Feb. 26, 2013
Watch Press Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin women's hockey head coach Mark Johnson spoke about Wisconsin's upcoming WCHA playoff series against St. Cloud State, among other things.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript of Johnson's remarks can be found below.
Johnson: Certainly was an interesting Saturday. We didn't know if we were going to finish second or third. As we landed in Madison and were taking a bus ride back to the Kohl Center from the airport. Ross had the game up in Duluth on the blog, so we were tracking the shootout, which ended up in Duluth's favor and gave us the opportunity to finish in second.
Team was quite excited and look forward to our playoff series against St. Cloud this upcoming weekend.
Question 1: With the winning streak, do you go in with momentum, or does it start all over and momentum at this point is a little bit overrated? What's your opinion?
Johnson: I think, depending on where you are in the spectrum. If you've got momentum, obviously, you're going to try to build on that. For teams that maybe don't have it right now, it's a second life and a second season. Wake up this morning, and everybody's back at the starting line, and everybody has an opportunity, if you're able to win a playoff series and then get up to our Final Five face off and win that, you get the right to go to the NCAA Tournament.
So everybody's got a breath of fresh air. I'm looking, as I do every year, hopefully, you're playing your best hockey now. You get into one and dones, or this weekend, when you're 2 out of 3 series, you need to be playing well. Everything needs to be operating on full throttle. If you are, you have a chance to be successful.
We'll use the momentum and our experiences in the last maybe eight games here. Our two games against Minnesota, even though we lost those games, that helps us along the way too. We'll use our momentum and get ourselves ready for Friday night's game.
Question 2: Mark, do you think your club is playing its best hockey right now?
Johnson: You look at different areas within our game. Things are looking good. Obviously, you start from the net and move your way out. Alex has been very consistent in all the games she's played this year. She gives us an opportunity to win and is playing well.
I think, as a coach and in the game of hockey, if your goaltender is playing well, you sleep a little bit better.
Question 3: Mark, what was your low point this year, do you think?
Johnson: I would probably say, before we started game one, I got news that Stef wasn't going to be available at that time, for sure the first semester, and then you're sort of tracking it. It was just disappointing because I wasn't anticipating that over the summer as you start looking at the roster and start looking at the seven freshmen you're bringing in and the kind of season she had last year.
You know, when we got the news she wasn't going to be available you know, I felt bad for her because she was in a position to maybe get central ice in the spring with the Canadian National Program and, I think, really had the opportunity to make the Olympic team next year for Team Canada. You start looking at the big picture, and if those things don't happen, that's probably my lowest point just because I felt bad for Stef.
I knew the impact she'd have on this year's team too with the young group, great leadership, has had a chance to wear the Canadian jersey and win a National Championship. Those things you miss on an everyday basis in the locker room.
Question 4: Where are Stef and Brittany with regards to their futures? Obviously, they're not going to play this year. Do you have anything definitive about next year?
Johnson: No. Those will probably be answered in the next I mean, as you well know, with the symptoms they have and the injuries they have, it's a timeline that doesn't have an end to it, in regards to, if I break my wrist, it's six to eight weeks or four to six weeks. With these types of injuries, you just don't know.
I can share they're both making progress and seem to be doing a lot better than they were earlier in the season, but as far as what's going to happen down the road and in the future, hopefully, they'll still be able to progress like they are right now and hopefully be able to train and do some things in the next two or three months that will indicate, yeah, they might be able to come back.
Question 5: At the start of the season, did you expect more from your freshmen forwards?
Johnson: In regards to? I didn't you know, to be honest, I probably didn't look at expectations as far as they need to score this or they need to do that. It was more of a progression of getting them adapted to our league, college hockey, and show improvement.
Some of them showed it quite early. Others it took longer. Overall, when you lose 100 goals in three players that we lost last year to graduation, we knew scoring would be a little more challenging than it has in the past few years.
I don't want to put pressure on a player to say, you need to go out and score. That's not fair. I know as a player I didn't appreciate that. It just adds too much to what's already on their plate. It's about improving. It's about a daily process, creating good habits, trying to become a better player, being a good teammate. And I think for most of them they've grown into pretty good players.
Question 6: Mark, how nice is it to know you'll be playing playoff games at LaBahn Arena, a home rink, rather than shuffling off to Verona or whatever the case may be?
Johnson: We don't have to go out to the Eagle's Nest. It's been a good place. Obviously, we'd like to have our first game against Bemidji back on that 1 0 loss, but overall the season, being at LaBahn, having a number of sellouts, the atmosphere, our fans. I know the players enjoyed it. Visiting teams enjoyed the accommodations, and I think the energy the building brings to it.
