By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com
student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Headed into its second consecutive week on the road, Penn State men's hockey has a lot of positives to build upon before traveling to the west coast to play Arizona State.
Pulling from game two of last weekend's series at Notre Dame, the Nittany Lions held the Fighting Irish to only one goal in an all-out defensive showcase. Although Penn State didn't put any goals in the back of the net despite various opportunities to do so, head coach Guy Gadowsky was still happy with the performance.
"We had a lot of 'grade A' opportunities that we never finish on but we take that game any day, we really would," Gadowsky said. "If we could bottle that, we take that game against anyone."
The blue line stepped up and showcased improvements Gadowsky has been looking for all season, allowing zero power play goals through the entire series against the best power play scoring unit in the Big Ten. The defense also held one of the nation's top goal scorers, Jake Evans, to a lone assist throughout the weekend.
Strength in the defense zone also led to better goaltending on behalf of sophomore Peyton Jones, who totaled 40 saves throughout the series and earned the third star in Saturday night's game.
"As Kyle MacDonald our goaltending coach said, 'It takes one game to turn the tide on goaltenders,'" Gadowsky said. "We know what Peyton can do and we have a ton of faith in him."
For Gadowsky, it's something he hopes will boost Jones' confidence as well as that of the defense, sparking more improvement going forward.
On the other side of the puck, Nikita Pavlychev has been able to find the back on the net on a more consistent basis this season. Using his 6-foot-7-inch stature along with his aggressive style of play to his advantage, Pavlychev has become an integral part of Penn State's offense.
The sophomore forward registered a career-best point streak and extended his goal streak to four games going into game two at South Bend before it was snapped.
"He actually had a lot of opportunities last year but he struggled in hitting the net," Gadowsky said. "Whereas this year, I know that's something he has really focused on in the summer and it's starting to pay off."
By the time game 12 arrived, Pavlychev had registered only two goals, but this season he has boosted his total to five goals headed into game 13.
The Russian native has been able to hone in on his shooting skills at the Pittsburgh Penguins development camp, where he spent this past summer. The Penguins drafted Pavlychev in the 2015 NHL Draft in the seventh round.
"He works hard every day, he really takes pride in playing in his own end," junior forward Andrew Sturtz said. "It's tough to do that every night and it might not always show up on the scoreboard, but those little things are what's going to help us win."
As noted by Gadowsky, it's doing the little things that will ultimately lead to success for the Nittany Lions, and Pavlychev is helping to move things in the right direction.