Oct. 14, 2013
• Eaves News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's hockey head coach Mike Eaves addressed the media on Monday. The Badgers travel this week to skate against No. 6/7 Boston College and No. 15 Boston University in Boston.
Q. Mike, to what degree do you like your schedule in you've got a series of byes mixed in here the next couple of weeks. Obviously, a tough road trip coming up Friday and Saturday. Is this a good schedule in your mind with the breaks, or is there would you prefer some adjustments?
COACH EAVES: Whenever you talk about scheduling I think you and I have talked about this before, Andy. The schedule is what it is, first of all. You have some control over it, not a lot. We had a lot of breaks last year at this time.
I think you can the attitude you have towards your schedule, are we going to use this to our advantage, or is this going to be something we're going to have to fight through? Having some time off, you can use to do some real detail work in your systems play.
So I think at the beginning of the year that's not a bad thing because we haven't been together for five months. I think that's a positive. We play some real good competition early in the season starting with this weekend. So I think it's a chance to go play, learn from that, get back to practice, and get your game to a higher level.
It maybe sounded like a convoluted answer to your question, but the schedule is what it is, and we're going to make the best of it.
Q. A couple of really tough road games obviously this weekend. What can you learn from your team this weekend?
COACH EAVES: We're going into the den of a couple of big time teams. I know everybody is excited. It's good to go on a trip like this early in the year because it really brings the team together. You're truly on your own.
We'll go in there, and we talk about trying to steal some ponies on the road. There's an old legend about the Dakota Indians that just for fun would go into different rivals' camps and steal ponies in the middle of the night and sneak out with them. That's kind of what we try to do here.
We'll have a chance to do that early in the season. It really does bring the group together, playing a quality team. We haven't been in the new BU rink. I had a chance to be in there this summer excuse me, this spring. It's a beautiful building. So I talked to the guys. They've seen pictures of it. It's going to be an exciting trip.
Q. Mike, what's your personal view of going back to a place at BC? Is it a special place for you, knowing your sons played there, the respect you have for Jerry York. Is that part of your mindset or more trying to get this team ready to play a tough weekend stretch?
COACH EAVES: I got a lot of respect for Jerry. I think it's more special for the boys. I didn't attend there. There’s a little connection, but it's more disconnected than if it was the boys going back there.
So tremendous respect for Jerry and the program. They get good players. It's a good school. They do things right. I think it's a great challenge for our team that's an upperclassmen team to find early on in the season where we match up. It's an exciting time.
Q. Mike, very general question. Your thoughts on this past weekend, how your team played. I would assume there's good and bad in both situations.
COACH EAVES: I thought Saturday structurally we were much better than we were Friday night. Friday night we scored goals so it made the game a little easier for us. Saturday, it was more of a battle, which was good. I think we'd rather have a game like that where we found out early can we solve a riddle in a tight game?
Watching video on Sunday, we did a lot of good things structurally, stuff that we can improve on, stuff that we'll work on that we didn't do so well, but in the end we found a way to solve a riddle, and that was how to win a game late.
Q. Last year you guys didn't have the best start. How different is the mindset coming off of a weekend where you get two wins in a row to start the season rather than last year, where it took about a month it seems to really kind of hit your
COACH EAVES: Mindset is a push. We're going to push forward. I mean, you come to the rink. You've got a couple of wins under your belt. You've got a little jump in your step. Now is the time that you can put the pedal to the metal, so to speak, as far as the coach, and show them that you hold them accountable and want more from them this week because they do have that extra jump in their step.
So we as a staff, that's our task is to push them now and see how much better we can get this week during practice.
Q. Last year to start the season, Nic had the much discussed and debated suspension to start the year. How different is he mentally going into this season physically not having that cloud hanging over his head? Is there any value in what happened to him that benefited him going into this year from that experience?
COACH EAVES: There's no question that it did. That was the first time in Nic's life he had a couple of big hurdles to get over. It helped him grow as a human being, as a hockey player. He's all around better because of that experience.
I mean, you look at the stats right now, he's tied for points, he’s plus five. He's moving well. I think that this will serve him well in the future because of the fact that he's gone through tough stuff. He knows how to handle it and if there’s a bump in the road. He'll figure it out.
Q. Coach, you obviously have two guys in goal that you feel comfortable with. How do you kind of decide? Is it kind of a 50 50 split early in the year? Have you worked out in your mind how it's going to work right now with that?
COACH EAVES: Goalies are an interesting question. I think even more so than or similar to a quarterback situation. It's a gut call.
I think we do have one A and one B, and we do a pretty diligent job of watching them in practice, especially when we do small area games, which are competitive games, and what kind of goals they do get scored on. Are they weak goals? Are they strong goals?
During the course of drills, we really don't watch them much. I know I don't. But during the course of the small area games, we keep track of who's beating who. That's part of the competitiveness that we have. And during that and then going with your gut feeling is usually the determining factor.
Q. Mike, you've had players in the past that came directly from Minnesota high schools or high schools and played at this level. What are the challenges that Grant Besse faces. Granted, the last couple of examples you had were defenseman and he's a forward. But what are the challenges facing him at this level?
COACH EAVES: A couple of things. The natural one to answer to would be patience, strength of play. Grant is an intelligent hockey player, and that helps him. He's stronger than I thought he would be, and I think being here for the summer has helped him.
I think the next thing that's going to be a challenge is figuring out what our systems are and not to be so structured in his own thing but let it flow a little bit more. That will come. That will come with repetition.
But he's been able to play to his strengths, and that's put the puck in the net. He's got a unique gift of being able to have the puck on his stick and put it where he wants. And the other unique gift that he has, the puck finds him. Those are qualities you don't teach.
Q. Mike, can you give us some examples of some guys who have had those similar attributes to Grant that you've had here of late, that the puck seems to find them, they just have that knack?
COACH EAVES: Sure, Michael Davies, Derek Stepan. If you go back and watch videos I think we talked about this after the game on Saturday. Purely offensive guys make bad plays, make bad decisions, make bad shots, but somehow, for some reason, the puck still finds its way back on their stick.
Young Grant has that ability. But Michael Davies had that. Derek Stepan had that. Kyle Turris had that. As a coach, you need to try to recruit those kind of players because you don't teach that.
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