Freshmen Evaluation: Week Three
Stunning. Amazing. Brilliant. The only descriptions needed for Penn State’s performance against the then third ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The now No. 19 Nittany Lions took a series from Notre Dame this past weekend after tying 3-3 Friday night and securing the win with a 3-2 overtime win Saturday night. It was made possible by some amazing contributions from this outstanding core of freshmen.
The offense was stellar once again as they showed the Fighting Irish and the rest of college hockey that they are here to stay. The freshmen contributions were notable in both games as forwards Nikita Pavylchev and Denis Smirnov notched three points in the first game. Pavylchev recorded his second goal of the year while Smirnov picked up two assists, one of which came on Pavylchev’s goal. The freshman kept pouring it on Saturday night as Nate Sucese joined the party with his fourth goal of the season and Denis Smirnov kept his success rolling, recording another assist.
This young high powered offense continues to impress analysts and fans alike across the college hockey landscape. Denis Smirnov is hanging with the best of them, tied for team points leader at six points in five games, and he is also tied for tenth in the nation amongst freshmen in points per game at a 1.2 average. This unit is thrashing through defenses like a wildfire through a forest and doesn’t look to slow down anytime soon.
The defense performed above expectations this weekend, assisting Peyton Jones in two great performances. They did let up five goals in two games, but this is to be expected against the third best team in the nation; however, a win's a win. Freshman Kris Myllari was a part of a unit that scrapped with the Fighting Irish to force two overtime matches and very competitive back and forth hockey. Myllari finished the series with a zero plus minus rating, showing his unit was capable of shutting down an equally potent offense in Notre Dame.
This defense is surpassing the offense in respect to expectations and performance. This defense is good, but was not nearly as touted as the offense was coming into the season. They have become a stalwart force to be reckoned with amongst the big boys of college hockey. The Nittany Lions are playing aggressive, downhill defense that has led to a great start to the season.
What can be said about Peyton Jones that has not already been said? This youngster has done nothing but stun and shut down offenses when it’s been needed most. Jones had another outstanding pair of starts as he allowed three goals on 30 shots in game one and 2 goals on 26 shots in game two. He kept his wits about him when the Nittany Lions needed him the most, not allowing a goal in overtime in either game.
Jones has had great success on the year minus one hiccup against St. Lawrence, averaging 2.4 goals allowed per game. A team with an offense like Penn State’s should have no trouble winning games with a wall named Peyton Jones in between the pipes. The twenty-year-old netminder has done nothing but give coach Guy Gadowsky every reason to start him every night he is able to play.
The Nittany Lions are showing people that age is truly no object as they are thriving with a starting lineup that features ten freshmen who all get significant playing time. The young men have earned themselves an A- this week. The only thing they could’ve done better was improve their power play conversion after going one for twelve in the series on the man advantage. Outside of the offensive special teams, the Nittany Lions were firing on all cylinders this past weekend and look to ride this high into Pegula Ice Arena this coming weekend when they face the Canisius Golden Griffins Friday and Saturday night.
Travis Sutton is a freshman majoring in telecommunications. To contact, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.