Oct. 4, 2011
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MADISON, Wis. -- Head men's hockey coach Mike Eaves made his first Monday news conference appearance of the season and answered questions previewing the upcoming college hockey season. A full transcript follows.
QUESTION #1: I guess the first thing that sticks out when you look at your roster is just the youth that you guys have. What's the biggest challenge for you to try to replace some of the people that you lose, but, also acclimate the new kids into a system?
Mike Eaves: Well, the biggest challenge is probably twofold in that you're trying to have a group of young men grow quickly, and at the same time, keep their confidence at a high level. I think that, innately, what happens with young people there, when they're trying to adjust to a new level and new systems, there's a learning curve that is created there.
And so you're trying to balance keeping them, keeping that level of confidence that they bring with them, and also trying to have them understand that you're going to trip and fall. You just need to pick yourself up, learn what you can, move forward, and get ready for your next shift.
QUESTION #2: Because of the youth, how much is it... I know you've had some various practices, and now it's more of official practice, how much have you really emphasized systems and trying to teach your players what you want them to do on the ice?
EAVES: The groups of four with an opportunity to get on the ice are the guys and just get to know them, you know. And as we, middle of September, came along, we're allowed two hours of practice a week with the guys. We decided to go with three 40-minute practices, so we had time with them every other day almost during the course of Monday through Friday, and we just kind of planted seeds in a very minimal way.
I mean, you can't give them a lot, but we did some things. And we have a checklist that we have on our board, and all our systems of what we're trying to do, and so we keep track of where we're at. And we only move forward when we feel like we've got, okay, we've planted this one, now we can move to the next one. So it's a process. But already, even with the little time that we've had with them, we see growth, and that's the kind of thing we're going to need to see all year.
QUESTION #3: Mike, this isn't the first time you've had a really young team. What methods, what approaches have you taken in the past that have served you well each time you've encountered something like this, and maybe some of the things that haven't worked out so well that you've discarded?
EAVES: As a teacher, I think the biggest thing that we as a staff have found worked is by being able to practice at the Kohl Center and videotape from up above, and work out a system, and then the next day come back in and show them what we did yesterday, and show them doing it properly, and then going back, right back on the ice and having repetitions at that same system. It's amazing what them being able to see from up above and looking down and it does to their understanding of it. So we feel, as a staff, that works well, and we'll continue to do that.
QUESTION #4: Mike, what would be your ideal situation? Obviously, you'd like to have more practice coming into your first game. Or is this it? Are you satisfied with how the early part of the season runs with the number of practices leading up to the first game? You have, obviously, limited time. What would you like to see considering the whole season?
EAVES: It's not ideal, but at the same breath, I will tell you that we’re all in the same boat. They've been saying that, you know, everybody says it is what it is. I'm not quite sure if I've ever sat down to define that, but we're all in the same boat, and we deal with it. Just like we ask our players to, control the things you can control, and we move forward from here.
QUESTION #5: What's the luxury of having Justin Schultz back, and what's his potential even more so for this season?
EAVES: Well, when you get one of the better, best players in college hockey back, it certainly boosts your blue line. And we know that he's going to be the quarterback of our power play, and so there's some sense of peace with that.
The nice thing I like about Justin is that he's pretty honest with himself. The two things that he sees in being able to come back is the ability to improve his strength, to play better without the puck. He's a young man that when he makes that step, he wants to make that step right to the show. He doesn't want to spend time at the lower levels.
The other thing that I like reading about Justin is that he was not satisfied his last year as a team, and he wants this team to go even further, and so he brings that back to us as well. He's going to push our players.
QUESTION #6: Could you describe the strengths of all three of your young goaltenders for us?
EAVES: Well, we'll start with Joel Rumpel. Tall, lanky, athletic, good reflexes. I think those are his strengths as he comes in to us. Landon Peterson is a young man that I had not had an opportunity to watch, other than through some video, but as he has been on the ice, he is better in person that in video, which has been very nice to see. He's patient. He's quicker than I thought he was. He has an athletic glove, and when I say that, I mean he can make saves with his glove, so he's been a pleasant surprise.
