March 12, 2013
Watch Eaves News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's hockey head coach Mike Eaves spoke Tuesday after the Badgers split their final series of the regular season against No. 8 St. Cloud State last weekend. With a 3-2 win last Saturday, the Badgers secured home ice to open the WCHA playoffs and remain in Madison this weekend to face off against Minnesota Duluth at the Kohl Center this Friday-Sunday, March 15-17.
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, forgetting who you're playing this weekend, as far as your team goes, tangibly, things you can see on the stat sheet, things you can see on the ice, and the intangibles, things you feel on the bench, why do you think your team is prepared for postseason right now?
Eaves: The way we play and the mindset we've had for so long has been playoff mentality. The number of close games we have been in and the way we've played in those games has dictated a certain mindset, a certain way of playing. We've been there for a while, and we just need to continue that. That will be an asset for us.
Q: Mike, having said that about this playoff mentality your players have talked about for weeks, is there another level we need to find, in your mind?
Eaves: Playoffs are a little different. We were talking about this the other day. [Gary Shuchuk] and I were reminiscing about what's it like to play in the National Hockey League in the playoffs, and your very first game, you go, who turned up the volume? The playoffs for college will be similar. They'll go to another level. But we're closer to being at that level. I would hope that offensively we can do what we did at UNO and create scoring chances and get pucks in there and do all those things. So if there's another level, I would hope we could keep climbing that offensive ladder of being more productive.
Q. You're facing another team with a really good power play. What specific dangers does Duluth present that maybe Minnesota didn't present that maybe some of the other teams that you faced didn't quite have?
Eaves: There's no difference. They have good players that are good with the puck. They can take what's given. They can pull the trigger and score. So it's twofold. It's, A, let's try to stay out of the box as much as we can, and, B, when we're out there, you really need to have good details and play well together as a unit.
Q. Derek Lee skated yesterday. How did things come out in that particular circumstance?
Eaves: Well, it's the beginning. Today will be a telltale how what he did yesterday, how does that take hold with his leg. I haven't seen Derek yet today to know how it went, but hopefully he'll be able to get back on the ice, A, and, B, even push a little bit more.
Q. Gary (Shuchuk) said in the post game show on Saturday that (Jake) McCabe played one of his better games of the year. His pairing with (Frankie) Simonelli, if you could talk about Jake and those two together.
Eaves: I think that Jake can be labeled, even as a sophomore, he's one of those guys, the bigger the game, he seems to rise to the occasion. I think that's just one of his innate capabilities that he has. He enjoys the bigger the game, the better he plays. I think we saw that last year in Denver in the playoffs. It was at that point that he really had a breakthrough weekend and showing that he was capable of doing that. You certainly, if you talk to the coaches of the World Junior Team, he was that player there, and this weekend he was equally as good. Frankie, he was productive this weekend. He had points on the board. But Frankie has been playing pretty well for a while. I think they have a good relationship in terms of innately knowing what each other is going to do and working off of each other. They're building each other up as they play together.
Q. Because it's been such a long climb for your team to get to this point after the rough start, do you have to worry, guard against, or do anything about not having your team feel they accomplished something, they achieved something, the relief is there from what they did last weekend.
Eaves: One of the first things we talked about yesterday was the fact that we're battling to play for one more month, the best month of hockey. We know we play this weekend. In order to build our resume for the tournament, we have to keep winning. While there is still so much to play for, our mindset does not change.
Q. Mike, do you think you need to win out? Do you think you need to get the league's automatic bid to get into the NCAA? How do you view what you think your team needs to do? Obviously, you want to get that bid to take any question marks out of it, but can you afford a loss somewhere along here and still get in?
Eaves: Funny, we were talking about this this morning. I think we have to take care of business this weekend, and we have to get to St. Paul and we have to. I don't know that we have to win out there, but we have to win in one or two games there. That would give us the best opportunity. That's kind of what it looks like right now.
Q. With Joel Rumple, obviously, he was pretty good last year in the playoffs. I would assume you're expecting the same, and he's probably expecting the same, to be sharp. You mentioned Jake being better as the games got bigger.
Eaves: We sure hope so. I mean, it starts and ends there. The first guy we talk about after we win or lose is usually the young goaltender. So great thing for Joel is he felt real bad about that third goal on Friday, and he came back and was very good. Like you said, you have to have that mentality of a cornerback, have a short term memory, and get back to the game. He was very sharp for us. This time of year, you kind of--as a hockey team--look for a young goalie to kind of get hot, get on a roll, and you've got to go with him. Last year Joel showed how good he could be in Denver, and we're hoping right now that he's the guy.
Q. You've talked recently about Mark Zengerle having some good all around efforts in what he's done, but he had his struggles, obviously, after coming back from the broken finger. Was there something that clicked a moment, a game, a conversation, you think that's helped him get to this point now?
Eaves: No, it's interesting. I think, after Mark broke his finger, it took two weeks for him to get going again. So it was a six week process. That's what you hate about getting injured. If you feel like you're going and you've got to wait and try to get all that momentum going again. Through this tough time or through those six weeks and now, I think his game has evolved. This injury has forced him to reevaluate where his game is, and he's playing a more complete game. You watch, his feet are moving now. He has more speed in his game. He still can control the pace of the game, but I think his game is evolving in such a way that's making him a better player, and it's making the players around them better as well.
Q. Mike, you were asked last week about Nic Kerdiles. Is he the type of freshman that you expect maybe at this point to have some wide eyes? And if he doesn't have them, why?
Eaves: I don't think he will to the degree that maybe another young 18 year old freshman. He's played 25 college games. He's played in an under 18 World Championship for two years in a row and won last year. He's been on big stages before, and I think he kind of enjoys that. He craves that. He relishes that. So I don't think he's your typical 18-year-old hockey player because of the stages he's been already in his life.