By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the departure of two goaltenders last season, Penn State men's hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky will look toward veteran Chris Funkey and newcomer Peyton Jones to fill the void.
Jones, a Pennsylvania native, is coming off of a successful 2015-16 season with the Lincoln Stars of the USHL. Jones played in 35 games with the Stars and ended the season with a .922 save percentage, placing him fourth in the league.
Standing at 6 feet 4 inches, Jones has learned over recent years how to utilize his size inside the crease.
"I used to be a smaller goalie, so when I did grow I still played like a smaller goalie," said Jones. "I had to get used to not coming out and challenging as much."
During Jones' final year in Lincoln, Nebraska he focused on watching video of bigger goalies and how they play efficiently. Watching a lot of film, along with working with his goaltending coach Clay Adams, is what Jones credits his success to during his final season with the Stars.
Jones describes himself as a quick goaltender who moves well laterally. Both skills will be an asset once the season starts, especially during Big Ten play. Up against quick-moving offenses like Minnesota, Jones' talents could be a key for shutting the opposition down.
While the season may be a few weeks away, Jones is working now on getting better little by little every day. He emphasized that if he can improve each week before the season, it will put him in the best position possible to earn a starting spot.
Jones also explained how he is thankful he'll have his family come to many of the games once the season gets rolling. Hockey Valley is a simple drive from his home in Langhorne, Pennsylvania compared to the last two years he spent in Lincoln.
Although familial support is vital, Jones also has the support of two others.
Helping Jones play up to his size in net are two very close friends. He wears the numbers 20 and 24 on the back of his helmet to honor two of his friends from high school who passed away.
In the world of sports, goaltender helmets are one of the final elements of individuality, an opportunity for players to showcase what is important to them. Goaltenders often design the paint job on their own masks and it is very telling that Jones wanted to include the numbers of his two friends.
In addition, Jones' helmet also has several Penn State logos on the sides, along with the logo of Pegula Ice Arena itself. The words "We Are...Penn State" are painted on either side of the traditional blue stripe down the middle of the helmet.
With the clock winding down on preseason workouts, Jones is eager to skate out on the ice for the Blue and White. Having never attended a game in Pegula Ice Arena prior to committing to the University, one of the things Jones is looking forward to is the game day atmosphere.
Knowing the Nittany Lions' contests have consistently been sold out since Pegula opened four years ago, as well as having the support of the vocal and dedicated Roar Zone, Jones is ready to put on a show and work hard for all in attendance.
"I've heard nothing but good things," Jones said. "I'm excited to play in front of the fans."