Mike, Anything you're planning differently for tomorrow night's game as far as personnel or changes in how your going to approach the game. Maybe with your absence coming up, is Troy going to get more of a role in running the team, anything like that?
"Well, to answer your last part first, I think we're just going to run the bench here these last three game before Christmas the same. There won't be any changes there. We actually have brought… in the third period of the weekend games we brought coach Howard down to the bench so he could get a feel for what's going on there and the players get used to having him there. So that's about the only change we've made and we'll continue with that for the rest of the games. As far as personnel, we'll rest some guys for this game. We're going to mix some lines up and give other people an opportunity to show us what they can do and it's a legitimate chance for them to do that and we will approach it that way."
Coach, you guys have a 12-game unbeaten streak obviously. Friday night you had a two-goal lead late in the game, are there some of these games that you look back at and say we could have gotten a W as opposed to just one point in those ties, or do you, in a 12-game unbeaten streak, you don't wish for anything more than that, you'll take it?
"With the way you ask that question it reminds me of a round of golf in that you look back on your score after and you think, geez I could have gotten a birdie here or a birdie there and you settle for a par, or just even a single bogie in my case. The fact is you can always look at that, but in those games that we ended up tying, two particular - the CC and the last Denver game - two-nothing in the third period. Those are both lessons that if we can take those lessons and apply them, and I think we did Saturday night…The most impressive thing about Saturday night is I felt the team forged itself to a higher level of play by winning that third period Saturday night. This team is becoming legitimate, in terms of their ability to play and they felt it, they sensed it, they took control. For the people that were there it was an intense third period, and on a Saturday night in Denver on a back-to-back night the kids did a great job."
Mike, the numbers would suggest that at this junction in the season that you are in contention for the league title. Does this team consider itself title contenders?
"Well, I'll speak from the coaching stand point, I don't know what the players feel, I'll go back to this last Saturday night in the fact that I think we're going toward that. We're starting to forge our self into a legitimate team and if we can continue to have that growth…You've seen us since day one here I think you would agree with that. That we're forging ourself into a legitimate team based on the way we're performing. We still have a lot of work to do and we have a vision of what we want to be at the end of the year. I think that's part of coaches job is to create a vision and have your kids work toward that. Hopefully you will have had enough experience in your life as a coach that you know what it takes to win hockey at a high level and you practice toward that and you hope your kids play toward that, and we're starting to do that more and more now. It's really fun to be a part of."
Mike, are you experiencing you perceiving a buzz about your program, maybe for the first time since you've been here?
"Without question, without a question. The e-mails, and people on the street coming up, they're excited for us. They saw some of our trials and tribulations last year and they're excited for the kids. We've seen parents on the road this past weekend and there relatives…a lot of the senior parents will travel a lot in their last year and have said this is the most fun their kids have had in their four years here. So it's been very rewarding."
With the kind of emergence of basketball, men's basketball, and football, is the ceiling still there for hockey? Is the audience still there in this town do you think?
"Well I guess I would go to the second night against Minnesota where we almost had 14,000. I think that's just an indication that if we continue to play the type of hockey we're playing and because of the buzz that's around town now I think the word will get out. One of our goals, can you imagine that building like basketball and football, sold out game in and game out? That would be a byproduct of the fact that we're playing well, we're playing exciting hockey and people want to see part of that."
What's your thought on Mankato, I mean that was a team last year that got points every weekend and they're struggling a little bit now. I guess from what you've seen and what you've heard about the Mavericks?
"I haven't yet watched video, but I know this about Troy
Jutting, their coach. His teams will play hard. He has a way with his players
that they enjoy playing for him, they'll go to the wall for Troy. I don't know
how their injuries are or what system or how their goalies are playing, but I do
know that. Our belief is that we need to match their heart, and if we match
their heart then our ability to play will be the difference."