Pioth makes impact as female hockey player at Gateway
By: Ray Fisher
Friday, November 9, 2018 | 6:42 PM
Miranda Pioth started playing dek hockey in Murrysville when she was in third grade.
Now a high school junior, Pioth is skating at a forward position on the boys junior varsity ice hockey team at Gateway.
She is one of the few girls ever to play ice hockey for the Gators.
“Miranda has been a great addition to our team this season,” said Shawn Jesih, Gateway’s hockey coach. “She has great hockey sense, and is extremely competitive. We have used her on the penalty kill this season, which is a testament to her awareness, knowledge of positioning, gap control, and understanding her role with that assignment.”
Pioth, also a forward in the Gateway girls soccer program, is in her first year with the hockey team. She scored her first career goal Nov. 2 against McDowell in her second game with the Gators.
“Playing on an all-boys ice hockey team is a lot of fun,” Pioth said. “They all help and support me with anything I need. They are like brothers to me, and we bond very well. Most of my hockey has been playing with the boys, and I have not been treated any differently from them.
“The challenge I see for a girl is transitioning to more physical contact. But that does not keep me down. I get hit, get right back up and keep playing. Also, another challenge is mentally preparing myself (prior to games) before I can go in for the team talk.”
A starting goalkeeper for her Allegheny Force Football Club cup team, Pioth has a 3.6 GPA and a unique interest when she’s off the ice, away from the soccer field and out of the classroom.
Pioth is a junior firefighter at Monroeville No. 5 Station where her father, Rob, is president. Both of Pioth’s grandfathers were chiefs at different fire stations; her mother and brother are involved with EMS.
“We were not allowed to join as a junior firefighter until (age) 16, but I was always at the station with my dad,” Pioth said. “I’ve been there since I was baby, so I grew up there my entire life.
“I went through 103 hours of fundamental firefighter training at the Allegheny County Fire Academy over the summer, and I will be continuing on with more.”
Pioth, who will celebrate her 17th birthday later this month, also finds time to work part-time at Fox’s Pizza in Monroeville and Servpro of Metro Pittsburgh in North Versailles. Servpro is a disaster restoration clean-up company.
Pioth’s athletic career at Gateway actually started with a setback, as she suffered a torn ACL as a freshman in her team’s first scrimmage against Elizabeth Forward.
“I came back even stronger and more determined to come back and fight harder my sophomore year,” she said.
Gateway’s girls soccer team advanced to the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs this season. The Gators won three of their final four section games to sew up a playoff berth.
“Miranda is a force on the soccer field and on the ice,” said Kelly Bender, Gateway’s girls soccer coach. “It is not only her athleticism that makes her a player, but it is her passion, commitment, fearlessness and hard work during both practices and games that give her success.
“I know that whenever she is playing and whatever position she is playing, she will go into every tackle with the confidence that she will win the ball. To top it all off, Miranda displays a great attitude and has a fun personality to always lighten the mood when she isn’t lighting it up on the field.”
The Gateway hockey program is in a rebuilding phase; the Gators are competing in their second season in the PIHL at the junior varsity level. There are five first-year players, including Pioth, and five others in their second year on the JV team’s 14-player roster.
“Miranda is a multiple-sport athlete, which obviously requires a disciplined student,” Jesih said. “Her will to improve is apparent through practice participation and the questions she asks, as well as her level of competition.
“Most of all, I notice her positive attitude. Ice hockey may intimidate the faint of heart, but Miranda doesn’t seem to be bothered. In fact, I think she embraces the challenge. I’ve really enjoyed seeing Miranda push herself in her first year of ice hockey, but have enjoyed her doing it with a constant smile more than anything.”
With a small roster, Jesih’s focus is on individual player development and overall team improvement. The Gators lost a 8-1 decision Nov. 1 to Armstrong to fall to 0-5 on the year.
“This season has been challenging to be honest,” Jesih said. “I feel we will struggle in this rebuilding phase. With a 14-player roster, we are too inexperienced to be consistently competitive. The newer players do seem to be developing quickly though, pushing themselves to train outside of our two-a-week practice schedule, as well as following our couple of team leaders who have a considerable amount of experience.
“Moving forward, I would like to close the gap between our talent levels and focus on individual development. By doing this, we should be able to tip the scales in our favor.”
Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.