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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.

Esmark U18 Forward Signs NCDC Tender

By DLG 11/30/2022, 2:30pm EST

Ruffner SIGNS WITH Mercer Chiefs

Pittsburgh, PA - The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) are pleased to announce that 18U forward Colin Ruffner has signed a USPHL NCDC (National Collegiate Development Conference) tender agreement with the NCDC's New Jersey-based Mercer Chiefs.

The 2022-23 season is Ruffner's second season with Esmark's AAA Hockey program and first year with the Star's U18 squad.

The (5'11", 170 lbs.) 17 year-old from Upper St. Clair, PA, has registered 15 points (3 goals, 12 assists), in 8 North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) appearances so far this season, including one power play goal and two power play assists, for Esmark's U18 AAA Midget Major squad.

Overall this season to date, Ruffner, who is a senior at Upper St. Clair High School, has tallied 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists), including two power-play  goals, in 31 games played for Esmark.

During the 2021-22 season, Ruffner registered 23 points (16 goals, 7 assists), including two game-winning goals, in 27 North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) appearances (21 regular season and six Dixon Cup NAPHL Playoff games) in helping lead Esmark's  U16 AAA squad to the NAPHL's Dixon Cup Championship.

"Colin has a great set of hands ... and an elite level of vision and anticipation" said Esmark 18U head coach Dave Kosick. "He not only sees the ice and understands the options at remarkable speed, but his instincts, with or without the puck, in terms of options are fun to watch."

Ruffner becomes the fourth member of the 2022-2023 Esmark 18U AAA team to sign a tender with a Junior A Club for the the 2023-2024 season. He joins teammates Derek Pietrzyk, forward, Corpus Christi IceRays; Wesley Schwartzmiller, forward, Minnesota Wilderness; and defenseman, Ian Norkevicus, Fairbanks Ice Dogs; who all had previously tendered with North American Hockey League (NAHL) clubs

The Chiefs, who play in the NCDC's seven-team South Division along with the Connecticut Jr. Rangers, Jersey Hitmen, P.A.L. Junior Islanders, Rockets Hockey Club, Utica Jr Comets, and the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights, play at the Ice Land Arena in Hamilton, NJ, and are under the direction of Head Coach Rod Broderick.

A tender is a contract, of sorts, a player signs announcing his intentions to play for that particular NCDC team and that NCDC team only. Once a player signs a tender with an NCDC team, his playing rights belong to that team within the NCDC and he may not be recruited by any other NCDC team.

Weekend Preview: Nov 18 - 20

By DLG 11/29/2022, 12:15am EST

Stars Return from Thanksgiving Break

Pittsburgh, PA - The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Program will be in full swing this weekend, Dec. 2 - 4, as all seven Stars teams return to the ice from their Thanksgiving break and hit the ice for exciting AAA Hockey action.

The U11 Esmark Stars will travel north to Buffalo, NY, for a three-game road-trip against the Amherst Jr Knights this upcoming weekend. They face the Knights twice on Saturday, Dec 3 at the Northtown Center in Amherst, NY.  Face-offs are scheduled for 11:40 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. They close the three-game road trip on Sunday, Dec 4, at 8:30 a.m., at Hyde Park Arena in Niagara Falls, NY.

Both the U12 Stars and the U13 Stars will be home at Pittsburgh Ice Arena this weekend.

The 12U Pee Wee Major Stars open a three-game home weekend on Saturday, Dec 3, at 8:30 a.m. against the Palmyra Black Knights.  Later Saturday afternoon, they square-off against the Jersey Hitmen at 3:00 p.m., in Tier 1 Hockey Federation (T1HF) play. Then the Stars and Hitmen conclude the two game TIHF set on Sunday, Dec 4, at 8:00 a.m.

Meanwhile, the 13U Bantam Minor Stars will square-off with the Philadelphia Jr Flyers at 7:40 p.m. on Friday, Dec 2. Then on Saturday, Dec. 3, they host the Ohio Jr Blue Jackets in a double-header.  Face-offs are set for 12:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Admission to the U12 and U13 Stars games at Pittsburgh Ice Arena are free and Esmark fans and families are encouraged to attend.

