Dec. 3, 2012
• Watch Johnson's Press Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin women's hockey coach Mark Johnson spoke to the media on Monday at the weekly press conference held at Camp Randall Stadium.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript of Johnson's remarks can be found below.
Coach Johnson: Coming off a couple of defeats over the weekend up in Minneapolis, biggest crowd I've seen. On Saturday afternoon's game, it was sold out, 3,500 people, great atmosphere. A lot of fun for our players to play in that environment, especially for our younger players, our freshmen, to get their feet wet, obviously, against the number one team in the country.
For the sixth period, I was happy with their effort. I was happy with the way they competed. Yesterday was sort of a dogfight, went back and forth. Came down to a power play goal that Minnesota capitalized on midway through the third period, and that was really basically the difference in the game.
I think playing both those games up in that atmosphere for our team is certainly going to help us prepare as we get ready for North Dakota Saturday and Sunday at home. We finish up the first half of our season. So we're looking for some positive things to happen this upcoming weekend.
Question 1: Mark, could you compare the work of Alex Rigsby up to this point in the season and from a year ago. Clearly, she was coming off some surgeries a year ago, that type of thing. Can you see the health upgrade for her this year? Is she playing better than she was a year ago, or is this just the same old Alex?
Coach Johnson: If I look at yesterday's game, she gave us a chance to win, especially in the second period. We started to bend a little bit, and they were coming at us full throttle. She made a couple of saves in the second period that kept the game at 0 0.
To answer your question, I think she's probably playing as well as she's ever played for us, and part of it and the big reason probably has to do with her health and her ability over the course of this summer to train and condition differently than she had in the previous two summers.
Question 2: Mark, how good is that Minnesota team? They've yet to take a bump this year.
Coach Johnson: They're deep. They've got good pieces from the team that won the National Championship last year, and obviously it starts in the net.
So as the game unfolded on Saturday, I was real happy with our first period. We got out of there 0 0. Shots were relatively even. Scoring chances were even. We had a power play early in the second period, and Ratty's laying on her back in the crease with her head in the net. Our player takes a shot, and she lifts her glove up, and it goes in it. Instead of 1 0 us, about a minute and a half later, after they killed the remainder of the power play off, they scored to make it 1 0.
So it's one of those things, and you guys have seen enough hockey where we needed to score first in either one of those games to give us a chance. Yesterday's first period, we played better than we did Saturday's first period. We came out and had great energy, created some great scoring opportunities, outshot them almost 2 1 in the first period. Again, we didn't get rewarded for that.
When you're on the road and playing those environments obviously, you're playing against the number one team in the country, a team that's very confident. They've got a lot of pieces that can hurt you.
It's good if you can jump on them early or get a goal on them, and that's what we were looking for yesterday, even as we started the third period. Now it becomes a 20 minute game. Who's going to make the mistake? Who's going to create an opportunity? Who's going to get the puck in the net first? It's probably going to be the team that won.
We're still missing a couple pieces. We're missing one of our defensemen over the weekend, and that just adds a little different dimension in what you'd like to have, especially going up there.
Question 3: You know, are you getting enough scoring opportunities I suppose there's never enough scoring opportunities. Are you getting chances to score? You know, you can see some of the results that you've had. You've been held without goals or one or two here or there. Are you producing enough offense or chances, I guess?
Coach Johnson: I think, in most of the games, I can answer that as yes. There are parts of the game yesterday afternoon in the second period that we didn't create a lot. We were on our heels a little bit, and they were coming at us. But, again, depending on who you're playing, where you're playing, that's part of the pieces in that game.
So you have to defend well against Minnesota. They've got a lot of different people. The challenge of being on the road is that they get last line change so they can match up accordingly. If you don't have the depth that the team you're playing against has, especially on the road, there's going to be some mismatches and things that maybe as a coach you're not comfortable, but you don't really have control over that.
For our younger players, when I left the rink yesterday and I talked to the team after the game, I was proud of their effort. They competed. They played hard. We had a chance to win the hockey game. It would have been great confidence wise and would have been an unbelievable bus ride home if we had won 1 0. We'll take a bunch of things that we learned about ourselves over the weekend and move forward and get ourselves ready for the upcoming weekend against North Dakota.
Because, again, you have two league games. We're not going to play for another 3 1/2 weeks after this weekend. So the games are certainly crucial as far as the standings are concerned.
Question 4: With playing the number one team in the nation, how does that maybe help you set the bar for your team heading into the second half?
