Jan. 7, 2013
• Watch Eaves News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's hockey head coach Mike Eaves spoke Monday after the team earned its second series sweep of the season against Alaska Anchorage. UW remains on the road next weekend for a series with Minnesota State, Jan. 11-12.
Coach Eaves and the Wisconsin men's hockey program also unveiled commemorative jerseys to be worn Feb. 17 in the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic against Minnesota.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above and a complete transcript of Eaves' remarks can be found below.
Eaves: At this time we'd like to introduce a new jersey for the 2013 OfficeMax Hockey City Classic that we'll wear February 17th in our game against Minnesota at Soldier Field. The jersey is a reproduction of the jersey worn by our team in 1931-32, and it is something of a continuation of our season-long celebration of our program's history in the 50th season of the modern era. We brought in our special captain John Ramage/model. He's going to stand up and give you a look-see at the jersey for our game. Hands on your hip. This is a visual of it. The guys are really excited about this jersey. We showed them earlier. It's something we look forward to wearing in that game. (It) should be a lot of fun.
Question:Will the coaches be wearing any articles of clothing from the early '30s?
Eaves: To be determined. To be determined. Maybe a chapeau of some sort from the '30s. I can guarantee you it will be warm.
Question: Why is your team playing so much better on the road than it would appear it has at home?
Eaves: It all has to do with getting people back, getting healthy, those types of things. It's funny how people say, well, what's different? We've got our people healthy and not suspended. Our game makers are back in the game and providing offense, and we have that in our ability now. So that's a key reason why we're on this little run that we're on right now.
Question: Those that didn't see the series or didn't hear the series, how would you recap those two days?
Eaves: Friday night, the big thing was we scored five goals. We didn't play particularly well in terms of system play, and it was unusual for us to watch video and watch the line of Dahl, Little and Little play the systems that we played so poorly. They were off their assignment. It was kind of a bad game that way. But it was the first game that we hadn't played decently and found a way to win. The reason for that is we scored five points. On Saturday it was just the opposite. We earned that game. We deserved that game. We played very well. There was a moment in the first period where there was a shift and a half where Anchorage came out to establish itself physically, and we just answered the bell. From that moment on, a lot of things we did were very good. We only scored one goal -- I haven't seen the chances yet, but I just felt during that game we did so many good things. It was good to play that way and find a way to win.
Question: How easy is it for your team to tap into the energy that a Jake McCabe might bring back to you?
Eaves: Just spoke with Jake this morning at 10:30 this morning. It was 10:30 in Russia at night. So I'm not sure he'll remember our conversation. Any time a player goes through an experience like that -- I remember when we came back from Finland or when Steps And rammer came back from their win, they're on a euphoric high that first weekend. They will play very, very well is what history tells us. Until a couple weeks later, it hits them physically, mentally and emotionally. But he will bring into the locker room that level of play that I hope will rub off. You watch those games, the pace at which those games are played is phenomenal. I would like for him to be able to come in and keep playing at that pace and hold on to that pace as long as he can and talk about the things that they did over there. He'll have that intrinsic knowledge of what it takes to be a winner at a high level and bring that into our locker room.
Question: Do you expect Jake (McCabe) to play this weekend?
Eaves: Yes. He wants to play. He will play. Physically, he says I'm healthy. I've just got to get used to the time zone.
Question: Also, a follow-up, Chase Drake took his place this past weekend and played pretty decently. You've got seven guys there.
Eaves: He definitely played well enough that there's competition to stay in that top seven. So Chase did a nice job for us. I don't think we missed too much of a beat by having him step in. To his credit, he hasn't played in a long time, and he did a nice job.
Question: Kind of trying to find a way to put this. How would you assess Eddie Wittchow and Kevin Schulze at this point, two of your freshmen defensemen, who have played a lot, and their numbers don't suggest they'd jump at the sheet at you, but they've certainly entrenched themselves in the lineup.
Eaves: You can see growth in their play. They certainly fumble around once in a while, especially when we go into new buildings that they're not used to. You can see their eyes are lit up a little bit. But their understanding of our system, their understanding of the pace of our game, their understanding of the strength of the men they're playing against, they're all getting used to that and understand what they have to do. They keep rising, Andy, in their understanding and their ability to play.
Question: You mentioned Jefferson's line a little while ago. The fourth line played pretty strongly on Saturday too. The top two lines, those are two pretty potent lines that seem to be kind of clicking right now.
Eaves: No question. Derek Lee's line with Mersch and Joseph LaBate are playing as well as I've ever seen those guys playing together. Saturday in the game, Joseph was playing at another level, and there's real good chemistry between Lee and Mersch. We haven't seen the top end of Zeng's line yet. If you watch them practice, when they have the puck, they can do real special things. We haven't maximized that in games yet. Our challenge to them a little bit is we want to be able to rely on them to put them out late in games when we're up by a goal, knowing they can get the job done and not give up a goal. They have the skill to score. Like on Friday night, they scored the empty net goal. We want to know they're able to play real well with and without the puck so we can put them out there in key situations.
Question: Has the ship been turned yet? Last time I bring up that cliche.
Eaves: We're undefeated in eight. I would say the wind is at our sails. Is it maxed out yet? I would tend to say no. I would want to say no. I would like to see us play even better, but the wind is definitely in our sails now, and we're going for it.
Question: Looking back at the start of the season, was Mankato kind of the low point for this team in terms of what it learned and losing -- not being able to even get a point out of that series here in Madison?
Eaves: That series hurt in terms of not getting points, but I went back and looked at that series. Friday night, we out chanced them significantly. Saturday we out chanced them by a little bit, and we lost both games 4-2. I don't think we played, by any stretch, our worst hockey. We just couldn't score, and we didn't get goals at the right time. I'm hoping with this wind in our sails, we're going into an environment we know is a tough environment, but what a great environment to win in. I'm hoping our guys will go in there and play well.
Question: You've been involved at this level for a long time. In your dealings with the USHL, are you at all surprised at the success Mankato is having right now under Mike Hastings, their first year coach?
Eaves: Mike's a good coach. I think, when you come in and there's new life and new hope and there's energy, and they got off to a good start and just carried that on. I'm not surprised. Sometimes that's the way it happens when you have a change in coaching staff.
Question: When you look back at the Mankato series, you were missing Mark, you were missing Nic. Is there a mentality with this team that would seem to benefit them, knowing that you have them back, that you weren't at full strength at that time, that you're a different team now?
Eaves: Well, I think, just having those two guys back in and the way we're playing together. I don't think it's just one thing. I think it's the way we're playing together with those guys back in the lineup. We have our full complement. We have good chemistry. We have the wind in our sails. Those are things we're going to rise to this weekend.
Question: Have you heard at all about ticket sales for the outdoor game?
Eaves: No, I haven't. We talked about it on the road up in Alaska, but there wasn't any mention of what it was at the time. It's getting closer. I'm sure we'll hear a lot more about it. I hear the guys talking about it in the locker room already. They've got it circled on the date there on the calendar. Just once again, we don't have any breaks during the second half of the season. I think that will be, you've heard us call, an emotional energizer in the middle of a long stretch of games that I think will really elevate the emotion we'll need to carry us through to the second half.
Question: One more too. The National Hockey League is going to start up again. I know the guys in the locker room are happy about that and fans everywhere. How about you?
Eaves: It will take up more of my TV time, I know that's true. But it's a really good thing. You know what, how it affects us is that our guys get to watch guys at the next level, and we use that. We watch games of pro hockey, and we ask guys who they emulate at the next level. Now they'll be able to watch those guys and see what the top end is, we think, for them to hope for.