Peter Sweetland’s value increased as soon as his team saw its two top defensemen on the injured list.
And recently he’s filled their shoes quite well.
Sweetland has stepped up since Luke Juha and Nate Jensen haven’t been in the lineup since early January, and has improved overall from the beginning of the season.
The sophomore went from not playing in the first four games to pacing Saturday’s game against Ohio University’s ACHA club team with one goal and two assists.
Coach Guy Gadowsky said it all started when Sweetland debuted in a game against Army, which sparked a bit of confidence in the defenseman, when he scored a goal and had an assist.
“To be honest, I think he might have been a little intimidated to start and then when he realized he had the skills to play with these guys, he started to practice a lot better and started having a lot better results practicing,” Gadowsky said.
Sweetland also attributed his success to confidence, but simply said there was something more.
“But I also think it’s just getting better. Playing your first year at the [Division I] level you’re not going to be great right off the bat,” he said. “It’s been a progress.”
The Newtown, Pa. native also played as a member of Penn State’s club team last year, where he appeared in 22 games and earned 13 points (two goals, 11 assists).
He said although Division I hockey is a lot faster, with stronger players, he thinks he transitioned pretty well. He contributed part of this development from practicing against good players.
Team captain Tommy Olczyk said he has seen Sweetland step up while Juha and Jensen haven’t been playing.
“Peter’s a great defenseman, he has great vision out there,” Olczyk said. “He has the ability to slow the play down and make plays. It’s fun to watch him play sometimes.”
While Juha is out indefinitely with an abdominal injury and Jensen is recovering from an upper body injury, Gadowsky said he needed Sweetland to step into a role of moving pucks on defense.
“We need him to play well,” Gadowsky said. “With Luke and Nate out, we need him to play well. Because he’s really the next guy in terms of that mold — he has a good stick and a good head, he sees the ice very well. We need him to move pucks because the two guys we brought for that are gone.”
The Penn State coach said since he’s known Sweetland for a couple of years, he knows that his challenge is being consistent.
He said Sweetland might not be the most physical guy on the ice, but uses his long reach to his advantage. He said Sweetland’s best asset is his vision.
“He sees the ice very well,” Gadowsky said. “He has good stick skills, in terms of shooting the puck and making plays. It’s just a matter of him being consistently on, but when he is, he’s very, very good.”