The 18U, 16U, 15U and 14U teams will all be in Boston, MA, for the final regular season Elite Prospects Cup Series Showcase of the season. All showcase games will be held at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, MA.

The 14U Bantam Major Stars open the showcase on Friday, Dec 2, against the Connecticut Jr Rangers at 9:40 a.m., then face the Philadelphia Jr Flyers at 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, Dec. 3, they will square off with Westchester Express at 12:20 p.m. They close the four-game showcase on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 8:10 a.m. against the New Jersey Colonials.

The U15 Midget Pure Stars open the showcase on Friday, Dec 2, against the Connecticut Jr Rangers at 12:20 p.m. On Saturday, Dec. 3, they will square off with Team Maryland at 8:00 a.m., and then face the Philadelphia Jr Flyers at 5:50 p.m. They close the four-game showcase on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 8:00 a.m. against the Mercer Chiefs.

The U16 Midget Minor Stars open the showcase on Friday, Dec 2, against the Syracuse Nationals at 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, Dec. 3, they will square off with the New Jersey Colonials at 2:00 p.m., and then face the Connecticut Jr Rangers at 7:00 p.m. They close the four-game showcase on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 10:00 a.m. against the Mercer Chiefs.

The U18 Midget Major Stars open the showcase on Friday, Dec 2, against Seacoast Performance Academy (NH) at 2:00 p.m. On Saturday, Dec. 3, they will square off with the Florida Alliance at 2:00 p.m. They close the showcase on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 11:30 a.m. against the Syracuse Nationals.

U14 and U15 Stars Selected as Top Bantam Minor and Midget 15U Pure Player for Week 13

Pittsburgh, PA - Dylan Yearly, a member of the Midget U15 Pure Esmark Stars, and Maksim Popienko, a member of the Esmark Stars Bantam Minor (2009) squad, were each selected as the Player's of the Week for the 2007 and 2009, Midget 15U Pure and Bantam Minor, for week 13 of the Tier 1 Hockey Federation (T1HF) season.

Yearly was recognized for his outstanding play defensively, as well as offensively, helping lead Esmark to a pair of T1HF wins over the Jersey Hitmen.

Popienko was recognized for his work at the NAPHL Showcase in St. Louis. He finished the showcase / tournament as the second leading scorer, 8 points (6G, 2A) in the U13 division, and helped lead the Stars to the Championship game.

The T1HF announces the Players of the Week for each age classification at the conclusion of each week of play.

Esmark U18 Defenseman Signs NAHL Tender

By DLG 11/25/2022, 12:00pm EST

Norkevicus Signs with Fairbanks Ice Dogs

Pittsburgh, PA - The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) are pleased to announce that 18U defenseman Ian Norkevicus has signed a NAHL (North American Hockey League) tender agreement with the NAHL's Alaska-based Fairbanks Ice Dogs.

The 2022-23 season is Norkevicus' first season with Esmark's AAA Hockey program and first year with the Star's U18 squad.

The (5'11", 170 lbs.) 18 year-old from Pittsburgh, PA, is currently the leading scorer (defenseman) in NAPHL play and has registered 12 points (1 goal, 11 assists), in 8 North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) appearances so far this season, including three power play assists, for Esmark's U18 AAA Midget Major squad.

Overall this season to date, Norkevicus has tallied 32 points (5 goals, 27 assists), including one power play  goal, in 31 games played for Esmark.

"Ian has been a great addition to our club and defensive corp" said Esmark 18U head coach Dave Kosick. "His instincts, with and without the puck, and overall play to date have helped propel him to this tender opportunity. There has been considerable interest in signing him and Fairbanks landed a quality d-man with a bright future."

Norkevicus becomes the third member of the 2022-2023 Esmark 18U AAA team to sign a tender with a NAHL Junior A club, joining teammates Derek Pietrzyk, forward, who tendered with the Corpus Christi IceRays, and Wesley Schwartzmiller, forward, who tendered with the Minnesota Wilderness.

