Nationals Spotlight: Esmark Stars
Our next NAPHL team profiled for the 2021 USA Hockey Tier 1 National Championships is the Esmark Stars.
The Esmark Stars 18U team advanced to USA Hockey Nationals thanks to an at-large bid by USA Hockey. 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.
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.
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 at Nationals), will be in a pool largely with an Eastern flavor to it.
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. The Stars will bring a record of (43-18-7-0) into the National Championships.
"We were very excited to get the call," Kosick said. "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. 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.”
During the 2020-21 NAPHL season, the Stars 18U team posted a 14-6-0 record in 20 NAPHL regular season games. In the Dixon Cup Playoffs, the team advanced to the Semi-Finals, which included a 2-1 win in the Quarterfinals over CarShield. Esmark would fall to the eventual Champion Northstar Knights in the Semi-Finals of the event.
Esmark will face a largely Eastern contingent at Nationals, which includes the first game of the event on Wednesday morning. They will face the Rhode Island Saints, followed by the North Jersey Avalanche, followed by the Nashville Jr. Predators, who are former members of the NAPHL.
Esmark Stars Nationals Schedule
April 28 vs. RI Saints, 10:15am
April 29 vs. NJ Avalanche, 6pm
April 30 vs. Nashville Jr. Predators, 3:15pm
Like their NAPHL Nationals counterparts CarShield and Meijer, the Esmark roster has plenty of NAHL prospects on it, with many of them being the key players in their success.
Up front, Esmark’s top two scorers are both signed to NAHL tenders. Michael Felsing, who is tendered by the Minnesota Wilderness, is an NAPHL All-Star and had 30 points in 21 NAPHL games this season. He was also selected to the All-NAPHL 18U At-Large Team at the end of the season. Dominic Dezort, who is tendered by the El Paso Rhinos, was 2nd in team scoring with 24 points and also played in the 18U All-Star Game. Lone Star Brahmas tender Ryder Brophy will also be looked upon for success.
On the backend, the Stars have two All-Star defensemen in Yahor Ramanau (Wichita Falls) and Zachary Stoner (Johnstown).
In goal, Kenai River Brown Bears Nathan Dickey will be the go to guy. Dickey did not lose an NAPHL game during the regular season. Connor Strobel, who began the season in the NAHL in Johnstown, is the other goalie for Stars and was lights out in the Dixon Cup Playoffs, so the Stars have depth and choices in goal.