Penn State’s most glaring question heading into this season was who would take the reins as starting goalie left by Eamon McAdam and Matthew Skoff.
Coach Guy Gadowsky seems intent on establishing freshman Peyton Jones as his long-term answer in goal. Jones got the starting nod in both games this season.
Jones’s first experience in college hockey showed the potential he has of being one of the better starting goalies in the Big Ten. Unfortunately, it also displayed the growing pains that occur with a player still adjusting to a higher level of competition.
Jones put forth a strong effort in the first game of the series against No. 15 St. Lawrence, stopping 28 of 30 shots in a 4-2 victory. The following night’s outing was not nearly as smooth.
The first-year netminder allowed three goals on eight shots in the first five minutes of play. He was quickly replaced by sophomore Chris Funkey, who allowed one goal on 15 shots the rest of the way.
Gadowsky insists that Jones is not to blame for the early 3-0 deficit, however.
“Unfortunately we came out very, very flat. He certainly didn’t get a lot of help from us,” Gadowsky said Monday. “I think that was a good learning experience for him, but by no means can we blame the results of the first five minutes on him.”
The Saints out-shot the Nittany Lions 8-1 in those opening five minutes, a sign that the team was not properly prepared even after the previous night’s victory. Despite Friday’s struggles, Gadowsky reinforced his confidence in Jones.
“I thought Peyton was excellent on Thursday,” Gadowsky said. “He was really composed when we needed him the most. He’s a guy that we brought in with high hopes of being a starter and there are going to be times when we aren’t going to be very good and he’s going to have to be at his best.”
One of Jones’s strongest attributes is his calm demeanor while he is in goal. Gadowsky saw that same demeanor from Jones on the bench even after being pulled so early in Friday’s game.
“He continued to help the team afterwards with stats and was calm,” Gadowsky said. “He wasn’t letting any negativity that he might have had slip onto the team at all.”
Funkey explained following his relief appearance that he prepares for each game the same way, regardless of if he or Jones has the start. This preparedness helped the team regain its form facing an uphill battle and drew praise from Gadowsky.
“Chris Funkey came in and true to form, true to everything he did last year, he was tremendous,” Gadowsky said. “I mean, what a mentally tough guy to just get thrown in not prepared and always come out with great performances.”
Funkey was one of the first teammates to console Jones after being pulled. Both goaltenders have already expressed the strong relationship they have with each other, and Gadowsky has seen glimpses of that relationship early this season.
“Both of those guys have reputations of being great teammates. The guys love both of them,” Gadowsky said. “If they don’t already, I totally expect them to have a great relationship.”