A hockey goalie thrives thanks to a short memory and a strong dose of confidence, and Penn State’s Peyton Jones has those in abundance.
He and his teammates need those and more this weekend. After three consecutive losses when the team surrendered 16 goals, the Nittany Lions need a victory soon.
Penn State might not be in panic mode entering its series against Michigan, but the team’s position at the bottom of the Big Ten standings certainly impacts its outlook.
“I think we have a sense of urgency besides that,” coach Guy Gadowsky said.
The team’s high-octane offense has slowed a bit, some key players are injured, and Michigan has always been a problem — especially at Yost Arena. Penn State is 2-8 in Ann Arbor. Gadowsky and members of the veteran team know those things and, almost unanimously, players like Jones, a senior, seem somewhat unconcerned.
“We’re close, a bounce here or there,” Jones said. “I have full confidence things will change.”
Likewise, Gadowsky remains confident in his players’ talent and his system. He’s hopeful, but knows it will not be easy. “There are a lot of things we do exceptionally well,” he said. “The challenge is putting it all together.”
Michigan has its challenges as well, notably the absence of Josh Norris, who has scored 10 goals. He, like Penn State’s Aarne Talvitie, was injured at the World Junior Championships and will miss the rest of the season.
Additionally for Penn State, the status of Brandon Biro (7 goals, 19 assists) remains unclear because of an injury, and other key players have to find a way to remain on the ice.
Junior forward Nikita Pavlychev played less against Ohio State last weekend because of penalty problems. He was whistled for 18 last season and has 15 this season. “When he’s not on the ice as much, we’re not as good a team,” Gadowsky said.
While nobody claims to be a vocal leader, challenging teammates or making rah-rah motivational efforts, there have been players-only discussions and meetings in recent weeks for Penn State. Again, the veteran team knows what’s at stake.
“There are 10 games left and we have to win a majority of them,” forward Ludvig Larsson said.
They also insist their focus for the series — with two games over three days and the finale in Madison Square Garden — falls on the hockey itself, not where it will be played.
No. 15 Penn State (13-9-2, 5-8-1 Big Ten) vs. Michigan (8-9-6, 4-5-4 Big Ten)
Weekend Series: 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 7 p.m. Saturday
Radio/TV: Both games on 103.1 FM and GoPSUsports.com with Saturday’s game televised by Big Ten Network.
Notable: The teams play Thursday in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York City. … Michigan leads the series, 14-11, with a 4-2 record in the past three series. … Penn State won when the teams met in NYC in March 2017. … Both teams completed their most recent conference series against Ohio State, with Penn State getting swept this past weekend at home and Michigan earning a split the week before in Columbus.