Feb. 2, 2010
Men’s head coach Mike Eaves made his usual media appearance on Monday. In it, he discussed this weekend’s outdoor game and touched on last weekend’s series split with UMD. The Badgers are currently 15-7-4 overall and 11-6-3 in WCHA action. This Saturday, No. 3 UW will square off the No. 19 Michigan Wolverines (15-12-1, 10-9-1 CCHA) at 5 p.m. in Camp Randall. Wisconsin is currently tied for fourth place in the WCHA, and it only trails league-leading Denver by three points.
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BRIAN LUCAS: . . . place in the WCHA. Badgers host Michigan in the second half or the Culver’s Camp Randall Hockey Classic, start at 5:00 p.m. and be televised on the Big Ten Network on Saturday. Coach Eaves is here and will take any questions.
QUESTION #1: Mike, a similar question to Tracey. How do you get your players to separate the novelty of this, even though it’s another outdoor game, from the importance of it in terms of playing Michigan, and that there’s rankings at stake and momentum at stake, those types of things?
Mike Eaves: Well, I think we look back on our experience at Lambeau Field. We really didn’t make a big deal. I think the kids were so excited to play that they were going to play at a high level. So I think that will take care of itself based on the experience that we’ve had.
QUESTION #2: Mike, kind of going back to that game at Lambeau, if I’m correct, Ben is the only one, in addition to the coaches. What, what do you expect and what do you like about it, both from a game playing outdoors and from the spectacle event itself?
EAVES: The biggest thing that comes to mind in looking back at Lambeau is the event itself and what it was, starting with the fact that the night before we got to go down on the rink and practice and look at it, and you could see the excitement in the kids’ eyes.
And then the next morning, when we bussed over, and the whole football parking lot at Lambeau was packed and people were tailgating, and guys just rushed to one side of the bus and said, what are these people doing, because they’re not used to seeing that going to a hockey game. And the people honking their horns, and I thought at that point, they really lit up.
And then going out there and seeing the fans, and the whole, those type of things really got the kids fired up to play so hard and so well, and they kind of, and back to Andy’s question, it kind of took care of itself. They were going to play at a high level because they were so excited.
QUESTION #3: I know the fans will be excited for the event, but for anybody willing to watch, this should be a pretty good game between these two teams if what happened in November is any indication.
EAVES: Well, that should be an indication too, I mean, a close game. They got two faceoff goals that were the difference in the game, but Michigan always brings a skating club to town. They want to take time and space. They want to play at tempo. And that will not change, and I think that we’re along those same lines. So it should be a pretty fast-paced game.
QUESTION #4: Back in ’06, when you played at Lambeau, it seemed like that that also served maybe as a pick-me-up, an energy boost for your team as you went into that stretch drive. Where does it come now for where your team’s at mentally and physically as you then look forward?
EAVES: I kind of like the way it fits. It’s interesting that you asked that question because we’re in the second half of the season, and if we didn’t have this game, we would have this week off, and we’re in the middle of the second half drive, well, this is kind of an energizer. And we look at it as such. And everybody’s excited. So we only have to play one game. It will energize us. And hopefully, we can take that energy down the backstretch.
QUESTION #5: Mike, do you still have a goaltending rotation?
EAVES: As of today, yes, yes, we do.
QUESTION #6: How would you rank those two guys, especially after this week, and questions arise from the way Brett played. Do you, is there some separation there?
EAVES: No, no separation. I think we’re still a two-goalie team. We’ll got into this week in practice and see how the guys perform. And then based on that, as we always do, we’ll make a choice for this weekend.
QUESTION #7: Mike, this is your second go-round with the outdoor games. And Michigan’s got another one planned next year. Where do you see this going in terms of the college scene? Is this going to be kind of a semi-regular thing? Is it something that you’d be interested in doing again or are you looking at it more as a unique experience here?
EAVES: I think there’s a balance that needs to be struck between the uniqueness of it. In talking with the folks that were making the ice this morning, the one advantage that college has is that our kids, they graduate, and so we have a new freshman coming in. And so, I think that if you have the rotation of every four years having some kind of game like this, there would be a fresh crop of people that hadn’t seen an outdoor game that might keep it fresh.
QUESTION #8: Is outdoor ice different than indoor ice? And how sensitive it is to outdoor temperatures?
EAVES: Outdoor ice one day could be different than outdoor ice the next day. It is very sensitive to a lot of different things. Quite frankly, one of the things that is going to be a challenge for us is to get our goalies out there and see pucks at night under the lights with the background. I think that we have to be very cognizant of that as we do it this week. But the ice is different. And I know every time we go from outdoor ice to indoor ice, Nate has to sharpen his skates because it’s, there’s different impurities there, and you want to have sharp skates. So definitely a difference, Jay.
QUESTION #9: Was the Lambeau ice, what . . .
EAVES: Interesting. I’ve been talking to the guys out there. The temperature dropped about 14 degrees from where it was mid-day to when we played. And it became chippier as the night went on because it got colder. And that’s one of the things that, there’s a challenge for the icemakers is to keep it so it doesn’t get chippy. But you just get the snow that comes on top.
