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Gateway hockey going through growing pains

| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

During a year in transition, a program's mentality has to change from the coaching staff on down. This is the case for Gateway's hockey program.

In a year where the Gators moved down in classification due to the inexperienced talent that fills the roster, Gateway's coaching staff, led by head coach Gene Perhac, has adjusted its coaching styles.

“The plan was to take the lumps and grow the group as a whole this season,” Perhac said. “As a coaching staff, we had to change our coaching style as we focus more on how to play the game and the individual skill sets and not practice a system and refine skills.”

The Gators (1-7) – who qualified for the PIHL Class AA playoffs last season with an 8-11 record – has certainly experienced their growing pains at the Open class level this season even with the change in classification.

Even if progress might not be seen in the standings at this point in the season, the Gators coaching staff is pleased with the direction and the progress of the team – who has two seniors on its roster – is heading.

“We are trying to install a hardworking and never give up attitude. We are a team with speed and grit. We don't have much size,” Perhac said. “We are trying to be pesky and grind things out. It's starting to come together with the type of goals we are getting. The scores are not indicative of how far they have come. “

The Gators lone win came when they defeated winless Connellsville, 6-0, November. Sophomore forward Ryan Taylor, who has seven points, recorded three of his five goals in the win.

Freshman forward Matt Doman has stepped up as one of the top-scoring treats to replace 97 points lost by four graduations from last season's team. Doman has recorded nine points, including three goals, through eight games this season.

On the backend, Perhac is pleased with the play of freshman Tanner Davis, who has four goals this season, and expects continued growth from both of his freshmen.

“Tanner and Matt have a lot of potential and real good speed. Those two will lead the team in scoring no matter what league we are in,” Perhac said.

“On defense, we have sophomore Garrett Hamilton and freshman Nolan Baker, who are moving the puck and their game is coming. They are giving up size and fifty or sixty pounds against the kids they go up against.”

Perhac was hoping to find his successor to his son Tyler – who moved onto playing junior hockey – with transfer Ben Shapiro.. However, after a few games into the season, including their only win of the season, the PIHL ruled Shapiro ineligible.

After the ruling, Perhac has been forced to go with Griffin Ware, who is another player who lacks varsity experience.

Even with this type of turmoil, Perhac and the rest of the Gateway is still keeping their eye on the main goal, which is to develop the younger players for the future.

Andrew John is a freelance writer.

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