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Transcript: Eaves and players discuss NCAA tournament, UMass Lowell

 Badgers Discuss NCAA Tournament Bid
 Head Coach Mike Eaves
 Junior F Mark Zengerle
 Freshman F Nic Kerdiles

March 25, 2013

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin's John Ramage, Joel Rumpel and Tyler Barnes met with members of the media as part of a news conference Monday to talk about the Badgers' draw for the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

No. 4 seed Wisconsin (22-12-7) takes on top-seeded UMass Lowell (26-10-2) in a Northeast Regional semifinal at 3:30 p.m. CT on Friday, March 29. The winner advances to the Northeast Regional final on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

Archived video of both media sessions is available within this release, while complete transcript of the players' remarks can be found below.

Question: John (Ramage), if you had to evaluate this team, where would you find the pulse? Who's the pulse of this team?

John Ramage: I don't think I'd put it on one guy. Every guy is a part of this team. Without anyone on this team all the guys really make this team beat.

Question: For any of you guys, because it's been such a long climb to get where you're at now, how much since you won the game, what have the emotions been? Joy? Relief that you accomplished that goal? Motivation to keep moving forward and keep this run going?

Tyler Barnes: I think it's a little pride. It's a little of all of it. Just knowing that how people were thinking about our team when we started out that poorly and that people didn't really believe in us. We always had that belief, and I think it's pride now coming out being able to show what we're actually capable of.

Question: For John and Joel (Rumpel), I'm just wondering, when do you think the turning point was for this team? Was there a specific moment in one of the games where you guys thought things are going to be different, we're not going to play the way we did to start the season?

Ramage: I don't know if it's necessarily a certain moment in the game, but definitely that Denver series.  I thought we went into Denver, got three points, which was huge for us. So I think that series I look at as kind of a turning point of our season.

Joel Rumpel: Yeah, I'd agree with that. Denver was the biggest win when our ship started turning, as Coach Eaves would say. It was a big weekend for us and kind of got us momentum going after Christmas. So a bit of a winning streak we got on.

Question: Joel, they say teams generally mirror the personality of their coach. Does this team do that? And if so, how?

Rumpel: Yeah, you look at Coach Eaves coming to the rink every day. He's got that passion for the game and that desire to win. It definitely rubs off on our team. I guess we kind of feed off him. He brings the energy to the room and to the rink every day. When we struggled early, he came to the rink with that motivation and that desire to win and that, I guess, belief that we could move on and get better and get through it. I think that's what, I guess, helped us later on in the season there.

Question: Tyler, back when things were struggling, was Mike mostly about tough love?  Was he mostly about encouraging?  How did he balance those two things?

Barnes: It was a day to day thing. It was both, and that's really what I needed. There's times when you can tell I need someone to pick me up a little bit, and there's times when I need someone to get on me, and he was able to do all that and really keep me focused and keep me pushing forward.

Question: Tyler, kind of a piggy back question off of that. You just scored twice in February, and now you got four goals up in St. Paul. When was the moment for you when things started getting put in place? Like you guys mentioned the Denver series as the turning point for the team maybe. What was your turning point where things the dots started to connect for you?

Barnes: I think it might have been when we had Alaska at home. I think I might have had a goal or two. After that, the bounces started to go my way. I felt like all season I was getting the chances, and now that they're starting to go for me, it's a nice reward for that.

Question: Knowing that you guys had to win six games straight to get into this one, I mean, not lose a single one, how does that help you guys compared to other teams that maybe already had a bid getting in? How does that push that you guys made help you and benefit you going in? \

Ramage: I think it was awesome to win those games. We were playing for our lives. If we lost on Saturday against CC, we'd be out, and we'd be done. So we've been fighting for our lives for a while here. Like I said before, back in the Denver series, we were 1 7 2. If we didn't start playing well, then our season would have been done really early. So just fighting for our lives. That's what it's been for.

Question: John, you can take this one as well. Last night during the selection show, there was some statistic that said 1 seeds make it to the Frozen Four 90 percent of the time and 4 seeds only make it 10 percent of the time. When you hear something like that, what does it make you think?

Ramage: I'm not really a big numbers guy. Right now I'm just excited for the opportunity we have, and I'm excited for this team. This team has come a long way, and the way we're playing right now, I don't think any 1 seed wants to play us right now.

Question: John, what was your single most challenging moment as captain of this team?

Ramage: I can't really put a finger on it. For me, I think all my challenges came last year. It was tough right away, with me personally trying to do too much.  I learned a lot last year. So I think going into this year, I don't think there's been too many challenges for me personally. Obviously, the start wasn't great, but I really wasn't concerned, like I said before. Coach Eaves kept us focused. All the guys in the room believed. So it wasn't really hard for me to keep doing what I was doing because everyone in the room believes.

Question: For all three of you, I think you alluded to it, Tyler, that the pride aspect of now thinking how people may have felt about this team earlier in the season. What was the most hurtful thing? When you look back right now and feeling how you do right now, were you kind of have that, yeah, we showed you? Was there a moment like that?

