Feb. 12, 2013
Watch Eaves News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's hockey head coach Mike Eaves spoke Monday after the team earned three points over Bemidji State last weekend at the Kohl Center. The Badgers welcome in No. 2 Minnesota to the Kohl Center on Friday, then the two teams travel to Chicago to face one another on Sunday as part of the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above and a complete transcript of Eaves' remarks can be found below.
Question: Mike, your outdoor game this year has a different dynamic. In years past, you've had time to prepare for just that one game. How does this week maybe differ since you have a game Friday and then you travel down and obviously have a big game against the No. 1 team on Sunday?
Eaves: I think the other big difference is the fact it's a league game. The other two have been nonconference. I think it brings another element into it in the fact it's going to count in our league standings. I think that adds a significant secondary element to it. Another element that's kind of unique is the fact we're going from an Olympic sized to an NHL sized rink. We'll both have Saturday to have an hour skate on it to kind of get used to that again. So there are a lot of -- I guess the main point is there are a lot of dynamics wrapped up into this weekend. Kind of the exciting part about it is, we've talked previously, is the fact that this weekend will serve to be a real emotional boost, I think, here in the dog days of the second half of the WCHA and the fact that we play a day off and then do something totally out of the norm of playing outside in front of 50,000-plus people, I think, is a really good thing. I think both teams will feed off of that, and it will be a really great experience.
Question: Mike, could you give us an update on your health circumstances with Jake (McCabe)? You expect him to play this weekend?
Eaves: I expect Jake to be on the ice today, and we will find out together where he's at. I can't -- I don't know any more than that.
Question: Is there an advantage at all to having played in a game like this that you're going to do on Sunday? Do you have any experience -- is there any advantage to experience?
Eaves: I'm sure there is. How you measure it in this case is another degree. I mean, the fact that I don't know what Minnesota knows about playing outside. What kind of underwear are they going to wear? Are they going to wear hats or tuques or whatever they're going to wear underneath their equipment, that becomes a big factor. So it's hard to measure. A lot of our guys, I'd have to go and check our list, how many of you guys played at that outdoor game at Camp Randall. That's another factor. I'm sure it has some kind of influence on it, but how you measure it would be tough to do.
Question: You mention about this being an emotional boost at this time of year for your team. Is the fact that it might seem natural for a team to even look ahead to an event like this, the fact that it's Minnesota, they're ranked where they are, the rivalry, and where you guys are in the standing, that that's less of a concern because of the importance of Friday night's game before you even get to Sunday?
Eaves: No, I think the fact that it's the ghost in our barn is something that's on our kids' mind. I hate to say this, but that might have been a factor on Saturday night, that your kids get looking past. I mean, everybody's talking about the outdoor game. Everybody is talking about the ghost, was that a factor of why we didn't perform up to our usual standards. I don't know. It's tough to get inside their minds. I talked to some of the kids this morning trying to figure out where they were at Saturday to try to figure things out. So it could have been that. But I think definitely our minds are going to be there on Friday night. No problem there.
Question: Mike, what do you think playing in this game on Sunday is going to do to kind of add to the history of this rivalry that you guys have had with Minnesota for so long, playing outdoors?
Eaves: It will add another chapter. We tried to get them to come in and play at Camp Randall, but it didn't work out for whatever reason. I was pleased and happy inside to hear that [Don Lucia] wanted to play outside this time in Chicago. For them, I think it is their first outdoor game, if I'm not mistaken. (It's) definitely a new chapter for them. (It's) another chapter for us in terms of playing outside. (It) should be a lot of fun.
Question: Mike, do you have any second thoughts about this tradeoff, trading a home game for the outdoor game, the monetary aspect, any second thoughts?
Eaves: None at all.
Question: Given the weather and the outdoor ice around here, could you even practice outside if you wanted to right now? How do you deal with that with the weather because it's been a bit iffy down there over the past week or two?
Eaves: It's always iffy. If you go back and look at history of the other two games, we were in the same boat as we are now, wondering, projecting what it's going to be. It turned out fine. Up at Green Bay a week later, it was minus 20 with blowing snow. It's always a factor in this, but we're going to control what we can. I know Omaha had a little bit of a glitch this weekend at their outdoor game. They had to wait and play it till later. I don't know if you knew this. Nate LaPoint had his undergrad degree in climatology. He's got the best app going around, and we'll know right where we stand.
Question: How do you feel about playing the venue, Soldier Field, obviously, one of the most historic places in the country?
Eaves: Andy asked me a second ago if we had any second doubts or doubting this, not at all. This is a lifetime experience. Going to the place where the Olympics are held and where it sits in the city itself, it's a life experience. It's something that -- and once again, the kids on our team now that haven't played outside, they get to talk about this to their kids and grandkids. Being a life experience makes it all worth it.
