USA Hockey has released the schedule and divisions for the 2019 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 18U National Championships set for Grand Rapids, MI, April 3-8, 2019,
The tournament brings together the winners of the 12 USA Hockey District Championships, as well as four wildcard teams ... who were selected based upon the rankings of teams who did not qualify as their district champion according to the myhockeyrankings.com ranking and the USA Hockey National Tournament Seeding committee ... to crown a National Champion.
The tournament seeds the 16 teams into four brackets of round-robin competition, with the top two seeds from each division advancing to the quarter-finals and single-elimination competition to advance to the National Championship.
The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey U18 team was placed into a round-robin division with the Iowa Wild, Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers and Neponset Valley River Rats.
The Stars open the tournament on Wednesday, April 3, against the River Rats, out of Canton, MA, and the Massachusetts District, at the Griff's Georgetown Arena in Hudsonville, MI. Opening face-off is set for 6:00 p.m.
Neponset completed the season with a 21-6-2 record and a #6 ranking (according to www.myhockeyrankings.com). They were selected as an at-large wild card team.
Esmark returns to the ice on Thursday, April 4, and will square-off with the Jr. Rangers, out of Norwalk, CT, and the New England District, at the Griff's Georgetown Arena. Game time is set for 5:00 p.m.
Mid-Fairfield completed the season with a 17-7-4 record and a #8 ranking (according to www.myhockeyrankings.com). They were also selected as an at-large wild card team.
The Stars close out round-robin play against the Iowa Wild AAA Hockey Club, out of Des Moines, IA, and the Central District on Friday, April 5, at the South Side Arena, in Byron Center, MI. Opening face-off is set for 1:20 p.m.
Iowa finished the season ranked #35 (according to www.myhockeyrankings.com) with a 36-25-0 record.
The division brings a rich history to the event as Mid-Fairfield captured the U18 Tier I National Championship in 2017 and were National runner-ups in 2011 & 2003. Neponset Valley captured the U18 Tier I National Championship in 2013.
"We drew a tough bracket," said Stars head coach Dave Kosick. "All three of our round-robin opponents have had outstanding seasons and are programs with a rich legacy ... including a couple of National Championships. But that is truly what you expect at an this event."
The Stars U18 AAA Club, based out of Pittsburgh, PA, captured the Mid-American Hockey District Championship in Cleveland, OH, March 8-11, to advance to the National Championship. The Stars completed the season ranked #24 with a 45-12-1-1 record.
All the action will be streamed live on USAHockey.HockeyTV.com and daily schedules, scoring and stat leaders for the tournament can be found at (https://nationals.usahockey.com/page/show/4714238-2019-youth-tier-i-18u).