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Pidro Commits to NCAA Div. III Wilkes University

By DLG 07/15/2018, 11:45am EDT


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.

NHL's Hurricanes select Jake Kucharski

By DLG 06/29/2018, 11:30pm EDT

Former Esmark Goalie 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 is expected to return next season.

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."

Singley Commits to Ohio University

By DLG 06/29/2018, 12:30am EDT

Esmark Stars 18U Forward Commits to ACHA Div I Bobcats

Athens, OH - The Ohio University Bobcats have announced the addition of power forward Alex Singley to their men's hockey squad beginning with the 2018-19 season.

"We are excited about what Alex brings to the table," said Ohio University head coach Sean Hogan. "He will fit our culture at Ohio Hockey and will excel in his four years in Athens."

Singley, from Latrobe, PA, who was selected in the annual North American Hockey League (NAHL) draft by the Johnstown Tomahawks in 2016, spent the last two seasons with the Tomahawks, accumulating 5 points in 49 games.

He also spent part of  last season  with the Esmark Stars U18 AAA team, where he totaled 19 points (7 goals and 12 assists) in 31 games.

Prior to joining the Tomahawks, the 6'2", 195 lbs. right-handed shooting forward, skated for Esmark's U16 squad for two seasons.

"Alex will be a great fit for the Bobcats," said Esmark U18 AAA head coach Dave Kosick. "His gritty style of play and physical approach will make him a fan favorite."

"Ohio University has a beautiful campus with a lot to offer," Singley offered. "I really love the college town feel that OU provides."

"Even as a visitor, I felt right at home in the town of Athens ... and the support Ohio Hockey receives from the school is second to none. From being treated very well on and off the ice, to the huge crowds in Bird Arena, it is all going to be an awesome experience and I am extremely excited to get started in the fall of 2018."

Ohio Hockey, established in 1958, will mark the 61st year of Bobcat Hockey this upcoming season.

The Bobcats Men's Hockey program participates in the Division I ranks of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) in the Central States Collegiate Hockey League. The CSCHL includes Lindenwood University, Robert Morris-Illinois, Iowa State University and the University of Illinois.

During the 2017-18 season, the Bobcats, who play all their home games at the historic Bird Arena on the campus of Ohio University, compiled a 25-9-2  record and claimed first place in the CSCHL.

The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey program is a  proud member of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL).

Hilzendeger Tenders with Kenai River Brown Bears

The Esmark Stars of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) are pleased to announce that 18U forward Nathan Hilzendeger has signed a North American Hockey League (NAHL) tender agreement with the Kenai River Brown Bears of the NAHL’s Midwest Division.

Hilzendeger, 19, who completed his second year at 18U, recorded 9 points (6 goals, 3 assists), including one power-play goal, in 18 regular season NAPHL games this season, helping lead the Stars into the NAPHL Playoffs and their first 18U Dixon Cup as NAPHL league playoff champions. In the Star's five playoff game run to the Dixon Cup, he recorded an additional three assists.

Post-season, Hilzendeger was selected to and participated in the 2018 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament were he recorded 2 points (1 goal and 1 assist), including a game winning goal, in four games. The event which featured eight teams comprised of some of the top U18 AAA players in the world , including two teams from the NAPHL, was held in conjunction with the 2018 NAHL Robertson Cup National Championship.

Overall during the 2017-18 season, the 6’3" / 215 lbs. native of Washington, PA, recorded 36 points (20 goals, 16 assists) in 61 games, including three power-play goals, and finished with a +25 plus/minus rating for the Stars U18 AAA team.

During the 2016-17 campaign, Hilzendeger recorded 7 points (5 goals, 2 assists), including one power-play goal, in 25 NAPHL regular season and playoff games.  Overall, he recorded 22 points (13 goals, 6 assists) in 56 games, including three power play goals for the U18 Stars. 

"Hilzy has demonstrated that perseverance pays off," said Stars 18U head coach Dave Kosick. "He has worked his backside off each and every day."

