Feb. 24, 2014
• Johnson News Conference
MADISON, WIS. -- Wisconsin women's hockey head coach Mark Johnson met with members of the media Monday at the Kohl Center discuss UW's upcoming WCHA playoff series with Minnesota State.
Video of Johnson's media session can be found above, and a complete transcript of his remarks is below.
UW Head Coach Mark Johnson: As I'll tell the team this afternoon, the first part of our season sort of I look at is at three phases: The regular season being one phase, and now we jump into a second phase where you have a tournament that can last up to two weeks. You can play four or five games, and somebody will win a championship, and the team that wins a championship gets an opportunity to go to the NCAA Tournament.
That's how we're going to look at it. It's a time, it's an old cliche, of one game at a time.
The challenge will be we're just coming off a weekend playing the same opponent we're playing in the first round of the playoffs.
So you look at video, you don't have to reach too far to grab some clips. So it's two teams that will know each other well and make a few adjustments on both sides and get an opportunity, again, to, if you're able to win two games, move on to a series the following weekend up in Bemidji and a chance to win a championship.
So players will be excited. Again, it's an opportunity, if you win, you get to move on. If you don't, that portion of the season is over.
Question: Mark, what is the biggest challenge facing a team I think you've beaten four times and, at least by the scores, comfortably?
Coach Johnson:The challenge becomes they'll have an opportunity to make some adjustments after they look at the two games that we just played them, and certainly you hear a lot of coaches talk about, when you have to play a team three or four times in a row, those are the hurdles that you have to try to climb over.
So we'll spend this week working on some things to improve some areas that will help us be successful this weekend, and then it comes down to the players going out and playing the way they've played all season.
The one thing about this group, they've been consistent since day one when we played Team Japan, which seemed like an eternity ago. But we talked about that at the beginning of the season. I talk with each team, just trying to play consistent each weekend, each period, try to improve as we go throughout the season. This group's been able to do that.
So I'm sure they'll be very focused and energized because the regular season, it's long, it's grinding, it goes over two semesters, and now you have an opportunity for a two week tournament, and I think everybody in our locker room will be excited about that opportunity.
Question: Mark, you've had more shorthanded goals than power play goals allowed, which is pretty extraordinary. In that context, what makes Blayre Turnbull such an effective penalty killer for you?
Coach Johnson:I think, one, experience having done it a good chunk of the season a year ago and coming in with probably a little bit more confidence all around as a player. Getting off to a good start, you know, scoring some goals, and then looking at some video, seeing what the opponents do on their power play, what their tendencies are, and then just anticipating some things.
Probably the biggest difference between a year ago and maybe the first two seasons is her ability to finish. So the two goals she scored Friday night, back to back shorthanders, almost looked like T.J. Oshie going in on the penalty shots. They were duplicate plays and goals, and she came back to the bench with a big smile on her face.
But her ability to finish is probably her biggest difference.
Question: Just so it's clarified, she doesn't just go out there and play penalties. She does a lot of research. She looks at videos, she tries to kind of see how teams are attacking and kind of capitalizes on that. That's just kind of a prep thing for her, correct?
Coach Johnson:Well, it's with everybody. We'll sit down and break down the opponent's power play and penalty kill and we'll show our groups of players, and so she's generally going to be the leader on the penalty kill side, along with Karley Sylvester. They're good at they have that hockey sense to anticipate.
When you show a team's tendencies and you go on the ice and you have that ability to read a play, that's certainly an advantage for us as a penalty killing unit, and certainly the players that have that team sense can anticipate some things and create some turnovers, and then it's creating maybe some opportunities early on.
Brittany Ammerman did that in a couple situations where she's able to read plays, get deflection, all of a sudden create a scoring opportunity shorthanded and then have the ability to finish it off.
Question: Coach, what can you say about the play in net of Alex Rigsby and Ann Renée Desbiens?
Coach Johnson:Yeah, Ann-Renee played very well. She gave us a chance to win and certainly made some key saves at key moments within the game Saturday.
But our goaltenders have been very consistent. It's nice to say that they've given us a chance to win every night. And then when Alex went down and missed six or seven weeks of the season, Ann as a freshman came in and stepped right in, very comfortable.
In the middle part of our season really solidified herself as not only a good goaltender but I think a goaltender that's going to get better and better as she continues to get more experience.
Question: Mark, we're less than a week removed from the Olympics women's hockey. What do you say to people who and it's been written, it's been talked about, it's been said that Team USA choked.
Coach Johnson:Harsh word. I've been there. I've sat in the locker room with the team after winning a silver, which should be an exciting time in all the athletes' lives, but it's unfortunate when the expectations are high and the goal is to win the gold medal.
Certainly our team was well prepared. They actually had a hand on the medal, and all of a sudden it slipped away.
Unfortunately, that's the world we live in. You reflect back on it, and I know Kelli Stack's comment the following morning on the television, I'd love to play that last minute over.
But that's the thrill of the Olympics. It's the thrill of victory when somebody unexpectedly or a team actually or an individual wins the gold medal, and you see that special smile on their face as they drape their country's flag.
But as the pendulum swings the other way, there's always that agony of defeat. And so as I look at Meghan Duggan receiving her silver medal and the tears, I know what the pain feels like for those athletes. Because on the women's side, it's tougher, it really is, because they invest much differently than the men have to do.
I mean, the men are back tomorrow night playing in the NHL, making money and playing a game they love; where the women, you know, the element of the unknown what do they do for the next year, what do they do for the next three or four years if they want to continue playing.
It's just a different investment. When you get to the end and you don't get rewarded with what your expectations are, it's hard. And then to have that game get away from them the last three minutes, those are games that are much more difficult to lose.
Question: One would think, looking at your resume, that you don't necessarily need to win this tournament to make it to the NCAA, but the memory of last year, do you think that will kind of affect the sense of urgency, how there really aren't any guarantees in the NCAA?
Coach Johnson: No, it's as I said, this is, as I look at it, sort of a phase two. It's an opportunity to win a championship, and whether you're a coach or an athlete, those are fun events to be part of.
It's short. It prepares you, you know, if you're fortunate enough to move on to the NCAA Tournament. But the end goal is, if you win the championship, you're automatically in the tournament, so there's something to play for. And that's the way we'll approach it.
A week from Saturday, somebody's going to be hoisting the trophy and taking pictures on the ice up in Bemidji, and that's the goal. That's what we'll push forward today in our meeting, and that's what we'll eye the target in regards to the next four or five days of practice as we prepare for Mankato on Friday night.