Gateway JV hockey team shattering expectations

Sunday, December 18, 2022 | 11:01 AM

The Gateway junior varsity hockey team registered eight points in 15 regular-season games last year.

The Gators own that many points through their first eight games this year, and coach Shawn Jesih said his experienced team continues to improve as it closes out 2022.

“The development of the boys has exceeded expectations,” Jesih said. “They are buying into the different systems and things like that we are working on. We are preaching being aggressive and believing in one another and working together. Those common principles seem to be paying off for us. Most of all, the believe they have a chance to win a lot of the games they play.”

Gateway went 2-1-1 in a recent four-game stretch, and it hoped to added two more points to its total Dec. 16 as it was scheduled to host JV Tier 3, Division 3-leading Deer Lakes.

The game at Palmer Imaging Arena in Delmont was to be contested past the deadline for this week’s edition.

Deer Lakes stopped the Gators in their tracks, 2-0, in the second game of the season, but Gateway has scored at least three goals in every game since and tallied a season-high of six in a tough 7-6 loss to Moon on Nov. 4.

After the setback to the Tigers, Gateway won two in a row, both in comeback fashion, against Norwin and West Allegheny.

The Gators spotted Norwin a 1-0 lead in the first period of their Nov. 22 matchup at Palmer Imaging Arena before tying the game in the second on a goal from Blake Marsh and forging ahead with two in the third, one each from Reed Davis and Hayden Hines.

C.J. Evans, Hines and Gavin Grant each added assists, while Seth Hunkele produced 18 saves to help his team secure the victory.

“We had gotten spanked so many times by that team over the years,” Jesih said. “That has always been a bar set to achieve their level of play, specifically the way they move the puck. Norwin, a lot of times, doesn’t give you the chance to get back into a game.”

Gateway was outshot by Norwin 17-11 over the first two periods, but the Gators turned the tables on the Knights with a 13-2 shot advantage in the third period.

“We just had an aggressive attack, like I had said, and we didn’t give Norwin a whole lot of time and space,” Jesih said. “We played the puck and played the body, too. We were able to break Norwin down as the game went on.”

Gateway fell behind West Allegheny 3-1 in the second period Dec. 9 before rallying for a 4-3 victory.

Brendan Luptak scored early for the Gators, and Hines began the comeback with a pair of scores, one each in the second and third periods.

Evans tallied the game-winner 9:53 into the third on an assist from Marsh.

Hunkele made 13 saves in net.

“We never lost focus despite the deficit,” Jesih said. “We just made sure the guys knew they were doing things the right way and that good things would come. They had the confidence they could come back by staying out of the penalty box and generating chances. There were a lot of little things that added up to us getting back into the game and winning.”

Evans led the team with nine goals and 13 points through eight games, while Davis had a team-best five assists to go along with three goals.

Luptak also assisted on five goals as seven players owned at least four points.

Gateway finishes off the December portion of its schedule Dec. 23 against Carrick at Ice Castle in Castle Shannon.

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at


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