Mitch Thompson probably has been our, from, as a freshman to now, his growth physically, he's remodeled his body, if you will. He's fitter. He's stronger. His vertical jump has improved, and he wants it more than anybody on our team.
Sometimes he works against himself though, because he tries too hard. So he's maximized himself physically. I think if, as he relaxes, he'll become a better goaltender.
QUESTION #7: Mike, given the injury challenges that Jason Clark had a year ago, are you being cautious with him at this point, or is he full . . .
EAVES: He's full bore. I mean, he's been involved in our contact drills now and scrimmages. And, Andy Hrodey, our athletic trainer, comes up every day, and there's been no issues at all. So he's, what he's trying to do now is work his way back into the lineup and trying to get to higher levels every day, every week.
QUESTION #8: Mike, I'm wondering your thoughts on the Eau Claire guys, both Jefferson [Dahl] and now Jake [McCabe] coming aboard, two kids that have known each other for a very long time and had two different paths to get here, just wondering your thoughts on those two.
EAVES: Well, they're both doing very well, first of all. Jefferson is a young man who learned what the league was about last year, and what it takes, and he's stronger, he's fitter, and he has kind of emerged as a leader on that underclassmen group. He speaks his mind. I think he has the respect of his teammates, and so that's a nice thing to see in a young man.
And, Jake, his teammates can't believe how mature he is for a young man that's 17, not even 18 yet. He's kind of an old soul. He's kind of got that maturity beyond his years. He's almost 200 pounds. He plays big. He doesn't get rattled, so that's going to serve him well, and one of the reasons that he can step right out of high school and come into college. We think he's going to be a very good player for us.
QUESTION #9: So two things. What do you know about Northern Michigan, and what's always your biggest fear in that first game of the year?
EAVES: Ran into Walt Kyle, their coach. We were down at the Fall Classic, which is the kind of the jamboree for the United States Hockey League teams, and he was lamenting to me how young he his, his team, not Walt. He's pretty old, but, and so we were kind of crying on each other's shoulders, how young we are, so I'm assuming he's young.
And the biggest fear going into a weekend, sometimes you think you wonder how your team is going to do, and with young teams, I remember Brendan Smith's freshman year, we go down to Dayton for a little preseason tournament, and we came out of the chute, we were unbelievable. I mean, it was racehorse hockey. We were up and down the ice. It was like, well, this is kind of fun. So a lot of times, your fears are for naught, because the kids will come out, and they're all excited, and they'll play very well. Time will tell though.
QUESTION #10: Mike, you said this week is obviously going to be an important one to determine who you're going to start in goal. What do you want to see? Is it simple consistency? Is it a better technique? What do you want to see from Joel? What do you want to see from Landon?
EAVES: Well, it’s a circle of things in talking to Jeff Sanger, our goaltending coach and instructor. One of the things that we will do during the week is put our kids and our goalies, especially, in small area games, and it's a competitive situation, and see how they play under the gun.
Secondly, we will scrimmage this week. That will be a good telltale sign for us. Thirdly, when Jeff works with them on an individual basis or a group basis before and after practice, his input is very important to us as coaches, because, A, when we run a practice as a coaching staff, we have certain areas. We don't look at the goaltenders, per se. We only notice them if they make an unbelievable save, or they let a really bad one in. So his input on their individual sessions, and what he sees during practice will have a big input. So the combination of those three will be vital in our decision of what takes place in the nets for this weekend.
QUESTION #11: Bill Butters and Gary Shuchuk back on your staff again. The comfort level you have now with those two gentlemen after one year of working together last year, I would assume, I don't know if you can quantify it, but I would assume it's a lot more comfortable now?
EAVES: Just in terms of being able to go into the year and knowing what, that they know our systems and being able to delegate more comfortably and knowing that they can take over and do that part takes a load off my mind. I can be detailed about other things in terms of individual stuff with players, so definitely way ahead of the curve in terms of that. And just, they're such good people and men, that it's fun to be around them, and Shuey has one of the best laughs I've ever heard, and Bill's pretty good at telling stories and picking on words, so it's fun to be around.