Transcript: Eaves looks ahead to Penn State weekend


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March 3, 2014

Eaves News Conference Small Video Graphic

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves addressed the media on Monday at the Kohl Center before UW travels to Penn State this weekend. A full transcript follows.

Q. Was it a good week of practice for your club?

COACH EAVES: I think that we did things that we wanted to accomplish. At times we were really good; at times we slipped. It's a tough week this time of year to have a bye.

There are many positives that come out of it. I thought that we got some rest and had time to recover for some guys that were dinged up. I think that we were able to focus on areas that we felt would help us going down the stretch.

So all in all, it was a good week.

Q. Mike, it's not often that your team and your coaching staff go somewhere that you've never been before this time of your tenure. What are you looking forward to? What's the mindset of this team, knowing that they're going somewhere that's pretty foreign?

COACH EAVES: The mindset is very similar to going to a regional. A lot of times we've never played in those buildings at all. That's kind of our mindset even the following weekend. There's a lot of guys that haven't been to Michigan State.

So I think it's perfect. I think we get, as we're calling it, kind of a dress rehearsal, if you will. These last two weekends going into these two places we've not been, or very few of us have been there, and we get to enact what we could hopefully follow at a regional, by going into a building that we don't know.

The one thing that we have heard from Rob Andringa is that the atmosphere at Penn State is outstanding. They'll pack the place. They're right on top of you. It will be a great environment for our kids to play in.

And I think that people like to play in those type of environments, where even though they're against you, it still fires you up.

Q. Joel's put up some pretty gaudy numbers of late. How good is he do you think?

COACH EAVES: Pretty good right now. I think he has a lot of things working in his favor. I think his maturation as a goaltender is at a good place right now. We've talked in length about what he brings to the table naturally. He's a big goaltender, he's very athletic, and he's worked at his competitive level and his details to the position. Right now he's got all those cylinders firing, plus he's got the confidence cylinder firing for himself.

He'll be the first to tell you that the people in front of him are doing a lot of good things for him as well: blocking shots, clearing people away.

So there are a lot of factors that go into it, but those are core ones.

Q. Mike, how do you personally define a clutch player?

COACH EAVES: Well, clutch would probably be a person that is able to arise to the occasion when something needs to get done. Whether it's a big save, your goaltender could be a clutch player; a defenseman could make a key blocked shot at the end of a game; a forward could make a great pass to a teammate who was able to score at a timely moment in a game.

So all those things could fall under that category of clutch.

Q. Is that a habit? Is that something that some guys just have and some guys perhaps may not have?

COACH EAVES: That's an interesting point. I think it would be one to debate. I would have to lean right now saying, yeah, some guys have that. They've been able to do that in their lives as they've grown up.

It would be interesting to talk to Sean Little, because I know that Sean scored a game winning goal to win the USHL Championship. Now, that's a clutch goal. Now, does he have the habit of doing that? I didn't ask him about younger ages if he had the opportunity to do that.

But that is something that I think players, they rise to the occasion. Who's got that on our team? And I think that's just maybe a byproduct of doing it more than once in their life.

Q. It says that you're 2 3 1 on NHL sized ice this season. First of all, what's the difference in size? Second of all, how do you think your team fares, I guess? Is there a big difference?

COACH EAVES: The biggest difference is the fact when you play on a big sheet to go to a small sheet. I think once that we make that and we've played on that small sheet, we don't have any issues with the small sheet.

It's a different game. Things happen quicker because of less time and space, and we need to get used to that. We're going in now with the rest of our games are on small sheets.

So I think that, again, dress rehearsal for what's coming at the end of the year. Looking forward to the fact that we're just playing on one sheet of ice now for the rest of the year. I think our guys are looking forward to that as well.

Q. Mike, is there a handbook entry for a coach on how to handle a streaky player? You've got a couple of guys that always seem to either their droughts seem to be prolonged just as prominently as their hot streaks come to life. How do you manage someone like that?

COACH EAVES: We talk them through it. I think we can appeal to the logical side of their brain in that this is what offense is. It's much like we've talked about, the creativity side of being a human being, and offense has a flow of its own.

The worst thing that you could do is to fight it and make it worse, the guy who will bury themselves, instead of if there's this natural flow, you want to try to linger in the top part when you're in the valleys, you want to get out of there as quick as possible.

Guys will bury themselves in the valley and put themselves there longer because they fight it instead of recognizing it for what it is. Going back to some good work habits, it will come back to you.

Q. Last time you were on the road, you won at Ohio State. How important do you see that having any effect on the way your team goes about the next four games considering they're all away from the Kohl Center?

COACH EAVES: That game we could pull on as an experience. We could also pull on the experience that we had in Miami of Ohio. We played well in Michigan on Saturday.

So we've played some good games on the road, but the next level is for us to figure out a way to do that on Friday night. That speaks, part and parcel, going from a big sheet to a small sheet and being able to do it right away.

But, again, pulling on our experience in Ohio State, knowing what we have to do, and practicing on nothing but a small sheet, I think we'll be ready to go the rest of year here.

Q. Mike, could you share some of the things that you specifically wanted to work on this past week in practice and did you see some positives?

COACH EAVES: Well, it hasn't changed over the last I would say two or three weeks. We talked about working on our transition from being in the offensive zone to coming back into our zone and being able to shut down teams there, then break out as quickly as we possibly can. I think the less time we spend in our zone this time of year, the better off we're going to be.

Again, the key word in that is transition from one to the other. I think teams that have the ability to transition from one part of the game to another the fastest and take advantage of it, either offensively or defensively, are the ones that are going to be there at the end of the year.

Q. You also spent some time in Pennsylvania as a coach. Is Pennsylvania a good hockey state?

COACH EAVES: We were there right before Mario Lemieux took ownership. And it was a tough time for the Penguins. Joe Battista, who was part of the Penn State crew, would come down and visit with us.

I learned a lot about Pennsylvania hockey then. They are very passionate about it. And Joe was at the front of that in leading the charge. Joe spent a lot of time here in our building trying to pick our brains about what we were doing.

It's a growing commodity, and it's grown a lot since Mario went there, first as a player and now as an owner and the success they've had with Sidney.

Pittsburgh's got some good hockey in it right now and the whole state of Pennsylvania.

Q. The last series that you guys played, big win for you guys on the first game, but the second with Penn State put you guys down to the wire. Are you expecting a repeat game like that?

COACH EAVES: No question. They went into Minnesota, and Minnesota just beat them 2 1 here the other night. And they're a team, when you watch them, they are not pretty to watch, they are not fun to watch. They just work their butt sides off. And by doing that, they give themselves a chance to be in games and hopefully find a way to win a game.

When they beat us here last year, we were up 2 0, had outshot them 40 10 after two periods, but they hung around and continued to work. They got a couple bounces, and they beat us in overtime.

So they're a kind of team that they're not fun to play against. You have to have that mindset of being patiently persistent, having a steely resolve just to do the things that you need to do to find a way to beat them, because they're not going to crack; you've got to make them crack.

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