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Gateway hockey squad opens season Friday

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The young Gateway varsity ice hockey team makes its Open Class debut Friday at 8:15 p.m. against Greensburg-Salem at Center Ice Arena in Delmont.

“The kids are ready to go,” Gators head coach Gene Perhac said.

“They've been on the ice together since Aug. 19, and they've put in a lot of hard work, practice time and conditioning. The preseason scrimmages are out of the way, and now it's time to see what we can do.”

Gateway made the move to the Open Class from Class AA in the offseason, Perhac said, to give his younger players, which include numerous freshmen, time to develop their games properly at the varsity level.

The program plans to return to AA next year.

“We've been experimenting with lines and trying to get things finalized,” Perhac said.

“We'll see how it works.”

The lines will be built around the two seniors — forwards Zach Dusch and Brenden Hamilton.

Greensburg-Salem went 15-4-1 in the Open Class regular season last year and made it to the semifinals of the Chiefs Cup before being eliminated by Indiana.

“We know they have some nice talent,” Perhac said.

“It will be a nice challenge.”

The Golden Lions lost their top two point scorers — Cody Austad (28 goals, 40 assists) and Jonathan Finger (30 goal, 37 assists) — to graduation, but starting goaltender Dakota Sheetz returns, as does third-leading scorer Logan Davis (38 goals, 27 assists).

Vincent DeFazio and his 17 goals and 21 assists from 2012-13 also is back for Greensburg-Salem.

“Our main objective Friday is to keep things clean in front of our own net,” Perhac said.

“We were able to cut the shots down in our last scrimmage against Franklin Regional (on Oct. 24).”

Gateway will be without sophomore goaltender Ben Shapiro, whose transfer to the Gators program was not approved and finalized by the PIHL last week.

“We were surprised by the ruling, but we have to go ahead with things and make it work,” Perhac said.

“Hopefully, we can get Ben back at some point.”

Gateway will continue the early part of its season on Nov. 7 against Carrick at 8:40 p.m. at Ice Castle in Castle Shannon.

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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