No. 15 Penn State men’s hockey is heading to its first Big Ten championship game in program history tonight against Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions have played consistently well throughout the tournament, and there have been several contributing factors in this accomplishment:
I can’t say enough about how outstanding the freshman goaltender has played the past two games. Jones has averaged 33.5 saves, while only allowing a mere two goals a game thus far in the tournament. The numbers themselves are impressive; however, it has been Jones’ ability to come up clutch in big moments that has propelled Penn State to the championship game. In Thursday’s outing against Michigan, Jones made several keys saves down the stretch in the last two periods that prevented the Wolverines from mounting a comeback. Last night against Minnesota, Jones stood on his head and made monster saves when everyone and their mother thought the Gophers were going to score. His most impressive save came in the first overtime when a Minnesota forward was left all alone in the slot. Jones challenged him and made a fantastic point-blank glove save. He added a personal touch to it as well by channeling his inner Carey Price and flashing the leather. Simply sensational, have a look:
Superb glove save from Penn State’s Peyton Jones to rob Minn’s Mike Szmatula in OT pic.twitter.com/kjoQ6FxMSB
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) March 18, 2017
“I love Carey Price and Braden Holtby, I watch them all of the time and they make those fancy glove saves. I went over, read and reacted to the play. Made a nice save,” Jones said.
The Nittany Lions started both games extremely well by taking an early lead, which is of the utmost importance. Penn State is a different team when trailing and it is difficult to erase large deficits during tournament play, especially when you are playing against a quality opponent like Minnesota. When Penn State can play its brand of hockey without having to worry about making a homerun pass in order to catch up, it is one of the best teams in the country.
Championship Caliber Effort
Penn State has been playing like it’s on a mission to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history and it has really shown. Every player has been hustling on the back check and given the extra effort needed to make a game winning play. You could tell how bad Penn State wanted to secure a bid because whenever it lost the puck in both overtimes, there would instantly be all five Nittany Lions behind the puck and ready to defend. Hustle plays were being made all over the place; however, the most important one came during the second overtime when Erik Autio dove to deny Minnesota of a potential break away scenario.
That’s a heck of an effort play with double OT legs pic.twitter.com/4IlsUC72Zp
— Ben Jones (@Ben_Jones88) March 18, 2017
Guy Gadowsky’s Flow
Gadowsky’s hair the past few days has been nothing short of sensational (and a major factor in Penn State’s success IMO). Think about it this way: If you’re an opposing coach or player and you see Gadowsky staring into your soul while rocking a beautiful luscious mane of hair, you have to be shaking in your boots. When Gadowsky has the flow feathered and lethal, opposing teams have been proven to have a negative chance of winning. It’s simply breathtaking and has been compared to the experience of seeing the Mona Lisa in person. Win or lose, Penn State still has to feel good about itself knowing it has an absolute Clydesdale for a coach.