Because of low numbers, experience, Gateway hockey will play JV schedule
Getting a program back on its feet is a tough task but one Shawn Jesih is looking forward to accomplishing.
Jesih has been a coach for the Pittsburgh Huskies youth hockey program and was brought on as the defensive coach for Gateway last year.
This year, the team is all his. Because of low numbers and skill level, the Gators will be competing only at the junior varsity level.
“It is my decision at the end of the day, and I don't think we have the number of lines that can compete at varsity,” Jesih said. “I think moving forward, we might have a couple years of JV before bouncing back to varsity.
“The team is rebounding because of the different parents filling coaching roles and bringing in new talent. They got certified to coach. It has really helped us move forward.”
Since the start of practice, the team has nearly doubled in size, and a lot of that has been a direct reflect to the youth development program that was started in the area.
“The growth is coming from the bottom and it is trickling upwards,” Jesih said. “Mike Colarusso and his wife are in charge of the development program, and they have done a great job getting kids to come out and play. He is also the coach of the middle school team.”
Although this is Jesih's first year as head coach, the relationship he has with his players goes back for years, including with his son, Tyler. Tyler also plays for the Pittsburgh Huskies.
“A lot of the players I coached through the years in other sports,” Jesih said. “I know a lot of the boys that were on the team, which made it easy. I coached them in baseball and in-line for five years.”
A couple players who have impressed during practice have been seniors Leo Gratton and Brian Reid. Gratton is a center, and Reid has anchored the defense.
“Their commitment level seems to be above and beyond,” Jesih said. “They are early for every practice. They are good corresponding with me with different ideas they have. They are also patient with the new talent coming in. They are really supportive.”
At 0-15-1, last year was a long one for the Gators. As they continue to move forward, Jesih knows he needs to change the philosophy and expectations for the program from the bottom to the top.
“Overall, we are changing the philosophy and the team concept,” Jesih said. “I am trying to get them to possess the puck more. I want them to carry the puck in space and the overall team attitude. It was negative last year with the newcomers and inexperienced kids. They got intimidated. I want to make sure everyone gets better.”
Drew Karpen is a freelance writer.