Freshmen Evaluation: Week 12
Penn State Hockey woes continued this weekend, getting swept by the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Game one was a complete blowout losing 5-1 and while the team played better on Saturday night, they still fell 5-2.
For the first time since November, Guy Gadowsky gave freshman goaltender Peyton Jones the night off starting Chris Funkey in goal. Funkey did not receive much help from his defense, except for Kris Myllari who led the team in blocks with only two. He continues his great play on defense, truly the only player on the ice for the Nittany Lions who has had great success since New Year’s. Myllari also had three shots on the night only behind Chase Berger with four.
Liam Folkes also had an impressive night with three shots, but was unable to get on the score sheet. While Folkes is undersized, he makes up for it with outstanding speed. Brandon Biro possesses this same skill with little size, but is found all over the ice. Nate Sucese also registered two shots on the night, but none of these freshman have the ability to keep the Nittany Lions in the game like Denis Smirnov who put his name in the Hobey Baker award watch with an outstanding first half of the season. The second half he has been rendered ineffective because of physical play giving him no space to skate. He only had two shots on the night which is not enough for a star player.
Game two was a slightly better story for Penn State leading 2-1 early in the second period, but a 10-minute penalty on Zach Saar killed all the momentum. They did get to 40 shots on the night, but the defense struggled in front of Peyton Jones. Jones has also not been successful enough in the second half of the year and is really starting to struggle. He had 23 saves on the night where Minnesota got 28 shots on net, but gave up multiple bad rebounds that led to goals. Myllari continued to shine on defense getting three shots off while also leading the team with five blocks on defense.
Offensively the freshman had a slightly more productive night. Pavlychev got three shots off while on the same line as Smirnov who only got two shots off. Newcomer to the team Brett Murray was able to get one shot off, but also showed some good worth by hustling after numerous loose pucks along the boards. Folkes, Biro, and Sucese also had little impact on the game registering only four shots total between the trio. The freshman did however fare slightly better in the faceoff circle where the two teams tied with 28 wins each on the night. Overall, the freshman won nine and lost 10, but this is not bad considering Chase Berger usually wins a majority of his draws in the face-off circle. Pavlychev won five faceoffs but lost six. Sucese won four and lost only three and Liam Folkes went 0-1 on the night.
While early in the season freshman were dominating for the Nittany Lions, they have all seemed to cool off with Smirnov not scoring nearly as many goals and being far more limited offensively. Peyton Jones’ Achilles heel is proving to be bad rebounds just floating in front of the net. These two need to step up their game for Penn State to regain control of the snowballing season and keep their hopes of the NCAA tournament alive.
Brian McLaughlin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, please email firstname.lastname@example.org