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Esmark Stars U16 in Philadelphia for USA Hockey National Championships

By DLG, 04/04/18, 11:00PM EDT


Pursuit of National Championship Ready to Begin

The Esmark Stars U16 AAA team, proud members of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL), are in Philadelphia, PA this weekend, April 5 -  10, 2018, for the USA Hockey Tier I National Championships.

The Stars, who captured the Mid-American District (Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania) Championship in Pittsburgh, March 9 - 11, will play three round-robin games in preliminary pool play.

The winners of each of USA Hockey's 12 Districts, plus four wild-card teams selected by USA Hockey, will vie for the right to call themselves "National Champions" over a grueling six days of competition.

First up, on Thursday, April 5, 12:45 p.m., will be the Boston Jr. Eagles out of Boston, MA.  The Eagles, who are a member of the Eastern Hockey Federation (EHF) Elite Division, finished the season ranked 8th in the nation according to the website ( with a record of 29-4-0-0.

The Stars return to the ice on Friday, April 6, 12:45 p.m., against the Anaheim Jr. Ducks out of Boston, MA.  The Ducks, who are a member of the Tier One Elite Hockey League (TOEHL), finished the season ranked 5th in the nation with a record of 45-3-0-5.

Esmark wraps up round-robin play in the 16 team field against the Chicago Young Americans out of Chicago, IL, on Saturday, April 7, at 10:45 a.m.  CYA, who plays in the High Performance Hockey League (HPHL), finished the season ranked 10th in the nation with a record of 41-19-3-5.

"The boys fought hard to get to Nationals," said Stars U16 head coach Yuri Krivokhija. "We finished second in our league (NAPHL) regular season standings and then won the Mid-Am District Tournament. Hopefully we are peaking at the right time."

The Stars, who wrapped up the regular season with a 38-20-3-2 overall record, 16-4-0-1 NAPHL league record, join fellow NAPHL members Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede and Washington Little Capitals in the U16 field

"With a draw like this, the guys have a tough mountain to climb," offered Stars general manager Dave Kosick. "But I believe the coaching staff has the team ready to meet the challenge."

Following round-robin play, the top two teams in each of the tournaments four divisions of play will advance to the quarter-finals, to be held on Sunday, April 8. Winners of the quarter-finals will hook-up in the semi-finals on Monday, April 9. And the two semi-final winners will meet on Tuesday, April 10, to crown a National 16U Tier I Champion.

This is the second Krivokhija-lead Stars team to advance to the Tier I National Championships.  Ten years ago, the 2007-08 Stars advanced to the Nationals as Mid-Am District Champions and completed round robin play undefeated and advanced to the quarter-finals as the number one seed for their six-team bracket, in what was then a 12- team tournament. The Stars quest for a National Championship that year was upended in the quarter-finals by the Colorado Thunderbirds.

All games in the 2017-18 USA Hockey U16 and U18 Tier I National Championships  are being played at the Ice Line Quad Rinks in West Chester, PA.