So it's been good, and it will be outstanding to have a playoff series here and not have to load up on a bus and take our equipment and practice out there. Not only will we like it, I'm sure St. Cloud is going to enjoy it too.
Question 7: I don't know if you can answer this or not. Brianna's senior season, look at what she did last year, winning the Patty Kazmaier, should she be one of the top candidates for that award again?
Johnson: As I look at it, obviously, the supporting cast that she was playing with this year was different than last year. But you look at her numbers, obviously we watch her play every night. If you look at the other players, if I'm a GM and I'm picking a team, she's going to be a top pick. Whether that's a top one, top two, or top three, she's probably going to be within one of those three areas.
So if I'm picking for the award, she would certainly be at the top of my ballot.
Question 8: Bemidji State has been a pesky opponent for a few teams in the conference. Based on the way it's shaken out, are you glad you don't have to face them in the first round?
Johnson: They're a very difficult opponent. They lead the country in blocked shots by a huge number. When it's tough to get the puck in the net and they hang around and do the things necessary to give themselves a chance to win, it creates a very competitive environment.
So we knew that going up there. We were able to score a goal in the latter part of the second period and able to hang on Friday night. Then Saturday night, you're looking at ways in the early part of the game to try to score, but the young Wheelhouse, defenseman, she acts like a goaltender. She makes kick saves, chest saves, blocker saves, glove saves. It's like trying to shoot the puck through two goalies. I give her a lot of credit because some of them have to hurt because some of these young ladies shoot the puck quite hard, but she's willing to do that.
It makes it difficult to score, and so we found ways to win, built on our confidence, and came away. Overall you look at the season, very pleased with the second place finish.
Question 9: Mark, when your previous seasons have been done, most of them have ended in National Championship games. So it's a pretty defined success rate there. How do you personally evaluate how you've done as a coach? What did you look at? Is it simply wins and losses? Is it simply grade point average? What things are most important to you?
Johnson: I think there's a lot of things. The one thing we can't control is injuries, how your lineup's going to be from game to game and practice to practice. I got a text message 45 minutes ago that one of my players is throwing up in class and probably won't practice today. So there's things that go on in our world that you have to deal with.
So at the end of the year, as you reflect back on the season and you look at it from the big picture, how did the kids do in school? That's the most important thing. Did they go to class? What was their GPA? Moving in a positive direction to get all these kids graduated. Then you look at the wins and losses because that's what we ultimately get judged on. But how did the entire season go in the big picture? That's how I evaluate it.
As with a player, I don't think coaches are any different. What could we have done better? I'll sit down with my staff when we're finished up. What did we do well? What things did we do well over the course of the season? How were our practices? Then you get to the last part. It's what do we need to do to get better as an individual coach and as we deal with our players. You're always looking for that. You're always looking to ways to improve your program.
We ask the players. We hand out an evaluation in a lot of different areas as far as our travel, our meals, our equipment, game times. It's a whole questionnaire that I hand out to get feedback from them because they're the one that are going through the process. How are practices? What can we do differently? Just get information from them, information from my assistants, and then I you look at it and say, okay, these are maybe two or three areas that we'll try to do better next year.
Question 10: Is it possible for you to be satisfied with a season, knowing the circumstances you went through this year, if it doesn't end in a National Championship game? Is it possible to feel the same way about how far you've come if perhaps you don't even get into the championship game?
Johnson: I know we have an opportunity right now and can control our destiny. You put a little run together here, you have a chance to maybe be part of that. So my feelings are that, unless you win it all, you're probably not fully satisfied.
You told me at the beginning of the season that Stef wasn't going to play one game and that Brit was going to play really only two games, it would be like throwing a wrench in it. When the season starts and you're in full throttle, you're just dealing with things on a daily basis.
I think the one thing that I get satisfaction from and the thing that put a smile on my face is when you look back and watch us practice on September 15th, 16th, and 17th, which were our first three practices, you watched our first couple games, and then I you know, I watched practice last week. I watched our games last weekend against Bemidji, and we made a lot of improvements.
Some of our younger players are more comfortable than they were now, and that bodes well for the future because a few of them are just freshmen and certainly are going to come back next year even better.
I think that's probably the most satisfied I get from looking at my team, that we've made improvement, we're doing a lot of good things. If that, at the end, comes down to winning a championship, obviously, the smile is going to be a little bit bigger, but the satisfaction is going to be the same because things have to fall in place at the end to win a championship. I can do all the same things I did last year or the year before and get to the end and not win.
The process and the journey is probably more important than the end result.