The Ice Dogs, who play in the NAHL's eight-team Midwest Division along with the Anchorage (AK) Wolverines, Chippewa (WI) Steel, Janesville (WI) Jets, Kenai River (AK) Brown Bears, Minnesota Wilderness, Springfield (MO) Jr Blues, and the Wisconsin Windigo, play in the Big Dipper Ice Arena in Fairbanks, AK, and are coached by Head Coach and former NHL'er Dave Allison.

A tender is a contract, of sorts, a player signs announcing his intentions to play for that particular NAHL team and that NAHL team only. Once a player signs a tender with an NAHL team, his playing rights belong to that team within the NAHL and he may not be recruited by any other NAHL team. Each team is granted ten (10) tenders, which include two (2) tenders exclusively used on players from the NAPHL - plus or minus any trades - which became active on November 1st. Tendered players are not eligible for the 2023 NAHL Draft.

Esmark U18 Forward Signs NAHL Tender

By DLG 11/21/2022, 10:00pm EST

Schwarzmiller Signs with Minnesota Wilderness

Pittsburgh, PA - The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) are pleased to announce that 18U forward Wesley Schwarzmiller has signed a NAHL (North American Hockey League) tender agreement with the NAHL's Minnesota Wilderness.

The 2022-23 season is Schwarzmiller's second season with Esmark's AAA Hockey program and first year with the Star's U18 squad.

The (6'1", 170 lbs.) 17 year-old from Pittsburgh, PA, is currently the second leading scorer in NAPHL play and has registered 19 points (6 goals, 13 assists), in 8 North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) appearances so far this season, including one power play goal and one game winning goal for Esmark's U18 AAA Midget Major squad.

Overall this season to date, Schwarzmiller, a senior at South Fayette High School, has tallied 53 points (22 goals, 31 assists), including three power play and one shorthanded goal, in 31 games played for Esmark.

During the 2021-22 season, Schwarzmiller registered 29 points (14 goals, 19 assists), including four game-winning goals, one power play goal and two shorthanded goals in 30 North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) appearances (24 regular season and six Dixon Cup NAPHL Playoff games) in helping lead Esmark's  U16 AAA squad to the NAPHL Dixon Cup Championship.

Overall during the 2021-22 season, Schwarzmiller, tied for the scoring lead for Esmark's Midget Minor team as he tallied 58 points (32 goals, 26 assists), including nine power-play and two shorthanded goals, in 67 games played.

"Wes is an extremely bright young man who is gifted with elite level hockey skill" said Esmark 18U head coach Dave Kosick. "He has good size and strength and he matches that with a very cerebral approach to the game."

Schwarzmiller becomes the second member of the 2022-2023 Esmark 18U AAA team to sign a tender with a NAHL Junior A club, joining teammate Derek Pietrzyk, forward, who tendered with the Corpus Christi IceRays.

The Wilderness, who play in the NAHL's eight-team Midwest Division along with the Anchorage (AK) Wolverines, Chippewa (WI) Steel, Fairbanks (AK) Ice Dogs, Janesville (WI) Jets, Kenai River (AK) Brown Bears, Springfield (MO) Jr Blues, and the Wisconsin Windigo, play in the Northwoods Credit Union Arena in Cloquet, MN, and are coached by Head Coach / General Manager David Boitz.

A tender is a contract, of sorts, a player signs announcing his intentions to play for that particular NAHL team and that NAHL team only. Once a player signs a tender with an NAHL team, his playing rights belong to that team within the NAHL and he may not be recruited by any other NAHL team. Each team is granted ten (10) tenders, which include two (2) tenders exclusively used on players from the NAPHL - plus or minus any trades - which became active on November 1st. Tendered players are not eligible for the 2023 NAHL Draft.

Esmark Wins Championship Game in OT Shootout

St. Peters, MO - The Esmark Stars U12 (2010) Pee Wee Major squad captured the first NAPHL 12U AAA Showcase Tournament of the season this past weekend at the St. Peter's Rec Plex in St. Peters, MO.

