Four from Gateway to join junior programs
Three Gateway High School seniors who will graduate Thursday at Antimarino Stadium and another student-athlete who recently wrapped up his junior year are getting set to take an important step in their ice hockey careers.
Seniors Cam Cacolice, Jon Kasper and Jordan Mardirossian and junior Tyler Perhac will play Junior hockey in Massachusetts and Florida next season.
Gateway hockey is in its 40th year, and the program is celebrating these important developments, Gators varsity head coach Gene Perhac said.
“It is very exciting,” coach Perhac said.
“Each of the boys is getting different information from the teams that offered them contracts, and they are excited about that kind of stuff. They all have a great opportunity in front of them.”
Coach Perhac said he's pretty certain that sending four student-athletes to Juniors from one school in one year is a feat not achieved by any western Pennsylvania high school to date.
The quartet was part of the core that helped Gateway earn a trip to the PIHL Class AA playoffs the past two seasons. It ended the Gators' nearly decade-long postseason-appearance drought.
Cacolice will play Junior hockey near where he was born and raised.
He has signed to play in Massachusetts with the Springfield Junior ‘Pics of the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL).
Cacolice played for the youth branch of this club while growing up in Enfield, Conn.
He played three years for Gateway and was a two-time PIHL AA all-star.
Cacolice has experience at both forward and defense, and he led Gateway with 32 points in the 2012-13 season. That total included a 13-game point streak.
Kasper will join Cacolice on the Springfield Junior ‘Pics. He drew an offer from the club last year, but he opted to stay at Gateway for his senior season.
Kasper also is a two-time PIHL all-star, and he led or was tied for the Gateway team lead in goals for both his junior and senior seasons.
His time with the Gators was limited in each of his seasons because of his amateur team's schedule.
Twenty-two NHL draft choices have played Junior hockey with the Junior ‘Pics.
Mardirossian, coach Perhac said, still is deciding between tendered offers from both the Portland (Maine) Junior Pirates and Boston Junior Bruins. Both are teams that play in the USPHL.
He played for the Pittsburgh Pens Elite the past couple of seasons.
Mardirossian was a key contributor in goals and assists for Gateway in his freshman, sophomore and junior years. He was not able to play for Gateway in the 2012-13 season because of his amateur schedule.
He ranked in the top four in goals scored in each of his three seasons with the Gators and was a PIHL all-star in the 2011-12 campaign.
Tyler Perhac will head to a warmer winter climate in south Florida, as he will play for the Palm Beach Hawks of the Empire Junior Hockey League.
He will attend classes for his senior academic year while playing for the Hawks.
Gene Perhac said it is a bittersweet feeling to see his son move away. He also said that feeling extends to the ice, where Tyler would've been an important veteran presence on a young team.
“Tyler has worked for this for years,” coach Perhac said.
“He's a multitime all-star, and you hate to see that kind of talent not come back. We had a young team coming back, and now it's even younger. But this is a great opportunity for him. As a coach and as his father, I am very excited for him.”
The younger Perhac was a three-year varsity starting goaltender for Gateway and a two-time PIHL all-star.
He was near the top in all classes of the PIHL for saves in each of his three seasons. That included three games in the 2012-13 season with more than 40 saves and one game with 55 saves.
Coach Perhac said the success of the quartet is noticed by the younger players in the Gateway program.
“We started a conditioning program, and the younger guys are talking about it a lot,” he said.
“They see if you work really hard, good things will happen. A couple of younger players asked if they also can go that path. Hopefully, this can spark some things for us and more kids from Gateway can play Juniors in the future.”
Junior hockey is played in leagues throughout the United States and Canada by players ages 18 to 20 years.
NCAA ice hockey differs from other intercollegiate sports because it is rare for college teams, especially ones at the Division I level, to recruit directly from high school programs.
Almost all collegiate hockey freshmen have spent one to three years playing on a Junior hockey or Prep school team.
According to NCAA.com, the average age of an NCAA Division I hockey freshman is 20.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.