"He also understood that you can't be in a hurry," Kosick added.

"Today, so many new U18 players are in a rush to get a tender without putting in the work and time necessary to develop the skill set and game that junior clubs are looking to see."

Hilzendeger is the sixth player from this year’s Esmark Stars 18U team who has signed an NAHL tender agreement, joining Jared (J.T.) Schmizzi and Parker Brown (Fairbanks Ice Dogs); Ethan Webb and Andrew Murphy (Johnstown Tomahawks); and Blake Rossi (Amarillo Bulls).

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 Nov. 1. Tendered players are not eligible for the NAHL draft, which will be held on June 5, 2018

Stars Shine at NAPHL Top Prospects Tournament

By DLG 05/15/2018, 6:15pm EDT

Five Esmark Players Selected

Frisco, TX – The North American Hockey League (NAHL) unveiled a new and exciting event, the 18U Top Prospects Invitational Tournament, this past weekend, May 11 – 13, 2018, which was designed to showcase elite level players for future NAHL, USHL, NCAA and Professional Hockey scouts and five members of the 2017-18 U18 Esmark Stars AAA squad participated.

The Showcase Tournament, which included eight different teams made up of 160 top prospects in the 18U division from around the world, featured teams from the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) East and West, Tier 1 Elite League (East and West), as well as two teams from Minnesota High School Hockey, and team’s representing the Atlantic Youth Hockey League (AYHL), and European stars.  Each team consisted of a 20-man roster (12 forwards, 6 defensemen and 2 goalies).

The five Esmark players, defensemen Ethan Webb, Billy Rapone and Blake Rossi, and forwards Andrew Murphy and Nathan Hilzendeger, all skated for the NAPHL East squad.

The Tournament took place at the Fogerty Arena in Blaine, MN, and coincided with the NAHL’s 2018 Roberston Cup Championship, in which the Shreveport Mudbugs claimed their first NAHL crown.  Each team played four games during the event, including three round-robin games, followed by consolation and championship games.

The NAPHL East squad finished round-robin play 2-0-0-1, defeating the Minnesota High School Seniors team (6-1) and the Atlantic Youth Hockey League (5-2), before falling to the Tier 1 Elite League West squad 3-2 in overtime.  The loss relegated the NAPHL East squad to third place and a consolation game against the Minnesota HP 18U squad, were they lost in a overtime shootout (4-3).

During the event, all five Stars players made there way onto the score sheet, led by Murphy (3 goals, 1 assist) and Rossi (1 goal, 3 assists) who each recorded four points.  In addition, Rapone recorded 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists), and Hilzendeger (1 goal, 1 assist) and Webb (2 assists) two points each.

“This was an awesome opportunity for elite level players to continue to showcase their skills and talent to high-end scouts looking to fill our rosters for next season and beyond,” offered Stars U18 head coach Dave Kosick.  “And our five Esmark guys grabbed that opportunity and had a fantastic showing.”

The five players from Esmark represented the single largest block of players from a single organization in the tournament field.

“This event was designed to expand our horizons and partner with a variety of leagues while providing some incredible exposure for top flight players and have them play in front of a large number of scouts and coaches, including the NAHL, who attended this event,” said NAHL Director of Player Personnel and NAPHL Director Tony Zasowski

Over the past two seasons, the NAHL has hosted the Robertson Cup National Championship in the state of Minnesota (2016-Edina, 2017-Duluth). Doing so has not only brought everyone to a central location to compete for the oldest junior hockey trophy in the United States, but it has also drawn the interest of scouts.  Close to 200 NHL, NCAA, and NAHL scouts have attended the event the past two seasons, with over two dozen NAHL players making an NCAA Division I commitment following the events.

Former Star Shines at World U18 Championships

By DLG 04/26/2018, 11:15pm EDT

Danny Tkac skates for Team Slovakia

Former Esmark Stars forward Daniel Tkac is enjoying his experience with Team Slovakia  at the 2018 Ice Hockey U18 World Championships in Chelyabinsk & Magnitogorsk, Russia.

