Oct. 24, 2011
MADISON, Wis. -- Head Coach Mike Eaves appeared at Wisconsin's Monday news conference following the Badgers' weekend sweep over North Dakota. Eaves answered questions on preparing for Nebraska Omaha, the team's ability to rally and Joe Faust, among other topics. A full transcript follows.
To view the archived video of the news conference, click here .
QUESTION #1: Mike, with such a young team, what approach do you take this week with them coming off what was a, clearly an uplifting weekend to try and keep the even keel, not get too far ahead of themselves, not to get full of themselves, that type of thing?
Mike Eaves: First of all, I would be surprised if they are too full of themselves when we find a way to win like we did Saturday but didn't play great. So I would be surprised by that. I know, right now, that, you know, we're in the season now. We're a little banged up. I think we have to try to balance pushing forward and getting better in practice and being smart about retaining our energy throughout the course of the week. So we're changing things up this week in terms of our practice, especially today, and then get back to our full work tomorrow.
QUESTION #2: I'm guessing you had moments this week where maybe you saw a light bulb sort of come on for some of these guys. Was that sort of the reaction that you had during certain times, that this is starting to come together?
EAVES: There are moments. There need to be more moments, if we really want to continue to grow. It's, watching the game yesterday in video, it's amazing in athletics how fickle it can be. How you can play very, very well and not find a way to win, and that we don't play as well as we would've projected we might've on Saturday, and yet we still find a way.
And I think in looking at it and talking with the coaching staff, sometimes with a young team, they didn't seem to be phased by the fact that we weren't, we were getting outshot. We just kept playing and had the attitude like things are going to be all right. And that, again, may be attributed to the fact that being young and naïve, they just kept playing and found a way to put the puck in the net and found a way to win the game.
I was talking to a former coach, Mo Mantha, who played in the National Hockey League. He's coaching now in the North American League. And we were talking about the weekend, and he laughed at me. He says, you know what, Mike? You always know that good teams find a way to win. I said, well, I will hang my hat on that. We're moving toward that, hopefully.
QUESTION #3: Coach, you mentioned after game one that you didn't want to look at that game as too much of a measuring stick. After being able to get a victory, also, in game two, does that assessment change at all, or how do you look at that going forward?
EAVES: No. It doesn't change at all. The fact is that we found a way to win two games. The level of play which we had over the weekend was a step for us, but we're still such a young team, that we've got to, still making these little steps to improve and play more consistently, the way we want to play, in order for us to be considered an upper echelon team, working our way to be a championship team.
QUESTION #4: Mike, is Jake McCabe's injury going to keep him out for an extended period of time?
EAVES: I was told six weeks. So, you know, with injuries the way they are, you can look at anywhere from five to eight, I would imagine.
QUESTION #5: Got our Facebook question of the week here from Jody Yearling. It says, how proud of you that your young team was able to sweep North Dakota, and why do you think they were so successful?
EAVES: Well, we're excited for the kids that they had success, because in an environment of success, you can continue to push the buttons to get better, and you do it with a light heart and a bounce in your step. So we're proud of that fact that we can continue to push getting forward. And I know they're excited. It gives them a little measure of, you know, they're the number five team in the country, and, perhaps, that'll get us back on the ranking sheet again and do those kind of things. So everything is positive about it.
QUESTION #6: Mike, could you explain what have you seen in Joe Faust to this point that he seems to be playing while producing? What's been the key to his evolution to this point this season?
EAVES: Just experience, just settling down, not gripping the stick too tight. Having played college games last year has helped him relax a little bit, and he can still relax more. When Joe is fully relaxed, you can tell, because he has a take-what's-given type of mindset in that he doesn't make up his mind before the puck. He's able to look up ice and take what's given, much like a quarterback will do when he has the ball in his hands. When Joe is getting, he's gripping that stick too tight, he gets focused on one thing and doesn't take what's given. So he's learning to relax more, and as a result, he's being more productive.
QUESTION #7: Mike, your club has found ways to rally, you know, whether it be the first four games you're forcing overtime or getting an answer after North Dakota scores a couple of goals. Is that an innate quality of just stick-to-itiveness or is that a combined quality of this team right now that you've seen?
EAVES: I think it's combined. I think it's who these young men are, to a degree, but I also think it's just being young and just keep playing, being naïve. Because of their youth, they're excited to get on the ice every time. But, also, because of the work they did this summer, and what Jim (Snider) has seen from in the weight room, they do work hard. They stay with it. So I think it's a combination of things.
QUESTION #8: Mike, is it unusual to have a freshman, a real freshman, a teenager like Joseph LaBate, come in and be as assertive as it appears that he's been up to this point?
EAVES: Well, I'm going to be careful in answering this question, because in the assertiveness, he's got an assertive mindset. I think that he really wants to be good, and that's where his assertiveness lies. I think, physically, he's still kind of feeling his way around in terms of how to go into corners and maintain his balance and be able to control and battle and win battles in the corner. But his mindset is that of being assertive, is pushing forward and getting better. I think, physically, he's still learning to do that.
QUESTION #9: Having just played North Dakota, does that help at all in preparation for Omaha, knowing the background of the former coach of North Dakota?
EAVES: I think so. Just change uniforms, and it's the same way they're going to play. So as coaches, that's a simple message.
QUESTION #10: If you look at the group that you have in your top six forwards, the one guy that at the start of the season people may not have put a finger on is Matt Paape. What's he done to impress you to this point, and what's his upside?
EAVES: When we offered Matt a scholarship, he was still in high school. He was in our high school camp. And Matt is one of those hockey players that he has things you don't teach. The puck finds him. He's kind of got, like a football player, you say he has a nose for the football. He has a nose for the puck. He tries things offensively. And the points that he has right now, he's got three points in five games of just, have been a result of him being around the puck.
He hasn't made great plays, but the puck hits his stick. It bounces to a guy. He's been in a scoring, position to score, and that's just going to get better. I think he's learning, much like everybody else who's a freshman. They're learning, and we hope and expect good things to continue to go for him.