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Transcript: Mike Eaves news conference for Minnesota State


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March 18, 2013

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MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's hockey head coach Mike Eaves made an appearance at Wisconsin's Monday news conference to talk about the upcoming WCHA Final Five. Wisconsin plays Minnesota State on Thursday at 2 p.m. in the quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

Archived video of the media session is available through the link above and a complete transcript of Eaves' remarks can be found below.


Question:  Could you update us on Jake McCabe and Derek Lee, their chances of playing this weekend?

Eaves:  Hopefully Derek is going to be able to get on the ice today. We'll both check that out this [week], make sure we're on the same page.

And young Jake is getting looked at right now. He's over at the hospital getting some tests done. We'll find out to what degree he is laid up, will be the best way. We'll know more by practice time today.

Question:  What's the difficulty of winning three games in three days, is that how you see the task in St. Paul in order to get into this NCAA Tournament?  

Eaves:  That would give us the kind of for sure. The other scenario takes it out of our hands where we're going to need help. It's not an easy task at all, but it has been done.  And so having that knowledge, having the discussion that we just had, we step back, we take a look at the big picture. Then we have to go back and we have to worry about Thursday's game. That's our next focus. We have to win Thursday, and then after we accomplish that hopefully then we look at Friday and then we look at Saturday.

So we step back, we look at the big picture, but now it's we're getting ready for Mankato State.

Question:  Nothing, if anything, changes with the mindset of the team?

Eaves:  No.

Question:  Sense any sort of small frustration that you're playing so well winning but not making those leaps or jumps in the pairwise or any of those things with all that you've accomplished?

Eaves:  No, I think the mindset was pretty much laid in cement going through that first ten games in terms of how we are mentally and so the kids know they're playing well. They have a confidence level that is good to see. And again it's about what we can do Thursday afternoon against Mankato. We have to do that part first.

Question:  You take pride in your team being mentally tough. Can you separate really good teams in that regard versus ones that maybe weren't that good? Where does this team rank? Does it stand in that regard is what I'm getting at?
   
Eaves:  Again, it's one of those subjects that's hard to quantify. But when you're in the locker room and you go through -- you see what happens during the course of a game, the pushback, the things not going well and how the team reacts, when we were going through that 1-7-2 stretch, we really did not get any breaks at all.

I mean, it was really hard. There's no way getting around it. And as the head coach, you try to say the right things. And you try to maneuver your way through all the negativity that's out there. But eventually something good has to happen in order for that to turn around.

It has to happen on the ice. And it happened when we went to Denver. That was the first step. There were some tangible results. One time we asked the guys, what was the best pregame speech that the head coach ever gave here? And they remembered some. I said, no, the best pregame speech that the coach gives is the one you win on.

So you go in, you have a message and you think it's the right thing but you don't come out with that W, it falls by the way side. So you go back to your original question, I think this group ranks high with their mental toughness, their mindset, understanding what it is, the maturity level that you need to have, if you want to try to win a championship, because of the tough times we had earlier in the year.

Question:  Do you see this as a Catch 22, a bit, that maybe had you not gone through what you went through earlier this year you might not be where you are; have you pondered that possibility?

Eaves:  A wee bit. In the fact, you can tell by what I'm going to say is the fact we dug ourselves an awfully big hole. So the thought has crossed my mind was that hole too big that we dug, can we get out of it?  So a little bit I wish that hole wasn't as big as it was. But absolutely right. We wouldn't be where we are mentally had we not gone through that.

Question: I apologize ahead of time if I'm wasting your time with this question. But since November 30th, you're 18-5-5, whatever it is and the pairwise or the formula the NCAA uses is an entire season long effort or accomplishment. Would you like to see and not just because your team is in the situation, other teams have been in it, too, where maybe the final three months are factored in or four months or two months or something like that, where how you end might become some sort of factor in this formula?

Eaves:  Of course, being where we are, we love that. And one time I believe that was part of the formula. I don't know how many years that has been since it was taken out. But obviously -- you know, because of the way we started, it becomes a lot more difficult for us. And I feel, and I think that there would be an argument for us, because we are playing so well, that it would be very difficult to say oh, no, they're not a tournament worthy team.   

But the rules are what they are. They're set in place, and we have to work within those. But obviously what we've gone through would make a case for saying maybe we should factor this in to some degree.

Question:  You had a chance to sense maybe the excitement among your players being back on this stage for the first time in a couple of years?

