UW Health Sports Medicine 

Head coach Mark Johnson previews NCAA quarterfinals



March 5, 2012

Watch Johnson's Press Conference Small Video Graphic

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin women's hockey head coach Mark Johnson met with the media at Monday's weekly news conference. Archived video of Johnson's appearance can be found above, while a complete transcript can be found below.

Mark Johnson: I think we, as a staff, and certainly as a team, are excited about hosting another quarterfinal game. Certainly looking forward to the game Saturday and getting an opportunity to practice here all week at the Kohl Center in our preparation. So it's an exciting time. We're in a good position and now it's time to prepare for Saturday night's game.

Question #1: Mark, are you any more concerned about your team than you have been going into previous NCAA Tournaments?

Johnson: I don't think so. I mean, the probably only difference is how are they going to react after losing (last) Friday night's game? We really haven't been in that position. In years past, we've either won the playoff championship or lost in the championship game. So coming home on the bus Friday and having to work out Saturday is different than we've done in the past.

But it's, as I mentioned to Brian yesterday, is every game teaches you something and if you take some things away from Friday night's game in preparation for Saturday's game, it can be a helpful tool knowing that if you win the game you move onto the Frozen Four. If you lose, your season's over. So I'm not any differently concerned.

Question #2: You're asked a lot to compare Alex Rigsby and Jessie Vetter, what, how they're similar, those types of things. How are they different?

Johnson: I haven't been asked that one before. I guess maybe one of the differences is Jessie, if you know her off the ice, is pretty easygoing. Generally even when she was a freshman red-shirting, she seemed to be very relaxed and very comfortable in her settings. She knew who she was at a real young age. I remember the game against Mercyhurst her freshman year playing out at the Cap Ice Center in the quarterfinal game and winning in double-overtime and how posed and composed she was in it.

Alex is starting to go down that path. I mean, I think she understands in her position as a goaltender, patience is such a vital part of it. And I think what she went through last year, similar to what Jessie went through her freshman year, she's gained a lot of confidence and seems to be very comfortable, similar to what Jessie is.
But I would probably say Jessie's maybe just a bit, a little easier going and maybe a little bit more athletic. I mean, if you watch Jessie play baseball, a pretty good baseball player, actually hit a homerun against one of my son's team in the 12-year-old All Star game over at Kennedy. I watched that. I didn't know she was a goaltender at the time. But give her a basketball she can shoot the three-pointer. Give her a football she can hit the receiver. She's a very good athlete.

Question #3: What more have you learned about Mercyhurst?

Johnson: Not too much. The one rule we have is we exchange videos. So their video of their last game is en route and ours is heading down there. So the next couple days, you'll get a better feel. But as you well know, I mean, you get down to eight teams, anybody's capable of beating anybody.

The one thing we learned about Friday night's game is you have to be able to execute under the circumstances. And the team that comes out Saturday and executes and, certainly, the special team situations gives themselves a better chance to win.

So that's part of the preparation, as Mike mentioned with his group you shorten practices up a little bit. Everybody's focused. Everybody's paying attention to details. It's a fun week, and, certainly, we're looking forward to our preparation, and certainly looking forward to the challenge in Saturday night's game.

Question #4: You know, Mark, in football, they often talk about home field advantage could be anywhere from a field goal to a touchdown. Is there a goal advantage at all having home ice?

Johnson: I don't know if you'd put a goal on it, but it's just you're comfortable in your surroundings. You have routines. You have certain habits. Gameday routines, as far as when I get up, what I do, when do I go to the rink, all those little things are in play. And then similar to last year there was a nice crowd at our game last year and so you have the band out there. There's some excitement. There's some energy in the building.

If you're a student athlete, it's a pretty good atmosphere to play in, especially if you've done it before. And so we've had a couple games where we've had some big crowds this year. So our players tend to feed off that and, certainly, we're hoping to create that atmosphere Saturday.

Question #5: Mark, when you looked at the two games that you’ve lost here of late, there are so many emotions that were wrapped up in the Ohio State game, circumstances that could have played into that, same with playing a team for the fifth time in a season against Duluth. That you're just, the familiarity and all it takes is a bounce here and there to kind of change things. So you kind of take some comfort in that knowing that there were some different circumstances in those two games that aren't going to be really prevalent once this tournament starts here against Mercyhurst?

Johnson: Yeah. I mean, it's I think I've said before whether you win or lose you wake up the next day, and what did you do well in those games, and what didn't you do well, and what do you need to improve? And that's how you look at each one of them.

Obviously you have Senior Weekend, and there's a bunch of distractions, and how are your players going to react to that? As a coach, you're trying to do some things that you maybe wouldn't do in a normal game having clinched the title already and having seniors that you want to certainly give them their moment and their time.

And then the game (last) Friday, again, it's a learning opportunity for everybody, because here you've got a team that's trying to get in the NCAA Tournament. They have to win against us to get to Saturday's game, and playing at home playing them for the fifth time having beaten them four other times the tasks and the challenges is difficult. We didn't probably didn't play our best game, but we still had an opportunity at the end.

So each game presents that, and how you approach it, and how you take it you wake up the next day and move on. This is the third leg in our season. The first leg was a good one by winning the league conference championship. The second leg, which lasts two weeks didn't go as planned, but we're still playing. We're still alive. We've got another game. So you win Saturday, you move into the Frozen Four and an opportunity to go after another National Championship. So I find this game probably the most difficult to win, this quarterfinal game.

Wisconsin vs. Ohio State
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