By Rick Woelfel
Originally published in Bucks County Courier Times 1-26-17
Peyton Jones’s first season at Penn State was supposed to be a season of transition, a time to adjust to being in college and being a collegiate goaltender. Things didn’t turn out quite that way for the Holy Ghost Prep graduate.
“Probably in March, Coach (Guy) Gadowsky called me,” Jones recalled. “He said ‘Don’t release this to anyone yet, but I just wanted you to know before you saw something on the Internet “
Veteran goalie Eamon McAdam, a Perkasie native, had opted to pass up his final season of collegiate eligibility to sign with the New York Islanders. The opening created an opening for Jones who is now the Nittany Lions’s starter in goal.
He and his teammates, including sophomore defenseman Kevin Kerr, another Holy Ghost Prep graduate, will take the ice at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday night against Princeton in the Philadelphia College Hockey Faceoff. Game time is 7:00.
Jones, who played two seasons with the Lincoln (Nebraska) Stars in the USHL before coming to Penn State, has had an impressive freshman season. In 19 appearances, all starts, he has put together a 2.30 goals-against average with a save percentage of .908 while helping Penn State to a 16-3-2 record. The Nittany Lions are ranked fourth in the country in this week’s USCHO rankings after being ranked number one last week. They are 5-2-1 in the Big Ten.
“I just try to go every night out and focus on doing one and one job only,” Jones said, “and that’s stop the puck and not let anything get in the way of me doing that.”
Jones has grown since he left Holy Ghost Prep. He’s listed on the roster at 6-4 and 210 pounds. But while his size is an asset, so is his demeanor. To put it mildly, goaltenders as a group tend to show their emotions rather openly, but Gadowsky praises Jones for his well-honed ability to control his emotions.
“He’s never really acted like a freshman,” Gadowsky said, “at all. In fact, his demeanor when things get frantic is very mature, very senior like. He’s obviously and extremely gifted athlete but I think is best quality is just how calm his head is and how even keel he is. In high emotional times, positive or negative, he’s very even keeled, very calm and I think that’s really the most impressive thing about him.”
To be sure, Jones had to make some on-ice adjustments when he arrived at Penn State. Opposing players are bigger, stronger, and older, since most have played a year or two of junior hockey before enrolling in college. And they are mature as hockey players.
“Everyone in the NCAA is definitely a lot stronger,” Jones said. There are definitely bigger guys. Guys are stronger and they’re much better with their sticks in front of the net. I’d say the game is a little bit faster, especially Big Ten play.”
Jones is looking forwarded to playing in front of friends and family Saturday night. “It’s going to be awesome,” he said. “I’m pretty fortunate, my family gets to come up and watch nearly all my games at Penn State …. (But) I have aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents who haven’t really been up to watch me play live so that will give them an opportunity to do that. I have a lot of friends back home.”