Clayton Phillips Seeing ‘Less Valleys’, Finding Consistency For Penn State Men’s Hockey

The 2020-21 Penn State men’s hockey season was a roller coaster, to say the least. That’s especially true for then-senior defenseman Clayton Phillips.

After transferring from Minnesota following his sophomore season, the Edina, Minnesota native had a decent junior campaign with the Nittany Lions but saw a disappointing end to his senior season when he suffered an injury in Penn State’s last regular-season game. Now, after declaring to stay for his fifth year, the Penguins prospect is in the middle of his best collegiate season.

Penn State broke into this week’s USCHO poll this week for the first time in nearly a year after upsetting No. 6 North Dakota in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game on Saturday. Phillips had a career game for the Nittany Lions that led to him being named this week’s Big Ten First Star of the Week. The fifth-year senior scored two goals and registered an assist as well, but his impact in the game went beyond tallying points.

“I can say he was absolutely into it,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said on Monday. “Whether it was the defensive zone, natural zone, or offensive zone he was in, he was very sharp all game long and did a lot of really good things.”

Phillips’ assist in the game came on Ben Copeland’s empty-net goal late in the third period, as he dove and blocked a shot to stop North Dakota’s late power-play chance. Copeland then picked up the rebound and fired it into the empty net from his defensive zone.

“The coaching staff talked, and [if] you take away the goals, I thought he controlled the play,” Gadowsky said. “I thought he was excellent.”

Gadowsky pointed out Phillips’ improved play since returning from his injury, most notably the newfound consistency that’s keeping him grounded.

“I think he’s been very consistent, and his game has had less valleys,” Gadowsky said. “We’re used to seeing a lot more peaks from him, but we’re seeing a lot less valleys and him being more consistent.”

Phillips also thinks that he has been starting to hit his stride this season as well.

“We had a players and coaches meeting during our bye week, and [consistency] is one area that myself and the coaches thought I could focus on more,” Phillips said. “I’m just looking to continue to try and be as consistent as possible here going forward.”

So far this season, Phillips has three goals, which ranks third-best on the team. He has six points with a +6 plus/minus rating, which also stands as the third-best mark on the team. Even though he has been scoring in his last three games, Phillips likes to consider himself more than just a scoring defender.

“I think of myself as more of a two-way defenseman,” Phillips said. “I like to use my feet during the rush, distribute pucks quickly, and take care of business in all areas of the ice.”

Phillips and the Nittany Lions will be in action this weekend when the team opens its Big Ten schedule with a trip to Ohio State. Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. on Friday, November 5.

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About the Author

Frankie Marzano

Frankie is a senior accounting and economics major from Long Island, NY. You can probably recognize him as the typical Italian-American with slicked back black hair. He is an avid fan of the New York Rangers and Mets, along with every Penn State Athletics team. Follow him on Twitter @frankiemarzano for obnoxious amounts of Rangers and Penn State content or email him at [email protected].

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