Wayne, NJ - The Esmark Stars U18 Midget Major AAA squad claimed the inaugural Tier 1 Hockey Federation (T1HF) Championship this past weekend (Feb 24 -26, 2023) in Wayne, NJ.
The Stars, who had claimed the T1HF regular season crown for the 18U AAA Division, which earned them a first round bye in the double elimination championship tournament, opened the tournament with a 3-2 win over the PAL Jr Islanders on Friday at the Ice Vault in Wayne, NJ.
Nathan Burlando would send the Stars home victorious in the as he collected the game-winner :29 seconds into overtime. Max Rutkowski and Ian Norkevicus picked up assists. In regulation play, Brody Simko opened the scoring :19 seconds into period two. Wesley Schwarzmiller and Colin Ruffner picked up assists. Then Max Rutkowski would knot the game at 2-2 midway through the third period on assists from Ruffner and Simko. Peter Baldwin secured the "W" in goal, stopping 15 of the 17 PAL Islander shots he faced. For the game, the Stars outshot the Islanders 34 - 17.
In their second game of the tournament, the Stars would take down the nation's #19 club, the New Jersey Rockets 4-1. Colin Ruffner would pace the offense as he scored a pair of goals. Wes Schwarzmiller (1G, 1A) and Derek Pietrzyk also scored goals. Ian Norkevicus (2A), Brody Simko (2A), Aiden Tarasovich and goaltender Nikita Volski all picked up assists. Volski was the winning goaltender, stopping 29 of the 30 shots he faced. The Stars outshot the Rockets 38 - 30 for the game.
The win vaulted the Stars into the league championship game and a rematch with the PAL Jr Islanders. Derek Pietrzyk would open the scoring a little over two minutes into the game, burying a rebound to give the Stars a 1-0 lead. Wes Schwarzmiller and Max Rutkowski picked up assists. The Stars would double their lead in the second, as Liam McClaine would score the eventual game winning goal on the power play mid-way through the second stanza. Nathan Burlando and Max Rutkowski picked up assists. Colin Ruffner would push the lead to 3-0 scoring an unassisted shorthanded-goal with a little over six minutes remaining in regulation. The Islanders would get on the board late, but the Stars held on for a 3-1 final to claim the inaugural TiHF league banner. Peter Baldwin earned his second win of the tournament, and second over the Islanders, as he turned aside 28 of the 29 shots he faced. The Stars outshot the Islanders 32 - 29 in the Championship game.