Question: Mike, you talked earlier about you were trying to get in some of the -- you're not in the heads of your kids. You were trying to figure out what they were thinking Saturday night. In that theme, are you puzzled at all about the lack of production you've gotten from Mark (Zengerle) and Tyler (Barnes)? There just seems to be something missing there. Are you puzzled by that? Do you have an explanation for it?
Eaves: I am puzzled. I have sat with both. I have spent more time with both on the ice. As a matter of fact, I talked to Mark this morning, sat down and had a heart to heart. Obviously, talked with Barnesy over the course of the weekend because of what transpired, just trying to --I think one of the greatest challenges of our job is to try to figure out where these young people are at in their growth -- emotionally, mentally, physically -- and try to coach them up, help them grow. It's real easy to get down and berate them. I think there has to be some honesty in your talk, but at the same time, you have to find out where they're at, what's going on. It something going on in the family, in school? I've learned the hard way. I've gone off the handle and found out later, well, they just broke up with their girlfriend, and then you feel really bad. So just trying to find out and help them grow and figure out where they want to be in the future, what they're doing now. Are they worrying about things that are out of their control? And once you get into a little bit of a funk like Barnesy and Zengs are, you have to push and remind them that they are good players and what they need to do to get back to that form that they know they have inside of them.
Question: Mike, how challenging are your final three league series? One at Soldier Field, two on the road, two at the coliseum -- all against teams that rank above you. Since you're on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament right now, how challenging is this stretch going to be for you guys as a whole?
Eaves: First of all, you look at it, it's going to be challenging. That's the first thing you acknowledge. How exciting is that that your fate's in your own hands? I think that's the healthy way to look at it, and that's the way that our staff is going to project it. I think the older guys on the team recognize that for what it is, and we'll have that mindset, what a great opportunity we have.
Question: Mike, how much comfort, if at all, do you take in the knowledge that you've not had your best -- you've not had your entire team on the ice at all this year. The possibility that it sits out there that you might in the next week or two, is there comfort there, or just part of the random aspect of life?
Eaves: There will be more comfort when I see them all on the ice. It's an interesting thought. It's tantalizing, and I hope that happens. It takes all I have not to call Andy Hrodey, our trainer, every six hours to find out what's going on. Jake made progress on Saturday on the ice, and I'm hoping with another day off, that he'll come out today and be able to do more and be ready to get interjected back into the lineup.
Question: Looking at this, you guys have tied the school record for ties in a season and overtime games in a season. What's the season been like for you, and what do you make of all the close games?
Eaves: First thing that comes to mind is trying to find a way to win more of those ties. That's a little bit about what Andy spoke and not having the full lineup in there. I think the kids have competed hard and given themselves a chance to win and be in most of those games. So that's very much a positive. And moving forward, we keep pressing on the same things that we've been hitting in practice. I think that, if we could get our power play to spike up a little bit here by getting everybody back on that number one unit that we would like to, that that could have been a difference maker in those close games we had in which they ended up in a tie. Those are some of the factors that go into that, and moving forward, we keep plugging away at those things that are going to make us better.
Question: Mike, from what you've seen, is Minnesota the most complete team in this league?
Eaves: I haven't looked at film yet. I'm going to go right after meetings and go right up and watch them. At the beginning of the year when we played them back in the fall, we felt at that time their depth of forward is probably the best in the league, in terms of their ability -- if they lose a couple guys, high end guys to injuries, they have more of a reservoir to go to draw on. So I think that's still the case, but I'll have a better look once this afternoon I get back to see where they are now.
Question: On a little bit different topic. I don't know if you noticed over the weekend you had another player from your '06 team reach the NHL.
Question: 11 guys. When you had that team, could you -- the idea that that many guys would reach that level, did that ever cross your mind?
Eaves: It never did because I don't think that's one of your mindsets as a coach is I wonder how many guys we're going to put in the National Hockey League. But in saying that, from college to pro, it's another mountaintop to be climbed, and there are a lot of slippery slopes that happen. For Ben Street, look at what he went through to have this opportunity. He had an ACL injury his senior year, became a fifth year senior finally. Then he had a significant injury to his neck while playing in the minors, had to have an operation on that. And just hanging in there over the course of those injuries and waiting for himself to get a chance. I think he got a big break when he got traded this summer from the Pittsburgh organization to the Calgary organization. Ben controlled what he could. He did a nice job in both organizations, and I know John Heinz, who was here, who coached him in Pittsburgh in the organization, didn't want to lose him because Ben was playing well. Troy Ward, who's with the Calgary organization, wanted to get Ben because he's playing well and knew he would help his team. With Calgary in the state they're in, they were looking to improve. Ben went in there, got off to a great start. American hockey league player of the month for two months in a row, and now he's got his chance, played his first game. It's really exciting for him. But to go back to your original question -- I got off on a tangent there -- is the fact that you don't know because you can't know. You don't even think about those things because there's another mountaintop they climb once they leave college. I sound like Bo Ryan there, didn't I? I almost forgot where I started.