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Gateway hockey to move to Open class

| Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

With the loss of several key players to graduation and its starting goaltender to a Junior team in Florida before his senior season, Gateway varsity ice hockey team officials have decided to move the young team from Class AA to the Open class in the PIHL for the 2013-14 season.

“It will give us a chance to develop our younger players,” Gateway head coach Gene Perhac said.

“We didn't think we were going to be able to do that to the fullest extent at AA. We have a good group this year, but they're young and small yet. To put them out against the likes of Latrobe and Chartiers Valley this season, we didn't see too many benefits in that. Latrobe only lost three players from their state-championship team.”

Perhac said a majority of the team members will be freshmen and sophomores.

He said only two seniors are expected to take the ice for the upcoming season — Brenden Hamilton and Zach Dusch — and there will be only a couple of juniors on the roster.

“A lot of young kids will be moving up to varsity to fill in key roles,” Perhac said.

“It's a big jump for some of the players. There is a strong class of freshmen (from 2012-13) moving up.”

Perhac said the PIHL has been organizing the four classifications the past couple of weeks, and the final alignment should be set in stone early next month.

A couple of other teams moved to the Open class, and the close to two dozen squads are expected to make it the biggest division.

Perhac said everyone understands there will be a little bit more traveling involved with playing in the Open class. Teams in the Open class range from Altoona to West Virginia and up to Erie.

“We want them to grow,” Perhac said.

“We know that no matter what division they are in, it might be a trying year. But in the Open class, they will be able to be in more competitive games.”

Perhac said this only is a one-year deal. After that, the team should be a more seasoned group and ready to climb back to AA.

“There are a lot of positives that can come from this,” Perhac said. “It's not the ideal situation and where we want to be, but given the circumstances, it seems to be the best thing right now.”

Gateway qualified for the AA playoffs in 2012-13. As the No. 10 seed, the Gators lost a 4-3 heartbreaker to Hampton in the first round at Ice Connection of Pittsburgh.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at mlove@tribweb.com.

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