Wayne, NJ - The Esmark Stars U18 AAA squad skated to the title of the USPHL Cup this weekend in Wayne, NJ.
The tournament, brought together top teams from the Tier 1 Hockey Federation (T1HF), including regular season and playoff champion Esmark Stars U18 AAA, and the USPHL league to decide an overall champion.
The Stars opened play on Friday evening with a 7-0 shutout win over the New Hampshire Jr Monarchs of the USPHL. Brody Simko (2G, 1A), Hudson Howard (1G, 1A), Cole Bianchin (1G, 2A), Mark Trischler, Max Rutkowski and Wes Schwarzmiller scored goals. Trischler's goal came on the power-play as the Stars scored on their only man-advantage. They also killed all three Monarch power plays. Aaron Stawiarski (2A), Brooks Willoughby-Ray (2A), Owen Cross, Evan Ng, Ian Norkevicus and Liam McClaine added assists. Peter Baldwin turned aside all 16 shots he faced to record the win and shutout in goal.
On Saturday, the Stars posted a 4-0 shutout win over the Boston Advantage. Ian Norkevicus (1G, 1A), Zack Hardy, Brooks Willoughby-Ray, and Cole Bianchin scored goals for the Stars. Norkevicus' goal came while the Stars were shorthanded. Willoughby-Ray and Bianchin scored power play goals as the Stars were 2 for 4 with the man-advantage. The Stars also killed all six Boston power plays. Wes Schwarzmiller (2A), Max Rutkowski (2A), Brody Simko and Derek Pietrzyk picked up assists. Nikita Volski, stopped all 26 Boston shots he faced to earn the win and shut-out in goal.
The Stars hooked-up on Saturday evening with the Jersey Hitmen of the T1HF in the final game of round play. Both the Stars and Hitmen both took the ice knowing they had already clinched a spot in the tournament championship game and a scheduled rematch on Sunday. In the concluding round-robin game, the Stars would drop a tough 3-2 decision in a shootout, following a five-minute 3-on-3 overtime and a 2-2 regulation score. Hunter Furman and Max Rutkowski scored goals for the Stars. Rutkowski's goal came while the Stars had the man-advantage. The Stars finished 1 for 3 with the man-advantage while the Hitmen were 0 for 3 on the powerplay. Ian Norkevicus, Wes Schwarzmiller and Brooks Willoughby-Ray each picked up an assist. Peter Baldwin suffered the loss in goal despite turning aside 32 of 34 Hitmen shots he faced in regulation and in 3-on-3 overtime action. The Hitmen scored the lone goal in a 3-man shootout to claim the win.
In the championship game on Sunday, the Stars and Hitmen would battle to a 1-1 tie through regulation, as each team scored once on the power play. Aaron Stawiarski scored the Stars power play goal on assists from Alex Paluso and Cole Bianchin The Hitmen finished 1 for 4 with the man advantage, while the Stars would finish 1 for 3 on the power play. Nikita Volski recorded the win in goal stopping 32 of 33 Hitmen shots he faced in regulation and overtime. The Stars outshot the Hitmen 39-33 through the first 56 minutes of regulation and overtime. In the opening 3-man shootout both the Hitmen and Stars would score one goal each with Cole Bianchin netting the Stars goal. That forced a sudden-death shootout between the clubs that would last three additional rounds. Bianchin would again find the back of the net in round six and Volski, who kept the Hitmen off the board after the opening shot in the shootout, closed the game and victory with his fifth save of the shootout sending the Stars home as USPHL Cup Champions.