The Stars opened the event with a 10 - 1 pounding of the Jersey Shore Whalers on Friday, Nov. 18. Jordan Lucca (3G) led the offense with a three-goal hat-trick. Caden Biddle (2G, 1A), Quinn Mitchell (1G, 1A), Asan Abdygulov (1G, 1A), Connor Zuri, Beau Ritson and Nathan Ross also scored goals for the Stars. Cole Schwartz (3A), Logan Jenkins and Xypher Zamias all picked up assists. Xavier Haduch was the winning goalie.

The Stars grabbed their second round-robin win with a 4-3 win over the host CarShiled AAA team on Saturday morning. Cole Schwartz (1G, 1A) and Asan Abdygulov (1G, 1A) paced the Stars offense. Connor Zuri and Jordan Lucca also scored goals. Patrick Mahoney, Quinn Mitchell and Liam Lehneke all picked up assists. Xavier Haduch was the winning goaltender.

The Stars closed round-robin play Saturday afternoon dropping a 3-2 decision to the Indiana Elite. Beau Ritson scorred both Esmark goals awith Caden Biddle recording both assists. Zeke Fagan suffered the loss in goal.

The Stars would advance to the championship game, based upon tie breaker rules, and would advance to a rematch with the Indiana Elite for the tournament title.

Esmark would then go on to claim redemption, as well as the showcase title, with a 5-4 overtime shootout win over the Indy Elite 12U AAA team in a rematch of their round-robin game. Logan Jenkins (2G, 1A)  led the offensive with a pair of goals. Asan Absygulov, who scored the Stars opening goal, and Nathan Ross, who knotted the game at 4-4 midway through the third period, collected the other Stars goals. Caleb Nehnevajsa and Jordan Lucca picked up assists. Following a scoreless four minute 3-on-3 overtime, the two teams advanced to a shootout with the Stars winning in the fourth round. All four Stars shooters (Asan Abdygulov, Beau Ritson, Jordan Lucca and Conner Eich) scored goals. Indy matched the Stars for the first three shooters, but the Elite's fourth shooter failed to score and the Stars secured the Showcase Championship. Zeke Fagen recorded the win in goal for the Stars.

Esmark U18 Forward Signs NAHL Tender

By DLG 11/17/2022, 2:00pm EST

Pietrzyk Signs with Corpus Christi

Pittsburgh, PA - The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) are pleased to announce that 18U forward Derek Pietrzyk has signed a NAHL (North American Hockey League) tender agreement with the NAHL's Corpus Christi IceRays.

The 2022-23 season is Pietrzkys' fourth season with Esmark's AAA Hockey program and second season with the Star's U18 squad.

The (6'0", 181 lbs.) 18 year-old from Pittsburgh, PA, has registered 8 points (5 goals, 3 assists), in 8 North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) appearances so far this season, including one game winning goal for Esmark's U18 AAA Midget Major squad.

Overall this season to date, Pietrzyk has tallied 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists), including one power play and one shorthanded goal, in 29 games played for Esmark.

During the 2021-22 season, Pietrzyk registered 7 points (4 goals, 3 assists), including one game-winning goal, in 25 North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) appearances (20 regular season and five Dixon Cup NAPHL Playoff games) for Esmark's U18 AAA squad.

Overall during the 2021-22 season, Pietrzyk tallied 17 points (10 goals, 7 assists), including two power-play goals, in 47 games played for Esmark in an injury shorten season.

Pietrzyk skated for Esmark's U16 team during the 2020-21 season and their U15 team during the 2019-20 season.

"Derek has the build, size and strength to be a successful power forward in the junior world" said Esmark 18U head coach Dave Kosick. "He is a big strong kid who thrives in the tough areas of the game.  And as his overall game continues to develop and evolve his future is bright, as he has all the tools of today's elite power forwards."

Pietrzyk becomes the first member of the 2022-2023 Esmark 18U AAA team to sign a tender with a Junior A club. 

