The 2020-21 Esmark Stars U18 Tier I AAA team have been selected by USA Hockey, the national governing body of amateur ice hockey in the United States, to participate in the 2021 USA Hockey U18 Tier I National Championship, presented by Chipotle, April 28 - May 3, 2021, in Maryland Heights, MO.
The U18 Esmark Stars, currently ranked #11 in the U.S. by (www.myhockeyrankings.com), received an "At-Large" bid from USA Hockey to participate as one of 16 teams competing for amateur hockey's National Championship.
The USA Hockey 18U Tier I National Championships will feature 11 District Champions, crowned at various USA Hockey District Playoffs that divide the country into 12 sections (the Massachusetts District opted not to hold a District Championship this season because of Covid-19 issues), and five "At-Large" wild card selections from remaining teams.
The Stars, who were upended in early March at the Mid-American District Championship by the 18U Ohio AAA Blue Jackets (who will represent the Mid-Am District as District Champions in Maryland Heights), are waiting for a schedule (opponents, game dates and times) to be released by USA Hockey.
Under the direction of head coach Dave Kosick and assistant coaches, Yuri Krivokhija and Mike Heltman, the Stars Midget Major team have been busy preparing for the event since getting word from USA Hockey late Tuesday, April 13, night.
"We were very excited to get the call," Kosick offered. "This team has worked hard all season ... and although we did not win the automatic bid from the Mid-Am District, we felt our resume would allow us to be in the conversation."
The Stars will bring a record of (43-18-7-0) into the National Championships.
"We continued to participate in high level showcases and tournaments post Districts with hope we could continue to build our resume and improve our National ranking," Kosick added.
The Stars will be joined by fellow North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) league members CarShield AAA (MO), the Central District Champion, and Meijer AAA (MI), the Michigan District Champion, at Nationals.
"Quite a compliment to the strength of our league," Kosick said. "We are excited to join both CarShield and Meijer in pursuit of a National Championship."
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.
Esmark Stars AAA Hockey's U18 goaltender Nathan Dickey has signed his affiliate card and called up to the North American Hockey League's (NAHL) Kenai River (AK) Brown Bears.
Dickey, who tendered with the Brown Bears at the beginning of the 2021 tender period, was called up through the NAHL's "affiliate player" process.
"This is a great opportunity for Nathan to see and more importantly participate inside the world of junior A hockey," said Stars's Head Coach Dave Kosick. "Amplify this by how the town of Kenai River and the surrounding Alaskan communities treat their junior team and it all adds up to a phenomenal opportunity."
Dickey recorded a record of 8-0-0 in nine NAPHL regular season games and 2-1-0 in three Dean Dixon Cup NAPHL Playoff games this season. He recorded a 1.27 GAA with a .935 save percentage in the regular season and 3.60 GAA and .881 save percentage in the playoffs. He was also selected to participate in the NAPHL U-18 All-Star game.
Overall, he recorded a 20-5-4-0 record during the 2020-2021 season for the U18 Stars, including three shut-outs. His GAA for the season was 2.11 and his save percentage was .917.
Esmark Stars AAA Hockey's U18 defenseman Zachary Stoner was called up to the North American Hockey League's (NAHL) Johnstown Tomahawks this past weekend as the Tomahawks swept a Friday-Saturday series (8-1 & 3-0) to remain in first place in the NAHL's Eastern Division.
Stoner, who tendered with the Tomahawks earlier in the season, was brought up through the NAHL's "affiliate player" process and saw action in both games. He finished the two-game set with one assist and a +3 rating (+/-).
"It was a great opportunity for Zach to see and more importantly participate inside the world of junior A hockey," said Stars's Head Coach Dave Kosick.
Stoner, who was paired at times with former Stars stand-out defenseman Dusty Geregach, was able to show Tomahawk's Head Coach Mike Letizia how he has progressed over the course of the '20-'21 season to date.
Stoner recorded 17 points (4 goals and 13 assists), including 2 game winning goals, in 25 NAPHL regular season and Dean Dixon Cup NAPHL Playoff games this season. He has recorded 37 points (9 goals and 28 assists), including 5 power play goals, and a plus/minus rating of +42 in 63 overall games played to date.