After winning its section title last season, Gateway's hockey team will be lucky to just sneak into the playoffs this year.
Gateway is 1-7, getting outscored, 55-14.
"I don't have any high expectations," senior defenseman Jake Dehass said. "Making the playoffs, even if we could just sneak in there, would be great."
Gateway had the luxury of playing in a section last season with just Franklin Regional and Kiski Area, who combined to win four games.
The Panthers and Cavaliers are still in Gateway's section, but a talented Greater Latrobe squad was added and the Wildcats (6-1) lead Gateway by 10 points before the halfway point of the season.
In addition, the Gators lost three players who still had eligibility left.
According to Gateway coach Gene Perhac, Jordan Mardirossian doesn't suit up for the Gators because he is committed to play for the under-18 Penguins Elite squad. John Kasper also doesn't have the time to play for Gateway because of his amateur schedule. And Dalton Johnston is taking a leave from hockey, according to Perhac.
The three players combined to score 34 goals last season. Mardirossian and Kasper were second and third on the team, respectively, in points.
"We don't have a lot of depth this season," Dehass said. "Our seniors are some of the best in the league, but after that, we're really young.
"Me and the other seniors are having to play a lot of minutes. It's tough to play 100 percent the whole time when you are playing 40 minutes a game."
Dehass and senior Cam Cacolice are the team's top returning players. Dehass led Gateway with 27 points last season, and Cacolice had 22 points. But both were moved back to defense this season because of the team's lack of players on the blue line.
"Jake and Cam are doing very well," Perhac said. "They are doing everything they can for this team."
In the team's lone win, a 4-2 victory against Plum, Perhac said Dehass and Cacolice didn't come off the ice in the third period as the Gators clung to a one-goal lead until scoring a late empty-net tally.
Up front, the team welcomed back senior Taylor Siwik. Siwik finished second on the team in points as a sophomore, but didn't play for the Gators during his junior season when he was traveling with his amateur team.
Through eight games, Siwik has a team-high seven goals and eight points.
"He has been a big help," Perhac said. "I feel bad for Taylor, because we don't have anyone to put up front with him who can keep up. If Jake and Cam were up front with him, Taylor would probably be leading the league in goals."
Coming into this week, Gateway was the third-lowest scoring team in Class AA, and it also had given up the third-most goals.
Dehass said it has been tough to go through the struggles Gateway has endured this season, but as a leader, he tries to keep the team's mood upbeat.
"I just try to keep everyone loose and crack some jokes," Dehass said. "We just try not to harp on the mistakes too much."
Gateway will try for its second win tonight when it takes on Kiski Area.