Peyton Jones: Penn State Hockey’s Postseason Standout
Penn State men’s hockey is on the cusp of another magical Big Ten tournament championship, and numerous events have given Nittany Lions fans a sense of déjà vu regarding the 2017 Big Ten tournament.
A No. 4 seed Penn State squad knocking out a No. 1 seed, playing a No. 2 seed in the championship game and a Liam Folkes overtime goal against Wisconsin all draw parallels to the Nittany Lions lone Big Ten hockey championship just two seasons ago.
One of the standout performances which may be going under the radar is the phenomenal goaltending performances by junior Peyton Jones. Jones won Big Ten tournament MVP in 2017 and has stepped up once again this postseason for Penn State in order to keep hopes for a third straight NCAA tournament appearance alive.
Jones’s 2019 regular season was full of inconsistency and often left a lot to be desired. He struggled to maintain a save percentage over .900 and failed to record a single shutout.
In addition, Jones’s current 3.33 goals against average currently ranks ninth among Big Ten goaltenders, with five of six competing teams having at least one goalie performing better on the season. His 92 goals conceded was also easily the highest for any Big Ten goaltender.
To be fair, these stats do not tell the whole story. Jones played behind one of college hockey’s worst defenses. Penn State is last in the Big Ten in scoring defense, and 56 out of 60 division one teams.
However, coach Guy Gadowsky’s style of play does not exactly allow for a stellar defensive presence to emerge. Penn State collectively pinches their defensemen into the attacking zone to keep the puck in. When teams can break out cleanly against them, it is going to lead to high quality chances, and the team consistently asks Jones for a lot of high-quality saves on a nightly basis.
Due to this, Jones has gotten rather fatigued by the end of games and has been known to let in soft goals from time to time.
Gadowsky is not one to abandon his game plan, which meant if Penn State was to ever find postseason success, Jones was going to have to step up his game considerably. Boy, has he delivered.
Coming into this postseason, Jones was notorious for his success in the Big Ten tournament. He led all goaltenders with five wins, an astounding .934 save percentage in addition to a mere 2.29 goals against average.
Jones has done nothing but solidify those stats in Penn State’s most recent Big Ten tournament run. In four games thus far, he has a 2.25 goals against average and a .930 save percentage.
His best performance came this past Sunday in a semifinal matchup against Ohio State, where Jones stopped 31 of 32 Buckeye shots. Not conceding his only goal of the game until Penn State possessed a dominant 4-0 lead.
While the Nittany Lion defense has still been susceptible to letting up odd man rushes the other way, Jones has been a brick wall in dealing with them. He stopped numerous breakaway chances against Wisconsin in the quarterfinals and came up with two huge one-on-one saves against Ohio State this past Sunday.
Thanks to Jones, Penn State is only one win away from becoming the first team to win multiple Big Ten tournaments. This Saturday against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the Nittany Lions will call on number 31 in goal for another stellar performance and if he delivers, perhaps another tournament MVP is in the cards.
Andre Magaro is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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