The IceRays, who play in the NAHL's eight-team South Division along with the Amarillo (TX) Wranglers, El Paso (TX) Rhinos, Lone Star (TX) Brahmas, New Mexico Ice Wolves, Odessa (TX) Jackalopes, Oklahoma Warriors and Shreveport (LA) Mudbugs, play in the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi and are coached by Sylvain Clouthier.

A tender is a contract, of sorts, a player signs announcing his intentions to play for that particular NAHL team and that NAHL team only. Once a player signs a tender with an NAHL team, his playing rights belong to that team within the NAHL and he may not be recruited by any other NAHL team. Each team is granted ten (10) tenders, which include two (2) tenders exclusively used on players from the NAPHL - plus or minus any trades - which became active on November 1st. Tendered players are not eligible for the 2023 NAHL Draft.

Weekend Preview: Nov 18 - 20

By DLG 11/14/2022, 8:15am EST

Exciting Esmark Hockey Action Set for this Upcoming Weekend

Pittsburgh, PA - The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Program will be in full swing this weekend, Nov. 18 - 20, as six of the seven Stars teams hit the ice for exciting AAA Hockey action.

The Stars youngest squads (U11, U12 and U13) will travel to St. Louis, MO, for a North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) Showcase.  All games at the event will be played at the St. Peters Rec Plex, in St. Peters, MO.

The U11 Esmark Stars open play on Friday, Nov 18, 5:00 p.m., against the Indy Jr Fuel. Then on Saturday, Nov 19, the Stars Pee Wee Minor squad will face CarShield (MO) AAA, 11:00 a.m., and the Tri-State Spartans (OH), 5:00 p.m., to complete round-robin play. Cross-over game times and opponents for Sunday will be determined by standings.

The U12 Esmark Stars open play on Friday, Nov 18, 6:00 p.m., against the Jersey Shore Whalers. Then on Saturday, Nov 19, the Stars Pee Wee Major squad will face CarShield (MO) AAA, 9:30 a.m., and the Indy Jr Fuel, 2:30 p.m., to complete round-robin play. Cross-over game times and opponents for Sunday will be determined by standings.

The U13 Esmark Stars open play on Friday, Nov 18, 3:00 p.m., against the Indy Jr Fuel. Then on Saturday, Nov 19, the Stars Bantam Minor squad will face the Tri-State Spartans (OH), 1:00 p.m., and the Jersey Shore Whalers, 7:00 p.m., to complete round-robin play. Cross-over game times and opponents for Sunday will be determined by standings.

Rounding out this weekend's action, Esmark's Midget (U15, U16 and U18) Stars teams will each welcome the Jersey Hitmen (U15, U16 and U18) to Pittsburgh Ice Arena for a pair of weekend games.

The U15 Midget games, which are Tier I Hockey League (T1HL) games, are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 19,  at 3:00 p.m., and for Sunday, Nov. 20, at 8:00 a.m.

The U16 Midget Minor games, which are Tier I Hockey League (T1HL) games, are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 19,  at 5:00 p.m., and for Sunday, Nov. 20, at 10:00 a.m.

And finally the U18 Midget Major games are scheduled to face-off Saturday, Nov. 19,  at 7:00 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 20, at 12:00 p.m.

Admission to the games at Pittsburgh Ice Arena is free and Stars fans and families are encouraged to attend.

The U14 Bantam Major Stars will travel to Columbus, OH, for a last-minute weekend set with the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets. The Jackets and Stars will face-off at 1:40 and 7:55 p.m. on Saturday at the Chiller North Rink in Lewis Center, OH. The Bantam Major Stars were scheduled to travel north to the greater Buffalo region for a four-game road trip, however that trip and the games have been cancelled due to a large snowstorm in the western New York region.

Weekend Preview: Nov 11 - 13

By DLG 11/10/2022, 6:45pm EST

Exciting Esmark Hockey Action Set for this Upcoming Weekend

Pittsburgh, PA - The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Program will be back in action this Veterans Day Weekend, Nov. 11 - 13.

The U16 and U18 Midget Stars will be in Omaha, NE, for the first of two Verbero Midwest Showcases. All Showcase games will be held at the Liberty First Credit Union Arena in Ralston, NE, home of the USHL's Omaha Lancers.

