Pittsburgh, PA - Pittsburgh-based Esmark Stars U18 AAA club, proud members of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL), skated to the championship at the 15th Annual Motown Classic, presented by Legacy Global Sports, this past weekend,Oct. 18-20, in Detroit, MI.
The Stars and Amherst Knights opened play in the tournament's 18U AAA bracket, skating to a 1-1 tie. Ryder Brophy scored the lone Star's goal, with Eddie Pazo and Alex Walker earning assists. Connor Strobel stopped 16 of 17 Knights shots he faced to earn the tie in goal.
The Stars would then complete round-robin play with a pair of wins, 6-1, over Canadian Prep Club Midget Major Okanagan Hockey Academy - Ontario and a 1-0 shutout win over 18U AAA Michigan Hockey Advancement.
Against OHA - Ontario Eddie Pazo (2G, 2A) and Ryder Brophy (2G, 1A) each collected a pair of goals. While Dalton Swartz (1G, 1A) and Corbin Ragno scored the other Esmark goals. Alex Walker (3), Nikita Zapolski, Brayden Morgan, Dustin Geregach, and Lane Ruffner earned assists. Danny Mitchell stopped 15 of 16 shots he faced to pick up the win in goal.
In the shutout win over Michigan Hockey Academy, Ryder Brophy continued his goal scoring streak with assists to Corbin Ragno and Nikita Zapolski. Connor Strobel stopped all 20 shots he faced to get the win and shutout in goal.
Advancing to the quarter-finals as the tournament's number two seed, the Stars met up with wild-card Buffalo Regals and skated to a 3-1 win. Ryder Brophy (2G, 1A) and Dusting Geregach scored for the Stars. Eddie Pazo (2), Nikita Zapolski, Alex Walker and goaltender Danny Mitchell all earned assists. While Mitchell also stopped 15 of 16 shots he faced to earn the win in goal.
In the semi-finals, the 18U Stars and Team Illinois would settle in for a back and forth battle that saw the two clubs tied at 2-2 at the end of regulation. After a scoreless five-minute overtime session, the two clubs advanced to a three-man shootout, where both squads each scored one goal. This forced the game into a sudden-death shootout that the Stars captured in the first round as Dalton Swartz found the back of the net for the win and Connor Strobel denied TI's shooter to seal the victory. In regulation, Eddie Pazo (1G, 1A) and Alex Walker scored the Esmark goals. Dustin Geregach earned helpers on both goals. Corbin Ragno extended the shootout to a sudden death shootout by scoring in the third round of the three-man shootout to knot the first phase of the shootout 1-1. Strobel stopped 27 of 29 shots he faced in regulation and overtime, and 2 of 3 shots in the shootout and the lone shot he faced in the sudden death shootout to earn the win in goal.
In the championship game, the number two seeded Stars and the tournament's number one seed Canadian club Kingston Jr. Gaels, out of Ontario, would square-off in the Fraser Arena Stadium Arena on Sunday afternoon. The Stars would jump out to a 2-0 first period lead behind goals from Brayden Morgan and Eddie Pazo (2G, 1A). However, the Jr. Gaels would knot the score at 2-2 in the second period scoring a power-play goal and a rebound goal in a period in which the Stars played almost entirely shorthanded. Eddie Pazo restored the Stars to the lead and scored the game winner on the power-play midway through the third period. Ryder Brophy (1G, 1A) would collect an empty net goal in the final minute of regulation to seal the tournament championship game victory, 4-2, for Esmark. Dustin Geregach (2), Alex Walker (2), Nikita Zapolski, Jon Michaels also earned assists. Danny Mitchell stopped 25 of 27 shots he faced to earn the victory in goal.
The 5-0-1-0 showing in Detroit improves the Stars overall record to 14-1-3-2.