Eaves:  No question. And you could feel it in the locker room after Saturday's game, the fact, the statement was made we're going back to St. Paul. And for the guys that have been there, that's really exciting, to be on that stage and that environment.   

It's a great hockey environment. We're going to a city that really embraces hockey. And the building will be packed.  We'll be right in the eye of the storm. And the way you're treated, the level of play, it's all what you do all that summer work for, all the stuff that you put up all year, all the injuries, have a chance to be on the stage.

And as we said last week, last week we wanted to play another month. Now we want to play another three weeks. Because this is the funnest time of year.

Question:  You've related how Bob Johnson always talked about the MacNaughton Cup as being almost a tougher trophy to win than the national championship.  Where does the Broadmoor fit in that, knowing what your task is right now having to win three in three days, because this team hasn't won -- haven't won a championship, Broadmoor, since '98, that's a long time ago.

Eaves:  I haven't put a lot of thought into that, because of what's in front of us now in order to ensure, perhaps, a bid in the tournament, that becomes something that we really need to grasp on and try to win.

But it still comes back down to one game by one game. If you think about the whole enchilada, that's a big gorilla to eat, and you've got to start with the first bite. So we'll start on Thursday.

Question:  Usually when we talk about the turnaround of your team starts with the Denver series, at Denver, but what did the series at Minnesota State, start of the new year, winning twice in overtime against a team that beaten you already, what did that do for this comeback's legitimacy?

Eaves:  Not only the win itself, but how we won in overtime. Same guy, unsung hero kind of guy to do that in terms of scoring game winning goals, but that was really an emotional boost for this group, for all the bad and tough things that we endured and lived through, the beginning of the season, that was at the opposite end of the spectrum. So that gave us great confidence from the inside out and was one of those watershed moments of the season.

Question:  Do you remember where you were in '98? Just looking at your resumé it's pretty easy -- do you remember what your life was like in '98?

Eaves:  Was that when we were... I don't know where we were then. I do it by, I have to go back in my mind, because we moved so much in our lifetime.  Where were we.

Question:  Pittsburgh.

Eaves:  Pittsburgh with the Penguins and right after there we went to the National program.  Did [we] get fired that year? [We] got fired when I was at Pittsburgh, is that the year? Got fired at Christmastime.

So I think it might have been '99 we were fired. But in Pittsburgh, living away from my family at the time. So how does that --

Question:  That's the last time the team won the Broadmoor, that long ago.
   
Eaves:  I can't even remember that far back.

Question:  There were players who work at this university and goes to show you how long it's been.

Eaves:  It's all good.

Question:  But good memory.

Eaves:  Thanks for your help.

Question:  What do you expect with Minnesota State in the matchup and how are they different    obviously we know you're different but how are they different when you played them back in January?
   
Eaves:  You know, right now as we speak we're up looking at video, and we're watching this past series compared to when we played them in January to see if there's any difference in the way they're playing or their personnel.
   
So I definitively can't answer that right now but that's part of our homework process that we're doing.

Question:  Just from what you recall of them, what makes them difficult to play against? 

Eaves:  Well, couple things. First of all, they're well coached. I think Mike has gone in there, and they clearly have a plan. They play to that plan. And part of that plan is that they play very hard together. And, A, playing hard gives you a chance to win.  And, B, when you play together, hard, it makes it tougher to beat them.

And I think the other thing that comes to mind is their goaltending. The young man had a phenomenal year and kind of leads that charge for that team. He gives them a boost. He gives them confidence when he makes the big saves that he needs to do.

So they've had a revitalized kind of season for themselves, freshman goalie comes in, plays great, new coach, new system. They buy into it. They have success. So it's been a real good year for that program.

Question:  College basketball, they play all the time, morning, noon, night, doesn't matter the day of week. College hockey is usually Friday, Saturday and a night sort of deal. How does the Thursday afternoon, how does that all change your routine, your preparation what you have to do especially on game day?

Eaves:  We've had a couple of those odd games during the year, when we play at Soldier Field, a different type of day. So we've had the no skates in the morning and had brunch for our pregame meal.

So we've been through this a little bit, and what's at stake here, kids are really excited. I don't think it's a big factor.

Question:  Did you vote for Mike Hastings as Coach of the Year?

Eaves:  Actually I did not. I voted for Bobbie Motzko. I think the fact that winning a championship, you know, they were right there, and they kind of stay out of the way with a veteran team and win that, that was how I thought that through.

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