Updates, standings and scores can be found at (https://www.verberoshowcaseseries.com/).

The U18 Esmark squad (21-3-1-1) open play on Friday, Nov 10, at 12:45 p.m., against Minnesota powerhouse Northstar Christian Academy Knights (17-2-0-0),  ranked #5 in the MyHockeyRankings.com overall 18U rankings. On Saturday, Nov 11, the Midget Major Stars hook-up with the host club Omaha Mastery 18U AAA (17-9-0-2), ranked #44 in the MyHockeyRankings.com National-Bound 18U rankings, at 10:30 a.m. Esmark's U18 squad close the showcase on Sunday, Nov 13, at 10:30 a.m., against the Chicago Reapers (20-3-1-5), ranked #14 in the MyHockeyRankings.com National-Bound 18U rankings.

The U16 Stars (20-5-1-2) open play on Friday, Nov 10, at 12:45 p.m., against the Chicago Reapers (9-12-0-6),  ranked #36 in the National-Bound 16U rankings. On Saturday, Nov 11, the Midget Minor Stars hook-up with the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders U166 AAA (13-5-1-1) at 10:30 a.m., ranked #31 in the MyHockeyRankings.com National-Bound 16U rankings. Esmark's U16 squad close the showcase on Sunday, Nov 13, at 10:30 a.m., against Minnesota powerhouse Northstar Christian Academy Knights (14-3-2-0), ranked #19 in the MyHockeyRankings.com National-Bound 16U rankings.

Four Stars teams are set for exciting home action this weekend.

The U11 Esmark Stars will host the U11 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite on Friday, Nov 11, 7:00 p.m., at the Palmer Imaging Center in Delmont.

The U12 Stars will host the Pittsburgh Predators U12 squad at 9:30 a.m., on Saturday, Nov 12 at the Pittsburgh Ice Arena in New Kensington.

The U13 Bantam Minor squad will host the Amherst Knights U13 squad in a pair of games on Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Pittsburgh Ice Arena. Opening face-offs are set for 1:10 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

And the U14 Bantam Major Stars will host play host to a three-game set at Pittsburgh Ice Arena. On Saturday, Nov 12, the Stars open the home-stand with a 12:00 p.m. game against the Cheektowaga (NY) Warriors.  Then at 6:00 p.m., the Stars and the Utica (NY) Jr Comets will square-off. On Sunday, Nov 13, Esmark's 14U squad will close the weekend home-stand with a 8:00 a.m. game against Cheektowaga.

The U15 AAA Stars will enjoy an off weekend.

NAPHL Apex Learning Peak Performers - October

By Alex Kyrias 11/07/2022, 8:15am EST

Esmark U18 Defenseman Norkevicus Earns Honor

Dallas, TX – The North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) has announced its Apex Learning Virtual School Peak Performers for the month of October. The players were selected based upon their performance during the NAPHL regular season games played in October at the T1ER event in Blaine, MN.

T1ER 18U

Defenseman: Ian Norkevicus, Esmark Stars – Norkevicus, 18, had eight points in four games in October for the first place Stars. The 5’11"/170 lbs. native of Pittsburgh, PA, had one goal and seven assists, including a five-point game, as the Stars completed a perfect 4-0-0-0 record at the event. He leads all NAPHL T1ER 18U defensemen in scoring with 12 points in NAPHL play.

Now in its 14th season, the NAPHL is composed of 18U, 16U, 15U, and 14U teams from across North America that compete at the Tier I level. The NAPHL provides an organized and competitive experience with an unrivaled scouting presence guaranteed to benefit all of the participating student-athletes and programs. Not only have players in the NAPHL received recognition from NHL Central Scouting, dozens more have received scholarships to NCAA Division I schools and hundreds more have been drafted and tendered by NAHL and USHL teams.

The NAPHL, which is sanctioned by USA Hockey, is designed to maximize the exposure of all the participants through the NAHL's high-profile recruiting events that attract hundreds of college, junior and professional scouts. For more information on the NAPHL, visit (www.naphl.com).