Gators celebrate outdoor win on Penguins Pond
With temperatures in the upper 20s and snow surrounding the edges of the rink, the outdoor-game experience for the Gateway varsity ice hockey team at the Penguins Pond at Highmark Stadium in downtown Pittsburgh already was a major hit.
An important 7-4 victory over West Allegheny contributed even more memorable moments to a history-making event for the Gators.
“I couldn't sleep (Sunday night), I was so excited for the game,” senior defenseman Jake DeHass said.
“I was really pumped. To play in the shadow of the city was amazing.”
DeHass said that once he and his teammates got their equipment on and got warmed up for the game, the cold temperature wasn't too much of a factor.
“I was actually sweating,” DeHass said.
“We played a really physical game. I'm glad we won and were able to celebrate it.”
Gateway head coach Gene Perhac said, to the best of his knowledge, no Gators team at any level ever has played an organized game on an outdoor rink.
“I lost the feeling in my toes in the second period,” Perhac said with a laugh.
Perhac said he was pleased with the way his team fought from a 4-1 deficit in the second period to score the final six goals of the game.
“You couldn't have asked for anything better,” the coach said.
“We had the will to win down the stretch. I am very proud of the guys.”
Perhac said he and the organization appreciated everything the Penguins, Highmark and the PIHL did to enable Gateway and the other local high school teams to play in the outdoor setting with a broad view of the Pittsburgh skyline.
Gateway and West Allegheny were scheduled to play on the Penguins Pond surface Nov. 28, but the rink wasn't ready at that time, and the game was postponed to Monday.
The game got physical at times — too physical in the eyes of the referees — who administered game misconduct penalties to a couple of players from each team.
Gateway scored two goals in the last half of the second period and four more in the third to rally past West Allegheny and improve to 4-7-0 overall.
The Gators have eight points and moved past Plum (3-6-1) into ninth place in the PIHL AA standings.
“In a big-game atmosphere like this with a lot on the line, emotions are going to run high, and unfortunately (ejections) happen,” Perhac said.
Senior Jonathan Kasper scored four goals, and three of the four came in the decisive third period.
He tallied one on the power play in both the second and third periods.
“It was so much fun playing outside,” Kasper said.
“We had a lot of fun. The win makes it a lot better. I really didn't know what to expect coming down here.”
Senior Camden Cacolice scored a goal and added four assists, while senior Taylor Siwik tallied a goal and provided two helpers.
Freshman Brandon Dusch assisted on three goals, and fellow freshman Ryan Taylor scored his first varsity goal.
Gateway also got an assist from freshman Nick Falvo.
Junior goaltender Tyler Perhac faced 23 West Allegheny shots, and he settled down to not allow a goal over the final 31 minutes of play.
Cacolice and Tyler Perhac have been named Class AA all-stars for the second year in a row, while DeHass and Siwik are all-stars for the first time.
The four PIHL all-star games will be Feb. 11 at the Robert Morris University's Island Sports Center.
The Class AA game will be at 3 p.m. and is the third game of a quadrupleheader.
Gateway players are on the Northeast team with those from Plum, Pine-Richland, Hampton, Latrobe, Franklin Regional and Kiski Area.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.