BLOG: Juha Making Big Contributions
Nov. 11, 2013
By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's hockey team has a new points leader after Friday night's 2-1 win over Scared Heart.
Although he has the bragging rights on the team right now, he won't make a big fuss about it. That's not the type of player Luke Juha is.
The quiet, steady defenseman has been a key player early for the Nittany Lions and is setting himself up for a breakout season.
"I don't think any time a defensemen is leading the team in goals or [points], it's normal," Juha said after the game. "I'm just happy to be able to contribute."
The Mississauga, Ontario native got the Nittany Lions going early against Sacred Heart when his slap-shot deflected off the pads of Pioneers' goalkeeper Alex Vazzano and bounced into the net just 3:51 into the first period.
It was the beginning of what would be a solid day.
During the game, the sophomore defender continued to establish himself as one of the best player on the ice. He was physical, smart, and displayed incredible awareness - specifically on a crucial play in the second period.
With the Lions leading, 2-0, Sacred Heart came driving down the ice and ripped a shot on net. Goalkeeper Matthew Skoff turned the shot away, but the puck bounced back and slid towards the open net. Juha stepped in at the last second and stopped the puck to preserve the lead.
"That's somebody who is just doing his job; had my back on that play," Skoff said after the game. "I definitely owe him one."
During a play that was very frantic for the both Nittany Lions and the Pioneers, Juha remained calm and simply did his job.
"It's a classic story about being at the right place at the right time," Juha said. "I was just in front of the net, saw the puck trickle behind Skoff and I just took it out. It's pretty instinctive"
Performances and plays like that, however, have started to become the norm for the 5-foot-11 defensemen. As his coach Guy Gadowsky says, Juha is a "cerebral" player who is very well aware of what is happening around him.
"Luke is a very heads up guy, both with the puck on his stick and when he doesn't have the puck," Gadowsky said. "He's just a very smart hockey player and I think he could read what was happening [when he saved the shot].
"He looked so calm. That was what sort of surprised me, because it seemed to be very frantic everywhere else. He was the guy that went and got the puck out of the net and he looked like the calmest guy on the ice. That's pretty typical for him. He's a very cerebral player, very smart, and made a huge play there."
The defenseman has already tripled his goal total from last season and he's doing it with style. His play from the blue line has been exceptional. He is ripping shot after shot -- a team leading 18 -- leading to goals for himself and rebound opportunities for his teammates.
On the defensive end of the ice, he doesn't shy away from contact and has been a problem for opposing teams to get by. He's physical in the corners, limiting the opportunities for centering passes, and he protects the front of the net very well.
He's also become a huge contributor on the power play; all three of his goals this season have come with the man advantage. With one of the more powerful shots on the team, it only makes sense this defenseman would be taking more and more with each game. He's already on pace to shatter the 33 shots he took last season for the Nittany Lions.
The nicest part about the play of Juha, however, has been the fact that he's on the ice. The Nittany Lions lost the defensemen for the final 18 games of last season due to injury. He's healthy now and has been letting everyone see what type of player he is.
Penn State is back at home Thursday and Friday night when they host No. 12 UMass-Lowell. This will be the first time the two programs have played each other at the Division I level. The puck will drop at 7 p.m. on both nights.