March 4, 2013
• Watch Press Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin women's hockey head coach Mark Johnson spoke about Wisconsin's upcoming game against North Dakota in the semifinals of the 2013 WCHA Final Face-Off, 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: I'm not sure how many were at the games Friday or Saturday. It's a great opportunity. First time we've had playoff games in our home building. Had the band there, a nice turnout. Quite an atmosphere. A lot of energy and excitement. I think our players fed off of it.
Certainly Friday night, for three solid periods, did a lot of great things. As I told the team Friday night after the game, the toughest thing in our business is to try to eliminate and end someone's season. We knew Saturday night St. Cloud was going to come out, especially their seniors. They didn't want to finish their careers off on Saturday, but we were able to withstand a little diversity and challenges in the second period and came out in the third period and scored a couple power play goals. Now we have the right to play one more game on Friday.
Question 1: Coach, just looking at that second period on Saturday's game, did you feel your team did an okay job keeping their emotions in check?
Johnson: I think for the most part. I think sometimes in the context of games, some players might get frustrated if they're not if the puck's not going in, you're getting a lot of scoring opportunities, and you don't capitalize on it.
Other times, players might get frustrated if they feel they're getting hooked or hold or grabbed, or things like that. The first five on three we killed off, I think we got some energy from it. The crowd got into it. We blocked some shots. Alex hadn't been tested really much the first period, but got tested throughout that five on three.
It becomes a little more challenging if the same scenario is presented a couple minutes later where you have a five on three for two minutes. It gives the other team an opportunity, obviously, to score a goal, creates some energy on their end. After they ended up scoring 1 1, I felt very fortunate we got out of that period 1 1, and I felt very comfortable and confident we'd come out and play strong in the third period.
Question 2: Based on your detailed knowledge of the PairWise Rankings, do you view this game as a must win, that you've got to win to get into the tournament?
Johnson: Not necessarily. This will be the fifth time we've played them. We're 3 1 against them right now. If we were able to lose Friday's game, that would put us at 3 2. At that point, I'm not sure what would happen, but I don't think it would eliminate us.
Question 3: Minnesota has the look of the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Just how big is the gap between them and everyone else? Do you think they're beatable?
Johnson: I think at this time whether you're talking hockey or basketball, everyone's beatable once you get into the tournament. You look at the different scorers and the matchups that we had this previous weekend. A lot of games went into overtime. A couple went into double overtime. A few of them went into triple overtime.
Teams maybe on Thursday, if you looked at them, would say, well, no, this team's going to win for sure, and all of sudden it goes into an overtime or double overtime. At this time of the season, especially in our business, you have that X factor of goal keeping, and if you have a goaltender that's capable of keeping you in the game and maybe winning the game, anything's possible.
That's the fun part about March Madness. It's always fun entering the month of March, whether you're a basketball fan or a hockey fan. Just being a sports fan, there's a lot of fun activity going on because eventually we can talk about the game, and we can look at people's regular season, but at some point you have to drop the puck and play the game, or you have to flip the ball up and start your basketball game. A lot of crazy things happen. That's why we call it madness.
Question 4: Mark, I'm not asking you to compare her to any of these people, but what sets Brianna apart from the previous Patty Kaz players you've had here , obviously, Jesse notwithstanding.
Johnson: I guess just her competitiveness, her determination. You watch her play, whether it's in a five on five shift or power play situation, or most impressively, probably killing penalties.
She likes to have the puck. Somebody steals the puck from her, it doesn't take her long to try to get it back. I think just being so competitive, and obviously the skill set she has, you put the two of them together, and you end up with a pretty special player.
Question 5: Mark, you made mention there might be a possibility that, if you do lose on Friday that you could still get in. What is the approach, what is the mentality you want your players to take? Do you want them to view this going into this game as this is a win or we're done season?
Johnson: I think at this time of the year every game becomes a must win, no different than Saturday or Friday of the previous weekend. It's that time of year. You're feeling good about yourself. I'm feeling good about the team. And it's the ability to go on the ice and execute and play to win, not be afraid to lose.
So that will be the mindset. I'm sure we'll have good energy this week in practice. The kids will be fired up. North Dakota's played well the last six or seven weekends. We've played well the last six or seven weekends. It should be quite an entertaining game Friday afternoon.
Question 6: Mark, could you tell us a little bit about the last time you played North Dakota and whether or not controlling your players controlling their emotions is a key this weekend.
Johnson: I think, similar to what you see in the National Hockey League and the playoffs, generally, some of the stuff you might see in the regular season will be will probably be eliminated from the physical standpoint as far as maybe things after the whistle, just because the magnitude of the game for both teams. If you lose, you're on the bus coming home.
And so discipline has to be a big part of going into Friday afternoon's game. You don't want to take penalties if you don't have to. You certainly want to control your emotions. So that will be the mindset.
Again, depending on how the game's being called, usually they'll let some things that normally in the regular season that they might call, they generally in the playoffs let it go. Whether it's right or wrong, but that's usually the track.
Question 7: Mark, you could probably make a case that what Brianna has done this year is more impressive than what she did a year ago. Do you buy that? Based on the load that she's had to carry, the focus the teams have been able to put on her versus a year ago, where she had some more high profile, complementary players.
Johnson: I think she's had an outstanding season. She's played very well. She's been consistent. We had a stretch there of three or four games early in the season she ended up not scoring goals in.
I think sometimes that can help a player. I remember Dany Heatley sophomore year he went through a four or five week stretch where things weren't going the way he wanted to go. You look at the mirror. You challenge yourself. You start pushing yourself a little bit harder. You work a little bit harder in practices. I remember the second half of the season of his sophomore year, he was by far the best player in the country.
Brianna's been consistent. As you mentioned, the other teams always have their best players, best defensemen out against her. They challenge her, and she's put together what I would consider probably equal number wise compared to last year. She had more points, but I think this year was certainly more challenging for her to acquire goals and points.
You take some of the other kids that might be up for the Patty Kazmaier and put them in the situation that Brianna's in, and I'm not sure they would have attained that.