Gateway hockey continuing to grow at junior varsity level

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Friday, October 12, 2018 | 7:03 PM


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The Gateway ice hockey program is in a rebuilding phase in its second season at the PIHL junior varsity level.

With five first-year players and four others in their second year on the 14-player roster, coach Shawn Jesih and his coaching staff are focusing on taking positive steps each practice and game.

“The less-experienced kids continue to improve,” Jesih said. “Some of them go above and beyond what we require as far as practices and participation. They have supplemental training and additional ice time off of Gateway hockey’s radar. We encourage them to find additional resources to go out and work on their skills.

“At the end of the day, we’re not concerned with the wins and losses as much as we’re focused on the way each one develops their games, works on their skills and uses each time on the ice to get better.”

Jesih said he feels the team fits in the best at the JV level with goals to get back to varsity.

“We’re playing it by ear right now,” he said. “Every year, we’ll reassess the talent we have and see what the best options are for the program. We have a good feeder program at the middle school level, and our developmental program is growing.”

Two players — senior captain Tyler Jesih (defense) and senior alternate captain Caleb Kulczyski (forward/defense) — were on the roster the last time Gateway was at the varsity level in the 2016-17 season.

They join senior forward and alternate captain James McPherson in forming an experienced core of leadership.

“They are not in your face and screaming,” coach Jesih said. “They lead through example and their play on the ice. The way they carry themselves and the confidence they have in playing helps push the younger talent to keep up with them and progress.”

Gateway finished last year 2-14 at the JV Tier III level. The team is back in JV Tier III this year.

The Gators started out 0-2 with an 8-1 loss to Indiana and a 10-2 defeat at the hands of McDowell.

They hoped to get in the win column last Friday against North Catholic at Center Ice Arena in Delmont. The game was to be played past the deadline for this week’s edition.

Gateway plays Kiski Area at 7:20 p.m. Friday at Center Ice.

“They do get discouraged a little bit with the scores, but I talk with them about it and am open with them about my expectations,” coach Jesih said. “They do realize we are in a rebuilding phase as a team, and they try to see the big picture.”

Coach Jesih said he saw some good things from the games against Indiana and McDowell.

The Gators trailed Indiana, 3-1, after two periods and got a goal from Jesih, assisted by Kulczyski. But Indiana scored five in the third period.

Against McDowell, Gateway led 2-1 midway through the second period on goals from Kulczyski on the power play and from junior forward Miranda Pioth at even strength before the Trojans took control.

“We were pretty competitive through two periods in both games,” coach Jesih said. “We competed right from the start with 100 percent effort. I think with our depth, the players spend a lot of energy and lose some steam late in the games. But we’ve seen positive steps in both games.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MLove_Trib.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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