Dec. 20, 2013
• Eaves News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's hockey head coach Mike Eaves addressed the media at UW's weekly Monday news conference at the Kohl Center. A full transcript follows.
Moderator: The men's hockey team is coming off a two-game sweep of Penn State over the weekend, and they're in the midst of a 12 game home stand that continues this Friday and Saturday against Colorado College. Friday's face off is set for 6:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Network, and Saturday's game will begin at 7:00 p.m.
QUESTION: Mike, special teams, obviously, a key in hockey. Your penalty kill's improved greatly since Boston. Could you explain how that's been able to happen?
COACH EAVES: Part of the solution has just been repetition in games and getting used to each other. Coach Shuchuk is in charge of that, and he does a great job. And they watch video.
I just think having repetitions in games, getting their feet together and working together again, and doing it more consistently has been a big help.
Shuey is very proud of that part of the game, and he wants that even higher than it is now.
QUESTION: Mike, when you recruit, how much thought do you put into chemistry, personality, and how they're all going to mesh together?
COACH EAVES: We talk about it regularly. You look at the makeup of the team, you can't have all fast, little, speedy guys. You need a mix of different types of players -- power players, energy players, guys that are going to be around for four years. We have to talk about those kind of issues.
So, yes, we talk about it regularly.
QUESTION: But more than the mental part, guys who are intense, guys who are mature, guys who are bring a little bit something different to the dressing room. Do you look at that type of psychology?
COACH EAVES: I think the first thing we look at if they are good people, first and foremost. What is their character? They think it's funny -- our recruits always laugh when we talk to them. Because we say, you know, we talk to the Zamboni driver, we talk to people in the concession stands, we talk to your guidance counselor. We want to know what kind of person we get.
Because at the base of what we look for, we look for kids who have skills we can't teach, and then we look for kids who have good character skills.
So what you just talked about, we get into and try to find out as much as we can. It's not an exact science, but we do make an effort to find out about those things so they fit in.
QUESTION: What's the most important part of team chemistry in your mind? What is the number one ingredient?
COACH EAVES: Selflessness, without question. If our young people can't put their own personal goals aside to help the team win, then I don't think we achieved the ultimate title. How many times have you heard a guy win an individual award say: Geez, if I could give this up to win a championship, I would do so.
So without hesitation, selflessness.
QUESTION: After the series in Minnesota, what does getting a sweep of your own here at home do for momentum heading into the end of the first half?
COACH EAVES: Really important, the fact that we felt we played halfway decent, especially on Saturday night, but the fact that we get a couple wins under our belt and get some momentum going, especially with a 12 game home stand, and that's a nice way to start.
We just need to continue to do that now and keep that momentum rolling for us.
QUESTION: Mike, where do Grant Besse and Jedd Soleway fit on your idea of improvement, your projection for them after this number of games?
COACH EAVES: Are you asking if we feel they have improved or what areas they've improved?
QUESTION: In terms of what you had projected for them to this point, where are they in your mind?
COACH EAVES: Best way for me to answer that is they're on that rise. They're on the rise. They are improving.
I thought that Jedd Soleway had his most complete game in terms of his physical presence, shooting the puck. He's [had] tons of opportunity to score. The dam is going to break from here. He's going to get on the score sheet in terms of goals. I thought in watching him this week and his understanding of our system, he's on a rise.
I think Grant Besse, same way. On Friday night he had three thunderous body checks in the first period. Which he's starting to say I feel comfortable. He has a scoring chance. Every time that young man shoots is a legitimate scoring chance.
I think they're both on the rise. They're becoming more comfortable with the way we want to play as a team and how they fit into that.
QUESTION: That Saturday in Minnesota you were very pleased with the way your team played. Did your team play near that at times this weekend? How tough is it to bottle the way your team played at Minnesota on that Saturday to continually bring it out in your club?
COACH EAVES: I think once we get going on a more regular basis, that ability to play that consistently will come to fruition for us.
So we played last weekend, we got -- this will be our third weekend in a row for the first time this season. I'm hoping we're able to find the consistent button a little bit more regularly.
QUESTION: If I remember correctly, one of the things that you've been wanting to see out of Joe Faust is the physical ability, the intensity from him. Have you seen him move along that path? Obviously, his point totals are up this year. He seems to be playing with more confidence. But are you seeing that part of his game evolve as well?
COACH EAVES: Absolutely. I think for Joe, if you were to see Joe in the weight room, you would say this kid is a physical specimen. I think that gives him confidence to play the way that he needs to play.
And there's no question, when you work as hard as Joe and you go in the weight room, and then you capture that on the ice and you can physically knock down an opponent or contain them or hold them off and get them fired up, you go: This is really working. So that level of confidence comes from that.
I think that's led him to be more comfortable with the puck and just relax a little bit and take what's given.
It's nice for Joe because it's his senior year. He's playing his best hockey. He's getting some reward for that, and we need him to play as he is because he's in our top four defensemen, and we need him.
Sometimes you're going to play against the other team's best forwards, and I think he's getting to this point where he realizes I can shut them down. I can make it very difficult for them to play and be successful.
QUESTION: Y'all have gone 17 consecutive power plays without a goal. How important was that goal for Mersch? Does it maybe give you guys some confidence going forward?
COACH EAVES: We created 10 scoring chances on Saturday through our power play, and we got one. Up in Minnesota, we didn't really get on a roll and find that rhythm that a power play needs.
But to break that ice again and kind of be able to puff our chest out a little bit was really important. I know they were relieved.
They've been doing good things and they've done a lot of good things but put the puck in the net. So to find the back of the net was really good for their confidence.
QUESTION: Getting a chance to play on national TV on Friday, does that add an extra edge for this team to want to show something on the big stage?
COACH EAVES: For any athlete. For any athlete. It's funny, when guys play on Monday Night Football, they talk about it. We're the only two teams playing, and they play like it.
So for our guys to know they're going to be on national TV, there's no question. I don't think we even have to mention that. You'll see a little extra spring in their step because they know they are on there.