Barnes: I mean, I don't feel like we really did it to prove other people wrong. It was more for the locker room and to prove it to ourselves and reaffirm what we actually believed. I mean, you're going to have people like that whether you're having success or failure. So it's not really something where you want to sit up here and stick it to somebody. We're just happy with what we're able to accomplish for each other.

Ramage: If we listened to the critics all the time, we wouldn't be where we're at right now.

Question: Tyler, what has Michael Mersch meant for you guys? I know it's been a team effort, but it seems he picked things up too, in February too, to keep you guys moving forward when some of the others were struggling?

Barnes: He's been a phenomenal player this year. He's carried our team for almost a month there when he was the only guy putting the puck in the net for us. It was unbelievable. Being able to have someone that's been that consistent and that reliable, it's been a great asset for our team.

Question: Joel, there's been a couple of different times over the last two years where it seems like the coaching staff wanted to give you the opportunity to, I guess, quote, unquote, be the guy between the pipes. What's been the difference for you that you've been able to take I guess in the latter part of the year and the run to, I guess, be the guy between the pipes?

Rumpel: Yeah, it's been nice. All year me and Landon had a good duo going, and Landon had an unbelievable season. Later on, it kind of it's nice to play more. You kind of get into more of a rhythm. You get into a bit of a groove, and that confidence is what, I guess, a goaltender needs. This latter part of the season, it's nice to get in a few more games, and it gets easier as you start to play more.

Question: Have you guys seen a difference in Joel, especially the last couple months of the season? What, if anything, have you seen different in him?

Ramage: Just his consistency has been unbelievable. Just him bringing it every night, three games in three days. He was great all those nights. I'm excited for what he can do this postseason.

Barnes: You really feed off your goaltender. If your goaltender is feeling confident, it really helps you out, especially in the D zone, with our own confidence, and you feel more comfortable. Having someone that's playing so well right now back there really helps out with everyone on the ice.

Question: This is for Tyler and John. Nic seems to be a real spark plug for you guys right now, especially in the playoffs. What has he done to this team, and what makes him an unbelievable freshman?

Ramage: I think he's a dynamic player. He has a lot of speed. He is very elusive, and he really brings an offensive punch that we were missing a little bit at the beginning of the year, and it showed. For us, he's just been very consistent through as a freshman, which is very difficult to do. He's been a great player for us so far, and he's going to keep it going.

Barnes: He definitely brings another aspect to us, especially on Mark's line. He's got so much speed and the skill set. He's one of the best workers in the corners too, and he always gets that puck back. He's a great player to have and to be playing with.

Question: Tyler, going into the Final Five, Mike was asked for a player that's kind of been off the radar on your team this year. You offered Jefferson Dahl. The way he played this past weekend would kind of signal the fact that maybe he shouldn't be off the radar anymore. He's been your most consistent guy in a lot of ways, but why it almost seems like he stepped up his game here the last week or two.

Barnes: He's such a reliable player. He's a guy that you can put out on the ice at any moment and ask him to do anything, and he'll do it, no questions asked. That whole line, actually, I feel, is the core to our offense. They might not be on the score sheet every night, but they definitely leave a mark on the other team. Watching them, how they cycle the corners and how hard they work, and they finish their checks and play so smart, it really boosts our whole offensive core.

Question: For any of you guys, let's talk a little bit about UMass Lowell. They're a fast team. They don't give up a lot of goals. What do you think is going to be the biggest obstacle that you'll face in order to beat them? Do you think you can win this game?

Ramage: Yeah. I think they're a team that plays pretty similar to us. They're kind of defensive minded, and I think it's going to be a great battle. No, I'm excited going into this game. We definitely can win this game. All the guys believe it in our locker room too, so we're just going to try to keep it going here.

Question: John, having been somebody who's one of the few guys who's been there before, been on the brink of a National Championship and been there, what lesson from that experience do you pass on to these guys and want them to know as you go into the NCAA Tournament about now trying to accomplish that ultimate goal?

Ramage: I think you go in looking at each game, just one game at a time. It's an old cliche, but you have an opportunity to play four games here, and every game you're playing someone different. So going into that first game at UMass Lowell, it's important to focus on UMass Lowell and like what the task is. Our team's been great with that all year. We showed that this past weekend playing three different teams in three nights, and we came prepared every night. The coaches did a great job of getting us ready. It's going to be fun.

Question: John, in the last couple of games, the way this team has used its power plays has kind of altered a little bit. The unit that you're on seems to be more productive at this point. You've kind of been the first unit out there. Two part question. Why has your unit been a little more productive, and can this team win the way it's been going with your power play?

Ramage: I think, first off, the power play question, we definitely win with this power play. Our power play is going to step up. Both units right now, it's just a matter of who's going to get the goals. We both have confidence in each other, each unit, and for our unit, we just we keep it simple. We don't have the most skilled guys on our unit, but we have pucks in the net, and we've got two big bodies in front of the net.  Lately, they've been just going in. So, we've just got to keep that going.

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