In two games characterized by early-season sloppiness, No. 10 Penn State came away with a split.
Playing in tough road environments against two quality teams, the Nittany Lions fell to Clarkson, 2-1, on Friday before rebounding with a 4-1 steamrolling of St. Lawrence on Saturday.
With a pair of games at No. 3 Minnesota next on the schedule, Penn State’s victory over the Skating Saints was especially important as it erased the possibility of an 0-4 start to the season.
Let’s dive into some takeaways from this weekend.
1.) Peyton Jones was excellent
As one might expect from a freshman netminder, Peyton Jones was incredibly inconsistent between the pipes for the Nittany Lions last season.
But the version of Jones that appeared in net this weekend was similar to the one that almost single-handedly propelled Penn State to the Big Ten Tournament title last season.
Jones stopped 49 of the 52 shots he faced over the two games, keeping the Nittany Lions in the game on Friday when their offense went stagnant and dominating St. Lawrence en route to a victory on Saturday.
If Jones can continue this kind of stellar play in goal, Penn State will prove difficult to beat with its high-powered offense.
2.) Turnovers continue to be a problem
The difference-maker in Penn State’s defeat at the hands of Clarkson on Friday was a costly turnover in the game’s opening seconds.
After the Nittany Lions won the game’s opening faceoff, a pass from Kevin Kerr to Andrew Sturtz in Penn State’s defensive zone was mishandled. The Golden Knights pounced on the opportunity to beat Jones and take a 1-0 lead 14 seconds into the game.
Penn State targeted puck security in the defensive zone as an area where it needed to improve after its exhibition game against Ottawa, but that seems like something that will take time.
The Nittany Lions are integrating Kerr, who missed the final portion of last season with an injury, as well as freshman Cole Hults into their defensive corps, so miscues breaking out of the zone could become something of an early season theme.
3.) Penn State’s penalty kill looked much improved
The Nittany Lions were sent to the penalty box a staggering total of nine times against St. Lawrence on Friday, but left the Skating Saints with just one goal to show for five attempts at a power play.
Penn State was even better on the penalty kill on Friday, holding Clarkson without a goal in its two power play attempts in a much tamer affair.
The Nittany Lions limited their two opponents to just nine shots on their power play, making it easier for Jones, who made eight stops.
All told, the six-for-seven showing was an improvement on the 82.1 percent mark the Nittany Lions posted a season ago, which ranked 33rd out of 60 Division-I teams.