Transcript: Eaves previews Michigan State series, senior weekend



Feb. 18, 2014

Eaves News Conference Small Video Graphic  |  Tickets

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves address the media on Tuesday at the Kohl Center to preview this weekend's Michigan State series. A full transcript follows.

THE MODERATOR: The men's hockey team plays its final regular season home series when it hosts Michigan State this weekend. Friday's game is an 8 p.m. start and will be televised by BTN while Saturday's game will start at 4 p.m. televised by ESPNU. Also, prior to Saturday's game, UW's senior class will be recognized.

Head Coach Mike Eaves is here and will take questions.

Q. Mike, could you speak about the importance of Frankie Simonelli as your team captain and the production he's been able to have for you this season from his defensive post. I know he talked about trying to be more of a producer from the back end. Just his play in general this season.

COACH EAVES: The one thing you'll notice with Frankie, when we're at the end of a weekend and when we put our numbers together, he always ranks high in the hard stats -- shots, blocked shots, hits. So he's really been consistent in that way.

I think, being our captain, he has been a real good sounding board for us as a coaching staff to go to and get feedback about the team.

We have been able to lean on him in terms of pressure when things weren't going well, and he's been that voice in the locker room when the coaches aren't there that has steadied the ship.

And, actually, all the captains I know that Jake and Dahl have done their part too, but Frankie has borne the brunt of that responsibility. From a coaching standpoint, we've gone to him.

So both on and off the ice, he's done a nice job for us.

Q. Mike, which one of your seniors has come the furthest, in your mind?

COACH EAVES: You know, I was talking this morning with the coaching staff. We were chatting about it. I don't know if somebody has distinguished themselves as being way ahead of somebody else. I think that you take a look at their goals like this morning in practice, Mark Zengerle goes in on a two on one, and he absolutely read the situation and made a great move on the goaltender and scored himself. Two years ago, he would have tried to pass that puck no matter what. So on the ice, that has taken place.

I could go through every player and tell you how each one has grown, and that would take a long time. So I don't know which one has separated themselves the most, and I can honestly say to you and I'll do this before the banquet on Sunday the growth of every one of them has been substantial.

Q. One game at a time, cliches aside, do you see yourselves in the Big Ten title race? How realistic is it for you to, in a couple of weeks, have that trophy?

COACH EAVES: We talked about it as a team yesterday. Our jobs on a day to day basis as coaches are moment to moment, task by task. But we also have to take time to step back and take a look at the big picture, and we did that yesterday as a team.

For us to bring back that trophy, we're probably going to have to be pretty close to winning out and get some help. That be would the conversation that we had with our team.

The other goal for us that we need to want to reach is to make sure that we're one or two for the Big Ten Tournament so that we can get that bye.

We won last year three games in three days, but it does not happen very often. The percentages are in your favor if you get that bye.

We still have a chance to win it. We're going to need some help, play well ourselves. And, secondly, we're going to strive to be in the top two so we get that bye in the tournament, the Big Ten Tournament.

Q. As a coach, is it hard to believe that the final home series is here?

COACH EAVES: The season has moved along relatively fast after all our byes that we had. Funny how that is. But I know, in talking to some folks around town, they're surprised that it's our last home series.
Heck, Mark [Johnson] and his group, they're in the playoffs here right away. So it's gone by quickly. Once we got by the byes, and we talked yesterday, and I think we talked about it with the team, is the fact that this is the last home series for our seniors. Let's send them off in a grand way.

Q. Talking about the byes, you get one more. So how will you change your schedule, if at all, next year? Have you formulated a plan to maybe not have as many? Is there a way to address that? I'm sure it's going to be a discussion with the Big Ten coaches. What were your thoughts on trying to fill those gaps a little bit more?

COACH EAVES: We talked with Zach Remiker, our director of hockey, about scheduling. Next year we go to Alaska, so those are two exempt games. So we can add two more games. We're going to add the [U.S.] Under-18 team to occupy another weekend.

I think this year was an anomaly, and we're certainly going to learn some lessons. I think there are things we can control and some of the things we can't because of buildings and such. But I think the schedule, we won't have as many byes next year.

Q. Could you tell us about the two Chelios boys for Michigan State and what you see from them on the ice.

COACH EAVES: I'll be real honest -- and you know this from our interview this morning -- I get them confused. I think Dean's the forward, Jake's the defenseman. Jake is -- he plays a lot like his father. He's a very aggressive young man, and you'll notice him on the ice because of that aggressiveness. He's hard to play against.

I think Dean is a little bit more skilled at the other end. I remember, when we were looking at him, he has the ability, as someone said, to stick handle inside a telephone booth. That in and of itself may be the difference between the two.

Q. Do you recall a time during your tenure here where the goaltending in WCHA, now the Big Ten, has been so good? You look at Hildebrand coming in this week and Rumpel, Wilcox, the kid you just faced, the Frey kid, at Ohio State. 92 percent, 93 percent save percentages, those are pretty prominent numbers. Do you recall a concentration of goaltending being this good?

COACH EAVES: Not off the top of my head. I would say the goaltending, very much like the league -- if you can use that word parity -- they're all good. This young man coming in this weekend, he is the backbone of their team. If we're going to have any kind of success, we're have to find ways to get pucks behind him in the net, to make his job difficult, and we've got to get people in front of him and take a lot of shots.

MHKY Big Ten Tournament
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