Tkac, who skated for a pair of seasons with Yuri Krivokhija's U16 Esmark team (2015-16 & 2016 - 17) helped lead Slovakia into the tournament's quarter-finals picking up a goal, against the host Russians, and a pair of assists during round-robin play.

Team Slovakia completed round-robin play 2-2-0, picking up wins over the Czech Republic and France, while dropping games to Finland and Russia.

In the quarter-finals, Slovakia bowed out to Team Sweden, 6-1, in a crossover game.

"I am delighted that Danny received an opportunity to put on Slovakia's jersey and represent his country in the World U18 Championships," said Krivokhija. "What a great honor."

Tkac joins Esmark U18 defenseman Tomas Krukovski in skating with their national teams this season.  Krukovski skated for Team Lithuania at the World Junior Championships in Bled, Slovenia earlier in the year.

Esmark Players play prominent role in Capturing Tournament Title

Four members of the Esmark Stars U18 AAA club played prominent roles in helping Team Pittsburgh capture the 2018 America's Showcase St. Louis Tournament in St. Louis, MO.

Forwards Olda Virag and Nick Caretta, defenseman Andrew Jacobs and goaltender Ty Barkley all celebrated the team's 4-3 overtime victory over Team Illinois to claim the championship and close out a 6-0-0-0 run to the tournament title.

Pittsburgh opened the tournament with three regulation wins in round-robin play, skating past Team Missouri Blue (4-2), as Jacobs recorded an assist and Barkley the win in goal; Team New Jersey (7-3), as Jacobs and Virag scored goals; and Team Wisconsin (8-4), as Caretta recorded a goal and an assist and Barkley earned the win in goal.

In quarter-final play, Team Pittsburgh upended Team Missouri White, 7-2, as Caretta recorded a pair of goals and an assist, Virag, two assists, and Jacobs, one assist.

In semi-final action, Team Pittsburgh defeated Team Colorado Burgundy (4-3) in overtime as Virag scored the game winner 6:26 into overtime.  Barkley earned the win in goal as he kicked aside 28 of the 31 shots he faced.

In the championship, Nick Caretta sent Pittsburgh home as tournament champions as he netted the game winner 5:23 in overtime on the power play, with an assist from Olda Virag.  Earlier in the game, Virag scored a goal with a helper from Caretta. Ty Barkley turned aside 25 of the 28 shots he faced to earn the win in goal.

The Esmark Stars, and its predecessor programs, have always afforded their players an opportunity to compete on both the national Tier I level and the local high school hockey level ... something unique to most area and national Tier I programs.  

America's Showcase was founded in 1985 to provide the nation’s premier high school players an opportunity to be scouted by high-level programs so those players who participate may further their hockey careers in prep school, juniors, college, and beyond.

The current five-day showcase consists of boys and girls divisions represented by 24 boys teams and 8 girls teams from across the country that gives scouts opportunities to recruit from the wealth of talent on the ice. 

This season the tournament was relocated to St. Louis, MO, and renamed as America's Showcase St. Louis.  St. Peter's predecessor Plex served as the home rink.

NAPHL announces 18U Division All-Star Team for 2017-18 Season

The North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) has announced All-NAPHL First, Second and Third Teams in the 18U division for the 2017-18 season.

The Esmark Stars U18 AAA had two players, Ethan Webb, defenseman, and Parker Brown, forward, selected as second-team All-Stars to the All-NAPHL 18U team.

In 18 regular season NAPHL games and five NAPHL playoff games, Brown tallied 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points, including one power-play goal.  He was also selected to play in the NAPHL U18 game where he scored a goal for Team South who dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to Team North.

Overall, in 61 games, Brown tallied 21 goals and 36 assists for 57 points, including 4 power-play goals and a short-handed goal.

