The Esmark Stars AAA Hockey Club are pleased to announce their coaching staffs, as well as their skills instructors, for the 2023-2024 season.
The Stars will return their nationally recognized veteran coaching staff at the midget level.
Dave Kosick will return behind the bench as Head Coach of the Stars 18U AAA Midget Major team. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, the '23-'24 season will be Kosick's 40th year behind the bench. He has guided the Stars into three USA Hockey National Championships in the past five years and accumulated a coaching record (W-L-T-OTL) unrivaled in both the Mid-Am District and USA Hockey.
This past season, Kosick's U18 squad captured the regular season and playoff titles of both the Tier 1 Hockey Federation (T1HF) and the USPHL Cup.
Likewise, Yuri Krivokhija will return behind the bench as head coach of the Stars 16U AAA Midget Minor team. Krivokhija, a former draft choice of the NHL's Montreal Canadians, and a long-time professional hockey player on both the International professional and world junior and national team stage, will be returning to the Stars as a head coach for his 17th season.
This past season, Krivokhija guided the U16 Stars to the finals of the Mid-Am Tier I U16 Championship game. He has previously guided the U16 Stars to a pair of appearances at the USA Hockey National Championships during his coaching tenure.
Similarly, Chris "Sluggo" Stern will be returning as head coach of Esmark's U15 (only) Midget (2008) AAA Hockey squad. Stern, who has previously served as Director of Player Advancement for the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite program, has enjoyed success as a coach at every age group of youth hockey, both boys and girls, including winning a USA Hockey Tier 1 National Championship as well as guiding multiple teams to the USA Hockey National Championships ... including 8 of his past 12 seasons as a coach ... where he guided teams to a National Championship, a National runner-up finish and three third-place finishes.
Players under Stern's tutelage have gone on to attain success in all levels of hockey ... including NCAA Division I, NCAA Division III, Junior A Hockey and the NHL. He has also served as a scout over the years, working in both the USHL and NAHL Junior A leagues, and he has also served as a coach and evaluator for USA Hockey player development camps and as a presenter at USA Hockey coaching clinics.
Stern's 2022-23 15U squad captured both the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) and the Elite Prospects Cup Series Championships and advanced to the championship game of the Mid-Am District's Tier I U15 Division.
Kosick, Krivokhija and Stern will team to provide assistant coach coverage to all three Midget Stars teams, providing a veteran coaching core for the Stars Midget teams unrivaled in USA Hockey.
Additionally, Ryan Sweeney and Clay Plyler will both serve as assistant coaches to the Stars' Midget teams. Plyler played three seasons of junior hockey, before playing a season of NCAA Division III hockey for Daniel Webster College and a pair of seasons with Chatham University. Sweeney, who played for Team Maryland and is from Maryland, played four seasons at Duquesne University.
At the Bantam levels, the Stars will have two returning coaches, although at new levels, overseeing their Bantam Major and Minor squads.
Dalton Moore will serve as head coach of the Esmark Stars 14U AAA Bantam Major (2009) Hockey team. Moore, who is a former player and coach within the Stars program, played Junior A Hockey for the Syracuse Stampede and Division III hockey for SUNY Canton. Most recently he served as head coach of the Esmark Stars U13 Bantam Minor team and previously served as a coach with the Pittsburgh Viper Stars program.
Joining Moore behind the bench for the U14 AAA Bantam Major (2009) Hockey team will be Dave DalCortivo. DalCortivo played Junior Hockey for the Philadelphia Revolution and Tier I AAA Hockey for the New Jersey Titans and Mercer Chiefs. He has spent the past three seasons as a coach for the Pittsburgh Viper Stars.
Nate Nehnevajsa will serve as Head Coach of the Esmark Stars 13U AAA Hockey Bantam Minor (2010) team. Nehnevajsa joined the Stars program last season, after having served as a head coach for the previous five seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguin Elite program. He served as head coach of the Stars Pee Wee Major team during the 2022-23 season. Nehnevajsa brings a coaching history that includes head and assistant coaching responsibilities from Bantam Major through Mites.
Assistant Coaches at the Bantam level will be announced shortly.
At the Pee Wee level, the Stars will again utilize a coaching tandem with two returning coaches joining forces to guide the Stars' Pee Wee aged players.
CJ Stellabotte will return this season as the Head Coach of the Esmark Stars 12U AAA Hockey Pee Wee Major (2011) team. He will be joined by Luke Kopchak who will serve as Assistant Coach of the 2011 team. Stellabotte, who served as both Head Coach of the Stars U11 team and and Assistant Coach of the Stars U12 squad last season and head coach of the U12 Esmark Stars team during the 2021-22 season. Stellabotte played Junior Hockey for New York Apple Core, Boston Jr Shamrocks, and the Bridgewater Bandits.
Luke Kopchak will return to the Stars in a head coaching capacity this season, as he takes over the reins of the Esmark Stars 11U AAA Hockey Pee Wee Minor (2012 birth year) squad. C.J. Stellabotte will serve as the team's assistant coach.
Both Stellabotte and Kopchak, who are graduates of the Stars program, will form a coaching tandem designed to oversee the Stars' Pee Wee program.
And new this season, the Stars will unveil a Squirt AAA team.
Wade Conlan will join the Esmark program as head coach of Esmark's newest team, the Esmark Stars 10U AAA Hockey Squirt Major (2013 and 14 birth years) squad. Conlan, who is from Connecticut, played three seasons of Junior Hockey before moving onto and playing for Duquesne University.
Dave Kosick, founder, owner and general manager of the Esmark program, will return as General Manager, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the program.
Yuri Krivokhija, will return as the Esmark Stars Director of Skill and Training Development, overseeing those activities across the breadth of the Stars AAA program.
Likewise, Nilan Nagy will return to the program as a Skills and Training Director. Nagy, a graduate of the Stars program, played Junior hockey at Traverse City (NAHL), Youngstown Phantoms (USHL), NCAA Hockey at Holy Cross University and professionally for the Alaska Aces and Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL and Újpesti Torna Egylet in Budapest, Hungary.
Additionally, Nick Mish will return as the Stars Goaltending Instructor and serve as Junior Development Coordinator. In those capacities, he will continue to be responsible for working with goaltenders across the breath of the Stars organization and in assisting in player movement from the Midget level to both Junior and Collegiate opportunities.
This upcoming year will be the 39th season of the Stars program.