high hockey IQ."

      The Pittsburgh-based Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club is the oldest Tier I (AAA) program in the Mid-Am District (Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania) of USA Hockey and one of the oldest Tier I (AAA) programs in the nation.

      For 34 years the Stars program has provided elite amateur ice hockey players the opportunity to be showcased on a local, national and international level.

      The CCHL began as a development league founded by the Montreal Canadiens in 1961.  Seeking a place in Ontario for its' prospects, the league was built and used as a prime source until the draft system changed in the late sixties.  By the seventies, CCHL teams were among the best in Canada.  A reemphasis on development took place in the eighties when the league created rules and regulations that ensured younger rosters and an emphasis on development.This philosophy remains today, as the CCHL annually sends a large number of young players to higher levels.

      Players from across North America have enjoyed success playing in the Central Canada Hockey League.  Utilizing the league as a stepping stone, each season dozens of players accept Division I and III NCAA hockey scholarships, as well as spots with Canada's U Sports, Canada's governing body for university sports, which is the highest level of play at the Canadian university level.

      In addition, young players advance every year to the Ontario Hockey League and most seasons there are selections from the CCHL directly to the National Hockey League.

      Centrally located in the Ottawa region, the Lasers play a 62 game league schedule.

      The CCHL has been home to dozens of NHL stars, including Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Patrick Sharp and Jimmy Howard.