In 18 regular season NAPHL games and five NAPHL playoff games, Webb tallied 3 goals and 14 assists for 17 points, including 1 power-play goal.  He was also selected to play in the NAPHL U18 game where he recorded an assist for Team South.

Overall, he tallied 45 points (7 goals and 38 assists), including one power play goal, in 61 games played by the U18.

Brown and Webb helped lead the U18 Stars to their first ever Dixon Cup Championship as 2017-18 playoff champions of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL, a 36-17-2-6 overall record and and to the Mid-American District Championship game where they finished as runner-up to the nation's number one ranked 18U team.

Both players have received tenders for the 2018-19 season, with Brown tendering with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Webb with the Johnstown Tomahawks of the North American Hockey League (NAHL).  Webb appeared in 3 games for the Tomahawks this season and recorded an assist.

"Brownie and Webby both had outstanding seasons and deserve all the accolades they have received," said Stars U18 head coach Dave Kosick. "They both understood that rewards come from hard work and they certainly brought their A-game all season long."

NAPHL announces 16U Division All-Star Team for 2017-18

The North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) has announced All-NAPHL First, Second and Third Teams in the 16U division for the 2017-18 season.

The Esmark Stars U16 AAA had two players, Kenny Vought and Ryan Hastings, selected to the All-NAPHL teams.

Vought was selected as the first-team Goaltender for the All-NAPHL 16U Team. In eight regular season NAPHL games and two NAPHL playoff games, he recorded a save percentage of .949, a goals against average (GAA) of 1.10 and a record of 7-2-0-1, including 4 shutouts, in 10 games played (8 regular season and 2 playoff appearances) and helped lead the Stars to a second place finish in the NAPHL regular season.

Overall, in 31 appearances, Vought recorded a save percentage of .925, a goals against average (GAA) of 1.44,  recorded 7 shutouts and posted a record of 17-9-2-1, helping lead the U16 Stars to the Mid-American District Championship and a spot in the USA Hockey Tier I U16 National Championships.

Hastings, Captain of the U16 Stars, was selected as a third-team Defenseman to the All-NAPHL 16U Team. In 17 regular season NAPHL games and four NAPHL playoff games,, he tallied 6 goals and 7 assists for 13 points, including 1 power play goal.  He was also selected to play in the NAPHL U16 game where he scored a goal and helped lead Team East to a 5-4 win.

Overall, Hastings tallied 27 points (10 goals and 17 assists), including 5 power play goals, in 62 games played and led a defensive corp that helped lead the U16 Stars to the Mid-American District Championship and a spot in the USA Hockey Tier I U16 National Championships.

"I am very proud of both Kenny and Ryan," said Stars U16 head coach Yuri Krivokhija. "I admire their team-first mentality and am happy to see that they were recognized by our league for their efforts."

NAPHL announces 15U Division All-Star Team for 2017-18

The North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) has announced All-NAPHL First, Second and Third Teams in the 15U division for the 2017-18 season.

The Esmark Stars U15 AAA had two players, Alexander Walker and Trent Gray, selected to the All-NAPHL teams.

Walker was selected as a second-team forward to the All-NAPHL 15U Team. In nine regular season NAPHL games and four NAPHL playoff games, he tallied 9 goals and 4 assists for 13 points, including 3 power play goals and 1 short-handed goal. Overall, he tallied 71 points (29 goals and 42 assists), including 4 power play goals and 2 short-handed goals, in 60 games played. 

Gray was selected as a third-team defenseman to the All-NAPHL 15U Team. In nine regular season NAPHL games and four NAPHL playoff games,, he tallied 6 goals and 4 assists for 10 points, including 1 power play goal and 1 short-handed goal.  Overall, he tallied 36 points (13 goals and 26 assists), including 3 power play goals and 1 short-handed goal, in 58 games played. 

"I was thrilled to hear both boys were selected," said Stars U15 head coach Derik Gaworski. "Their received the recognition for the hard work and effort that they brought to the rink each day. They also understand that individual awards come from being part of a good team and that these awards are truly earned and shared by the team."