Sept. 30, 2013
Johnson News Conference
MADISON, WIS. -- Wisconsin women's hockey head coach Mark Johnson met with members of the media Monday at Camp Randall Stadium to review Wisconsin's exhibition win over Team Japan and to preview the upcoming season.
Video of Johnson's media session can be found above, and a complete transcript of his remarks is below.
Mark Johnson: We're certainly looking forward to our first competition coming off of one exhibition game with four league games, as mentioned we're opening up against Mankato Friday night at 7, then coming back Saturday afternoon at 3, traveling up to Minnesota the following weekend to play our arch rivals the Gophers. It's obviously early in the season. Be a good opportunity for our freshmen to get their feet wet against, as I mentioned the last time I was before you, a very competitive, very balanced league this season. Be a good opportunity for our young players to see some league competition and get their feet wet, opportunity to grow at the same time.
Certainly like to thank our athletic department, the people over at the Kohl Center, LaBahn Arena, for their hospitality with the Japanese national team. They finished up their series yesterday. Played six or seven exhibition games against a bunch of teams in our league.
I think the hospitality we showed them, going on the football field, had a nice crowd at the exhibition game, an opportunity at the end of that to take a photo with their team and our team on the ice. It was a special night. I want to thank everybody that had a hand in their journey being successful.
Question: Having that exhibition game under your belt, does that help knowing ma Mankato has played a couple games already?
Johnson: They're playing an exhibition game tonight against the University of British Columbia. They'll play three games in four nights.
As I mentioned, any time you get an opportunity to play, you have a chance to grow. Certainly for our younger players, an opportunity to go on the ice, play live competition with announcers, with the referees, with the fans, try to get the jitters and nerves out.
Certainly Mankato coming off of two games, another one tonight, same type of situation. Younger players now become veterans and have an opportunity to become better as a group.
At the same time Britt Ammerman got an opportunity to play. She missed most of the season last year other than the first couple games. It was a good game to get her back into. As I mentioned earlier, our freshmen an opportunity to play in front of a live crowd.
Question: Mark, what is the impact in your mind of the Olympics on women's college hockey? Is it as pronounced? Minimal?
Johnson: It depends on the countries we're talking about. For the U.S. players, I think the Canadian players, each of those countries centralize their team so they take those players out of respected colleges. If you happen to have a couple kids on respected teams, it's going to have an impact, pretty big impact. Certainly some of the players that would be in our league this year won't be. For those teams that don't have those players, it balances the playing field out.
I think it's a little more challenging for teams that have kids from Sweden or Finland or other countries that will be represented at the Olympics.
If you're from North Dakota, you have a couple kids coming in and out of your lineup over the course of the season, that becomes a little bit more challenging than for us or maybe Minnesota who would have kids on this team that will be gone for the whole year.
It certainly impacts different schools throughout the country.
Question: Who is most impacted? What school is most impacted by the Olympics this year?
Johnson: I haven't looked intensely at their schedule, but North Dakota, depending on what Sweden, Finland, a couple other players on their team, when they'll be leaving. All of a sudden we get to Four Nations, and six year players are getting on a plane Monday morning to Lake Placid for the Four Nations, then in December you have them again, and January you have them heading for the Olympics. You might have them for 60% of your season. That becomes challenging.
Off the top of my head, it would probably be North Dakota. I'm sure Minnesota would like to have Amanda Kessel for the year, too, so...
Question: I noticed on your roster you have six defenders. Do you have backup plans?
Johnson: We have an extra forward. If the case be it, and we have some things on the back end from an injury standpoint, we're not afraid to move somebody back there.
Question: Mark, playing Minnesota State this weekend, as a springboard into next weekend, is that Minnesota series in your opinion in a good spot in the schedule? Would you rather have three or four weekends to prepare for the Gophers?
Johnson: No, I think it's in a great spot, especially with my younger players. You always as a coach are looking for opportunities to see how your players are going to react in situations. Going up there, playing two games, I know they're at Colgate this weekend. If they happen to win both those games, they have a pretty long winning streak.
It gives an opportunity for our players to play in a very hostile environment obviously against a very good team. When you finish those type of weekends, you come back on Monday, you have video, you have opportunities to grow as a team. I think early in the season, that's what probably excites me most about not only this weekend but the following weekend.
So within four games we're going to have a pretty good idea how we stand up.
Question: As far as this weekend you have a pretty good record of success against Mankato. Do you continue to experiment with combinations or anything this week?
Johnson: Well, it's just trying to figure out power play combination, line combinations. We'll run through the first three days of practice with groups, see how the chemistry is, then play Friday night. If we like what we see, we'll probably stick with what we see. If not, you're going to make adjustments as you go.
Early in the season, you're trying to feel things out and see what kind of chemistry certain lines have and combinations, coach as we go.
Question: Did you have fun in Pittsburgh Thursday night (coaching the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects game)?
Johnson: Yeah. I got on the ice for my morning practice with my group, realized how big our players have become. Certainly when I have a goaltender that's 6'5" and my backup is 6'4", you get on the ice, there's not a lot of areas to shoot.
The players were excited. The fans supported it well. It was a great opportunity for these young men to showcase themselves. It turned out to be an exciting game. Got a little intensified the last six or eight minutes. It was good. Enjoyed it. Look forward to seeing where these young men get drafted in the future.
It's interesting, because I played against Al MacInnis. His son was out there. Ted Donato who I played against also coaches as Harvard. His son was out there. Mike Ramsey, who was a defenseman back in 1980, his son was out there. Pat Ford who I coached at Wisconsin, his son was out there. We had a lot of flavored interest as we watched the game.