Coach Johnson: It's a measuring stick. You put young players out in the atmosphere that we had Saturday afternoon. Other than about a two minute window in the second period, it was a pretty even hockey game. They learn from it. They grow from it. And those are the things that you have to take away.
Obviously, it wasn't the results that we wanted as a staff and as a team, but you learn from it, and you move forward. And hopefully, some of the things that we did well, we can build on, and some of the mistakes that we maybe made over the course of the two games that we can correct and become better.
I know a couple of reporters that I talked to after Saturday's game that hadn't seen us play since maybe middle October were impressed on the strides that we have made as a team, and that's just a neutral observer that indicated that to me.
As our staff heard some of those comments, that makes you feel good because we're doing the right things, and some of the games that we haven't scored enough on, we're not getting rewarded. The effort that we had yesterday's game against the top team in the country and a team that's very confident and on a little bit of a roll makes you better.
Question 5: Mark, how is Brianna handling this particular stretch of time, knowing where she's been, what she's done, knowing that she's got a pretty big burden on her, that she expects to score, that she's maybe not getting a lot of complementary scoring to help her. Is she getting better at handling the adversity that perhaps she's facing right now?
Coach Johnson: I think her competitive nature I'm not sure, as far as handling it. Obviously, she's real good friends with Amanda Kessel. They go head to head, and if one player plays better over the course of the weekend or in a particular game or scores a couple goals or gets a couple of assists and the other one doesn't, each one of them is so competitive that they're going to be upset and they won't handle it well.
But Brianna is a world class player. She's done a lot of great things. The hard part is that, obviously, especially being on the road, the matchups become a little bit more challenging.
Megan Bozek has played on the national team the last couple go rounds, the four nations of the world championship teams, and I think she's listed at 5'10". She is their smallest defenseman. So they've got some size. They've got some strength. It's challenging to get to the net. When you do get a couple opportunities, obviously, they have a world class goaltender that you're trying to beat.
I think Brianna's situation is probably a little bit better today in regards to we've been through this cycle now with a number of weekends where maybe things haven't gone her way or gone her particular way. Is she handling it better? No, but she's dealing with it better.
Question 6: Your team's used to going into the halfway point on a high note, winning a lot of games, sometimes even undefeated. Given your record now, how do you think how important it is to get a couple of wins before you spend 3 1/2 weeks thinking about it?
Coach Johnson: From our league standpoint, this weekend's crucial. If you win a couple games, you can move yourself up in the standings and make the next 3 1/2 weeks a lot more enjoyable.
So we talked about that. I mentioned it after the game yesterday. I was happy. I was proud of the effort. We gave everything we had in our tank, came up a little bit short. Now we have to get ready for Saturday afternoon in North Dakota because some of the pieces that Minnesota has, North Dakota has. You start talking about the Lamoreuxes. Karvinen came back a couple of weekends ago, which adds a whole new dimension to their team.
They've got a couple of things that we have to be aware of, and we're certainly going to practice the things we need to do to give ourselves a chance to be successful this weekend.
Question 7: How is the team’s confidence?
Coach Johnson: It's good. We're missing some pieces. One of our defensemen didn't play this weekend, which makes my power play look a little bit different. But other kids have stepped up, and hats off to those kids. They've played well.
And, again, you're looking for opportunities to win games. Yesterday we certainly could have won that game 1 0. We lost it 2 0 on an empty netter. Saturday's game, we bended a little bit in the second period for four or five minutes. Other than that, it was a 55 minute good effort game.
So our margin for error this year compared to other years isn't as wide. So some of the things you would like to see happen in a game, maybe not aren't happening at this time. But from a confidence standpoint Dan Cook, my associate head coach, and I talked after the game yesterday. I like my team. They work hard at practice. They come with a smile on their face. That's all we can ask of them.
Their confidence is good. Just like to win a few more games.
Question 8: You guys are looking up at North Dakota in the standings right now. You've had a ton of success against them in the past. What's been the main factor in you having an edge over them in the past, and how do you keep that heading into this weekend?
Coach Johnson: Their luck this year is going to be a little bit different than years past. Similar to what we faced this past weekend, we have to stay out of the penalty box. They've got a very good power play. They can stick five players on the ice that can create a lot of opportunities.
You look over the last couple of weekends, they scored a bunch of power play goals. If we can keep the game five on five like we did this past weekend and stay out of the box, that's certainly going to go a long way towards us winning a couple of championship games.