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Penn State Hockey: Even Early On Jones Showing Why He Might Be The Best Yet

by on October 28, 2016 12:00 PM

"He's here to do a job." Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said a few weeks ago discussing the Nittany Lions' goalie rotation. A tandem of Chris Funkey, Penn State's returning de-facto --but effective-- bench man, and freshman Peyton Jones, perhaps the most highly touted recruit to sign for the Blue and White.

In fairness Gadowsky's quote was in the context of a bigger picture and a different question, but the point rings true. Gone are the days of a confusing three-man rotation mixed up in loyalty, the hot hand and the rising star. Gadowksy has spent the better part of the past two seasons navigating the starts in goal earned by Matthew Skoff, the hot hand that PJ Musico had in relief and the rising talent and ever maturing Eamon McAdam who at the end of the day was the better of all three.

McAdam would eventually leave after last season for the professional ranks, seeking more consistent starts and more of them. Musico and Skoff both aged out and in turn have both found success at the professional levels.

And so those days are gone, and now Penn State sits with a much clearer and much more concise goaltending outlook. So far Jones has delivered a 2-on-1 overtime stop against Notre Dame a defining moment to the season early in his career.

At 3-0-1 on the year Jones has started every game for the Nittany Lions, registering a lone shutout in a 7-0 decision against Mercyhurst. The freshman's lone loss, a 6-3 defeat to No. 16 St. Lawrence was as much a poor team start as it was poor goaltending. Regardless the highly touted freshman has look much more like a veteran in net than a new face acclimating to his surroundings. For a team with 10 freshman on the roster any amount of maturity is welcome, especially at the last line of defense.

“A goaltender, his job isn’t only to stop pucks,” Gadowsky said. "He’s also an atmosphere regulator. How the goalie is, is often how you play, especially in the defensive zone, but I think it perforates through the whole team in all three zones.”

His calm presence and his 6-foot-4 stature has led way to some high praise from Gadowksy saying that Jones reminds him of Carey Price, the Montreal Canadian goalie who is widely regarded to be the best in the league. Tell Jones about that comparison and he just smiles, perhaps embarrassed by the whole thing.

“He is the best,” Jones said. “As a goalie, everyone does different things. To kind of like shape my game, you look at everyone and take different bits and pieces of everyone and make your own style of play.”

With a .916 save percentage and 2.40 goals-against average to open the year Jones has certainly delivered serviceable numbers for a team that was prone to giving up goals in bunches on occasion last year.

Penn State is set to open a 10-game home stand tonight at Pegula Ice Arena as the Nittany Lions prepare for Big Ten play at the other end of the stretch. Jones figures to start most all of those games although given the level of competition on some nights, Funkey may see himself in net at least once before heading on the road to Ohio State.

Either way Penn State seems to have found itself a goalie and one that looks more than ready to take on a Big Ten conference that appears to be the strongest it has ever been in its short existence.

And so the Nittany Lions will go as their goalie goes. Hockey is ulitmaltey not that complicated to do well. Play defense, get dependable goalkeeping and score.

So far Penn State is getting all three.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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