QUESTION #10: It seems that everyone has a different definition for what success will be for this event. For you, your coaching staff and your team, what will you consider? What has to happen for this event to be successful?
EAVES: Well, you can talk about that on many levels. Just as a pure enthusiast of the game of hockey, to see it played outside and have people witness that, as Tracey talked about earlier, for those that are in the room that have skated outside or played hockey outside, there is no other feeling when the puck, the sound the puck makes when it leaves your stick or the sound that your skate makes when it cuts outdoor ice, or the way the puck sounds when it hits the board, these are unique sounds and feelings. And if you’ve done this as a young person, it takes you back in time.
There was a commercial done by Neal Broten on TV in Minnesota. And he was trying to describe this, and he’s looking on out into the distance. He says, if I could go back to eight years old, I’d go back in a heartbeat. And he meant it because of what it brings back, the joy, the pure joy of being outside and playing the game. So from a purist standpoint, to go back to your question, I think just having the ability and the opportunity to watch these young people experience that will make it a success.
You can talk about, on another level, in terms of coaching and insuring this with your team, because these young people leave this game, they’ll tell their grandchildren when they’re, you know, 70 to 80 years old. There’s the other aspect, you know, if we can win the game, that makes it a success at another level.
So, depending on the level that you want to talk about, we have different parameters by which we can say this was a success. But those are a couple of the different ones that I look at.
Was that a run-on answer? Sorry.
QUESTION #11: Mike, is it your understanding, do you know if the process of trying to improve that ice service has changed since you were at Lambeau? Has that whole . . .
EAVES: Yes, absolutely.
QUESTION #12: To what degree?
EAVES: Driving in this morning, I had to stop at the dentist to get my tooth fixed so I wouldn’t lisp today when I speak. But my personal life is getting into these conferences way too much. But I stopped by and talked to the ice men, and where they came from in Lambeau and the way they set the deck up and how it will hold the weight of the Zamboni better, and the system that they have. Those kind of things, just through experience, he says, he didn’t want to say they got it figured out, but he was close to saying we’re so much better than we were four years ago. So that was exciting to hear.
QUESTION #13: If I had, I’d like to go back, no, I wouldn’t like to go back to last weekend, but last weekend in particular, you know, a lot of the penalties your team took was, and there was, and this is my opinion, the officiating was kind of up and down. I’m not sure if the players on either side knew what they could or could not do. After looking at it now, the last day or so, disappointed with the penalties that your team took and can you learn from what transpired this past weekend?
EAVES: Well, we have to. I think it’s the same thing that happened. You know, we tried to learn our lesson from Colorado Springs and not coming out and getting behind early. Andy asked the question after the Saturday game, did you feel you did the same thing tonight? I said, no, I thought we came out, we played hard, we won battles, you know, first two shots go in, so we’re in a little bit of a pickle that way. But then, we weren’t able to use one of our strengths, which is our depth, because we kept finding ourselves going to the penalty box or being in a four-on-four situation. So we end up shortening the bench, and we couldn’t get to one of our strengths because of that, partially because of the referring, partially because of us.
And, as we talked about as a team, we’re going to have to learn our lesson from that. And the coaching staff are going to have to lead the way. During the course of practice, there are infractions that happen. And, at times, you let them go because you want the flow to continue in practice. But we can’t do that this week. We’re going to have to take time to stop practice, and make the person who did the infraction do something, whether it’s skate or pushups, but emphasize the point, we can’t be doing that. And if we can learn that lesson.
Hopefully, this type of thing that happened this weekend, we may run into down the line, and we’ll be better able to handle it because of our experience this past weekend.
QUESTION #14: For an event like this, with the numbers that will be coming out to watch it on Saturday, probably going to be a lot fans who, maybe they’ve not only been to, never a Badger hockey game before, but certainly never seen an outdoor hockey game in person. So, as someone who is a parent, who has probably been out there with his kids for outdoor ice, what advice would you give to fans thinking about coming out, depending on the weather, how they should dress and prepare for this?
EAVES: Well, pay attention to the weather closely. I think that most the people in the Midwest, they’ve been around the cold weather. And I think that they’ll have a handle of how to dress. And you know what, you can always take layers off. You know, dress warm, wear the whole wardrobe that you have to begin with, but then you can always peel it off as you get over. And I think the one thing about this Culver event is the fact that we’ve got a place to go to warm up in between periods. And I think that will be a huge difference. You can sit outside for 40 minutes, if it takes that long to play a period, and then go inside and warm up. So you can have that ability to warm up.
QUESTION #15: Mike, the last seven games, your power play hasn’t produced. Some of that could be tied to the fact that the teams you’ve played have very good penalty killing numbers. Is there more to it than that? Is there something wrong with your power play?
EAVES: We asked ourselves the same question, and we take a look at, did we create energy, did we create scoring chances. The weekend before against Denver I thought we did create scoring chances. This past weekend, I don’t think we executed as good as we could have. Is that our fault or is that the good work of UMD? I think a little bit of both. I’m not too worried about it. These young men know that they weren’t as successful as they needed to be. And they’re pretty good players and have a lot of pride. I think they’ll bounce right back.
BRIAN LUCAS: Anything else for Coach? All right. Thanks, Coach.
EAVES: You’re welcome.