Over the course of his freshman season, Peyton Jones experienced the two extremes that goaltending has to offer. He opened his first collegiate season with an extraordinary 11-0-1 run before the turn of the calendar year, but managed only eight more wins in 18 starts through the remainder of the regular season.
Then, something clicked during the Big Ten Tournament, where Jones posted a .950 save percentage and was named the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Now a few weekends into his sophomore campaign, Jones has not enjoyed the same kind of success that he did a year ago. He has had bright spots in wins over St. Lawrence and Minnesota, allowing two goals on a combined 50 shots, but has also been pulled twice in four Big Ten games against the Golden Gophers and Michigan, surrendering 11 goals on a combined 46 shots in those two shortened appearances.
Gadowsky isn’t pinning the blame squarely on Jones, however.
“I would like our defensive numbers to be better,” he said Monday. “You can’t alway attribute that to goaltending, but I would like our numbers to be better and I’m sure Peyton would agree.”
After capping off last season with a 2.60 goals-against average and .904 save percentage, Jones’ numbers have dropped considerably. He’s allowing a full goal per game more than last season at 3.60, while his save percentage has dipped 25 points to .879.
His playing style has appeared no different from his freshman year; Jones has remained aggressive in his positioning and has been tracking shots well. Much like last season, however, Jones has been exposed high on the glove side, as his low center of gravity and butterfly style causes his glove to drop, leaving the top corner open.
While Gadowsky does not have a wealth of knowledge about the position to coach Jones to a more effective playing style, he does have a system of evaluating his goaltenders’ performance.
“I’m going to judge them strictly on wins, goals against, save percentage and then their work ethic and commitment, how they are as a teammate,” he said. “I can tell you that the work ethic, commitment and how they are as a teammate is top notch, 100 percent.”
The State of Hockey in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has a long history of hockey fandom. The first round of NHL expansion brought two teams and the Battle of Pennsylvania to the league while the AHL’s Hershey Bears have had a devoted fanbase since their founding in 1938.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have also created a hockey hotbed in northeastern PA and provided a seemingly endless stream of talent to their NHL affiliate in Pittsburgh.
“There was always an extreme interest [in hockey in Pennsylvania],” Gadowsky said, “whether it’s for the Broad Street Bullies way back when and there’s Mario [Lemieux]’s Penguins, there’s Sidney [Crosby]’s Penguins and if you look at what Hershey has done with that franchise it’s phenomenal.”
Now, the hockey footprint in Pennsylvania has expanded to Centre County, and Gadowsky quickly gives the credit to one man.
“I give Terry Pegula a ton of credit with his vision,” he said. “This isn’t just for Division-I hockey, this is for hockey in the Centre County region.”
The establishment of Division-I hockey programs at Penn State may also boost future generations of talent to come from the Centre region. Gadowsky credits Pegula Ice Arena’s director of hockey, Ryan Patrick, for helping to develop that local talent.
“He just does such an amazing job with the youth [players] that you’re seeing really talented players now here that stick with his program,” Gadowsky said. “The difference in the skill level of the youth players from when I got here to what [Patrick] has done is night and day.”
Injury Updates (Or Lack Thereof)
While this weekend marked the return of freshman phenom Evan Barratt, it was also highlighted by the loss of Brandon Biro and Andrew Sturtz for Saturday’s contest.
Biro finished the game after crashing feet-first into the boards as he was trying to beat an icing call, while Sturtz’s injury was far less obvious. Gadowsky said after Saturday’s loss that team athletic trainer Justin Rogers informed him prior to the game that neither player would be ready to play that night.
Gadowsky will now have to wait until Thursday for Rogers’ word on whether the two — plus defenseman Kevin Kerr, who has missed the past three weekends — will be ready to go as the Nittany Lions host Mercyhurst over the weekend.