Pittsburgh, PA - The schedule for the 2021 Chipotle-USA Hockey Tier I U18 National Championship Tournament has been released by USA Hockey.
The tournament, which includes the Pittsburgh-based Esmark Stars U18 AAA Club, is a 16-team invitational tournament that will crown a National Champion for amateur hockey in the Tier I AAA U18 Division.
That announcement includes brackets and the final schedule for the tournament that kicks-off next Wednesday, April 28, 2021, and runs through May 3, 2021, in Maryland Heights, Mo.
The tournament field is comprised of 11 District Champions and 5 Wild Card teams, as selected by USA Hockey, to compete for the National Championship. The nation is divided into 12 Districts with each District winner gaining an automatic bid to Nationals (but the Massachusetts District opted to not hold their District Tournament due to Covid-19 this season, expanding the wild card selection to five teams).
The Esmark Stars U18 AAA squad (43-18-7-0), ranked as the #12 team in the nation by www.myhockeyrankings.com), received one of the five Wild-Card selections from USA Hockey.
The Stars were placed in "Pool Play Liberty" for the event, along with the Rhode Island Saints, North Jersey Avalanche and Nashville Jr. Predators.
The 18U AAA tournament will open next Wednesday, April 28, at 10:15 a.m. (CST) with the Stars facing the Nation's #4 ranked Rhode Island Saints (21-2-3-1), winner of the New England District, at the Ice Zone Rink in Hazelwood, MO.
On Thursday, April 29, the Stars will square-off at 6:00 p.m. (CST) with the the Nation's #5 ranked North Jersey Avalanche (38-7-2-2), winner of the Atlantic District, at the Centene Community Ice Center in Maryland Heights, MO.
The Stars close round-robin play with a 3:15 p.m. (CST) face-off against the Nations #9 ranked Nashville Jr. Predators (39-12-2-2), winner of the Southeastern District, at the Ice Zone Rink.
The top two teams from each division (USA, Olympic, NHL and Liberty) advance to the quarter-finals on Saturday, May 1, at the Centene Community Ice Center.
Winners of the quarter-finals will advance to the semi-finals on Sunday, May 2, at the Centene Community Ice Center.
The semi-final winners will meet for the National Championship on Monday, May 3, at 10:15 a.m., at the Centene Community Ice Center.
All Nationals action will be streamed live at HockeyTV.com.
This will be the third straight season that the 18U AAA Esmark Stars AAA team will have earned a spot, or been named to the field, for USA Hockey's 18U Tier I National Championships.
Esmark claimed the Mid-American 18U Tier I title the past two seasons, 2018-2019 and 2019-2020, and the automatic spot in the National Championships as Mid-Am District Champions.
Unfortunately, last season's National Championship was cancelled due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.