Dec. 28, 2010
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's hockey head coach Mike Eaves addressed the media at UW's weekly news conference prior to this week's series against Massachusetts on Thursday and Friday. A full transcript follows.
QUESTION #1: Coach, the break, a good thing for your team to kind of get their finals done with, and kind of re-focus, and get ready to go?
Mike Eaves: We think so as a staff. We talked about it again this morning. The fact that being such a young team, and having so many new experiences right away, and having to rely and count on young guys to be significant contributors right away, it’s a lot, it’s a lot, with school, living on their own, some of them for the first time. So by going through the first half, playing 20 games, and now having a chance to go back home and let everything settle down, they come back, and you can tell this, when they come back, they’re a little bit more mature. They have an idea of what to expect. School isn’t as a daunting task as it was. Usually, when everybody comes back, with such a young team, our best hockey is ahead of us.
QUESTION #2: How would you characterize the first semester for your club as a whole?
EAVES: You know, again, we talked about it as a staff, what is the phrase or word to describe it? To me, it was probably what we expected. I wish they would have at times played better, grown up faster, but as we talked about, that doesn’t happen. You put a seed in the dirt, it’s not going to grow any faster by yelling at it. It’s got to go through the process.
And we went through the process. The thing that we talked about almost every weekend is how good we looked and how we struggled. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And this just a process of young people knowing what to expect, going out there and getting it done no matter what the task they’re facing. And that’s just part of the process that we went through.
So, as much as I would have liked them to grow up faster, and done some things better, we probably were right on course as to what Mother Nature would have us go through.
QUESTION #3: As a coaching staff, is there more time over the break to kind of look back and think what can we do for this next run, maybe tweak some things or adjust some things or, do you wrack yourself over the break as well?
EAVES: No question. Sitting up in the office a couple days where people were out, it was nice to have that quiet up there. But we watched a lot of video. We watched video of our team, things we did well, things that we want to tweak. We talked a lot about our personnel. I think the picture is becoming clearer as to what roles are of some of the young people that we have, defining them more clearly for them so they know what to expect, what they expect of themselves and what we expected. And that’s how we’re going to move forward.
We have been through some wars. And we know now what guys can give us, where their strengths lie in game situations, where their areas of improvement have to continue to grow. And because of that, we have a better sense, they have a better sense, it will help us be a better hockey team with hockey players that are better.
QUESTION #4: With the games Thursday and Friday, you don’t have a lot of time to get ready. What’s the game plan for the week of practice, with the short week of practice that you have?
EAVES: Well, we were already on the ice this morning. We got the rust off for 45 minutes. Just let them go out there, and we played opposite-hand two pucks so they all can look really bad together. And then we did some skill drills. It was just a matter of handling the pucks, skating, passing, trying to get back to tempo. Now this afternoon, we’ll come back and we’ll jump into the deep end in terms of systems play, kind of where we left off, Brian.
So this morning was our Monday practice, this afternoon is Tuesday, that type of thing. But everybody, you know, they had jump, they had bounce in their legs. You know, some of the fine tuning of their passing and catching the passes was off, but that’s why we did that this morning so this afternoon we’d be better.
QUESTION #5: Coach, could you talk about John Ramage’s experience now and kind of what he’ll get out of that, being at the national level again?
EAVES: Well, on two fronts, not only did he make the team, but to have your peers nominate you to captain of that group says a lot for John, how much respect he has from his teammates there. And, you know, we sent John a little note, and just said, John, best of luck, be yourself, don’t do more than what you know you can do. Because sometimes you think you have to do more as captain. And they elected him because of the way he is. He leads by example. And that’s all he needs to do, and he’ll be fine.
And I watched him last night, the interview before the game was pretty funny. He was, hadn’t quite been put in that spotlight before, and he had an answer half out and he wanted to add a little bit more, and the guy there was already asking the next question. So he’ll have a polished better interview when he gets back from this if nothing else.
QUESTION #6: With John gone, it would allow some others possibly to see some time, Joe Faust in particular? Here’s a young man that maybe falls into that category of trying to do too much. I remember Bill Butters had mentioned that about him. Maybe this is a time for him to kind of get his feet under him a little bit more.
EAVES: Well, Joe’s played six games. He’s very much aware that these are big games for his growth pattern. And, Joe iss a tremendous young man and wants to do well. And he’s probably too hard on himself. And when he, when things don’t go the way he wants, he grips his stick a little tighter. And that’s part of his growth. Even in practice, because you can read his body language when he doesn’t make a pass that’s just right. Oh, he gets frustrated at himself. Got to let that go. Get ready for the next pass. So his process, if anything, has been one of maturation from an emotional standpoint. Hey, get ready for the next play and be ready to go. But he will get a chance. There’s not doubt.
QUESTION #7: Mike, Massachusetts, what do you know about them? How did the series come about? I was going to ask about Massachusetts and the next week Canisius. How do you set up your non-conference games?
EAVES: Well, it’s, Mass, U-Mass Amherst, Toot Cahoon is a friend from past experiences, and actually, his, one of his best friends is a former Athletic Director out of St. Mary’s. So we go back a long time in terms of knowing about each other. And he’s really one of the nicest men in the game of hockey. So that’s how that got connected.
And what we know about them, it’s been interesting. If you took a look at their record, you might say, well, they’ve not had a very good first half, but you know, I look at the film and I watch without knowing their record, I think, where did they break down, because they got some people that can play. Their power play looks good. The penalty killing, they take time off. They’ve got some guys that can skate and handle the puck. So I’m kind of scratching my head going, okay, something’s not matching here. But they’ll be a good task for us right away.
And Canisius is again about connections. It’s just, you know, with not having the Christmas tournament, we had some openings there. And Canisius was a team that we were going to have in our Christmas tournament upcoming, and we just touched base with them to see if they were available to come for a two-game series.
QUESTION #8: Do you expect the Kohl Center to be a little more rambunctious on New Year’s Eve especially?
EAVES: Well, you never know what you’re going to get. It’s kind of like Halloween. I think it’s interesting having entertainment like hockey on New Year’s Eve. I think people will make it an evening of it, come out and see a hockey game, and then go on with their New Year’s Eve celebration. So that’s why I say I’m not quite sure what’s you’re going to get.
QUESTION #9: And so, Mike, you talked about it earlier, but is there anything in particular you’re looking for as you start the second half of the season, anything in particular you’re looking for from the team?
EAVES: The big word is consistency. We need to strike a higher level of that. And that’s probably been the biggest challenge. And you heard us talk earlier about the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde thing, not knowing which team was going to show up. Trying to solve that riddle as a coaching staff, and even the players trying to solve it. And each time that scenario happened, and probably it was something a little bit different.
But if we could find that consistency button, we have to. We can’t continue to go on and have good, and bad, and lukewarm, and cold. That’s not going to get it done in terms of where we want to be. We have to continue that growth. So that’s probably the biggest area of growth. And I think it will happen more just because we’ve had a chance to play our 20 games, get a lot of stuff under our belt, go back, let’s sit down and know what’s coming at us, and be better.