Peyton Jones: An Elite Goal-Scorer In The Making?
Penn State hockey goalie Peyton Jones has spent plenty of evenings watching NHL games with his roommates and teammates Nate Sucese, Brandon Biro, and Liam Folkes at their home in Happy Valley. One game they were watching over break was between the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center in the Windy City.
Like the scene at Jones’ place as the seniors partook in a common pastime, there was nothing out of the ordinary about the game itself — at least until the Blackhawks dumped the puck into Nashville’s zone with 30 seconds left.
Pekka Rinne — the Predators’ star goalie for the past 14 seasons — settled down a bouncing puck before firing it all the way down the ice. The puck ended up bouncing at Chicago’s blue line before sliding all the way into the Hawks’ empty net. Rinne had just become the 12th NHL goaltender to score a goal and the first since Mike Smith in 2013.
Millions of people have watched Rinne’s score on YouTube, but witnessing the play live struck inspiration among the four seniors.
“We saw that happen. I was with Nate and told him I’m going to try it this year,” Jones said on Monday.
As it turned out, the senior netminder didn’t have to wait long to put his money where his mouth is. Jones and the Nittany Lions held a 5-2 lead over Robert Morris with a little more than three minutes to play on Saturday night in Pittsburgh. The Colonials called their timeout, and Jones went straight to third-string goalie Will Holtforster to tell him he was going to shoot for goal.
Jones got two cracks at Robert Morris’ yawning cage, which was approximately 190 feet away from his crease. The empty net might as well have been miles away from the goalie, who couldn’t clear the puck beyond center ice thanks to Robert Morris’ defenders.
“A goalie dreams of scoring a goal. That was my chance, and it didn’t happen for me. Let’s hope I get another opportunity,” Jones said.
“He’ll work on it and hit the gym a little more,” Sucese said. “We were dying laughing.”
According to junior wing Alex Limoges, Jones got some extra shooting work in before practice got started on Monday. Limoges and fellow junior Alex Stevens stood at the far blue line with their arms raised while their goalie peppered shots at the empty net. Only two of Jones’ 15 shots found the target. Not great, but definitely an improvement over Robert Morris.
Earlier this year, head coach Guy Gadowsky told reporters that Jones doesn’t like discussing his stats and performances. Gadowsky, however, said that the goaltender was much more talkative about scoring goals after Rinne’s goal went in.
“It was either yesterday or the day before, but he’s the one that brought it up with me,” the head coach said postgame. “We had a conversation about how you hold your stick and stuff, but we probably should’ve had a longer conversation. He handles the puck so well, so I really wanted him to try it.”
Goalie goals come in many different shapes and sizes, but one of the most unique was Martin Brodeur’s third (!!) for the New Jersey Devils. Brodeur poked the puck away from Carolina’s Patrick Dwyer, who drew a hooking penalty on New Jersey’s Marek Zidlicky by powering to the goal. Jordan Staal collected the puck in the corner and misfired on a pass, and the puck rolled all the way into Carolina’s empty cage that was vacated due to the delayed penalty.
As the last Devil to touch the puck on the play, Martin Brodeur got credit for the goal. That’s obviously not the most exciting way for a goalie to score, but would Jones and the Nittany Lions take that?
“They don’t ask how. They ask how many,” the goalie said. “A goal is a goal, but it’d be pretty cool to shoot one all the way down.”
“It’s definitely cooler when you shoot,” Limoges added. “He’d be able to celly, and everyone would know it’s his.”
Beyond his new goal-scoring adventures, Jones has been one of Penn State’s steadiest performers throughout the year. He’s posted a Big Ten-leading 14 victories, and he also has a strong 2.37 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in 19 appearances.
His 42-save performance against Robert Morris was the latest gem he put together, and Penn State will need him to continue playing well — stopping the puck as he attempts to put them in the other team’s net — as it enters the nitty-gritty of its Big Ten schedule.
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Penn State will join an amicus brief written in support of a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and ICE regarding the new rules.
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