Monday Press Conference: Troy Ward

With head coach Mike Eaves still tending to the U.S. Junior National Team, UW assistant Troy Ward addressed the media at the Monday Press conference

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Troy, what have been the more important elements with regards to your penalty kill that's really done well here the last six-seven weeks. It's been very consistent, obviously. It's been a big part of what you guys have been able to do to this point.

"Well Andy, fist off the most important part of any special teams situation is repetition and early in the year whenever you have the changes we've had in our penalty killing unit with a lot of new faces in there it takes time and it takes a lot of repetition. I thought early on in the year when John (Hynes) was here and kind of over seeing that he was doing an unbelievable job, but the guys were very tentative. It wasn't a natural flow state in terms of how we pressure and when we pressure. So, I think through time we've had a lot of repetitions that it has made us better. The second part of that is for me is the fact that we've changed our neutral zone, after John left, in terms of how we set up in the neutral zone and how we prepare to handle their attack and that's allowed us to be a better team at least in defending their attack and then at the same time allowing us time and space to make clears. We haven't spent as much time, during this streak, in our own end of the ice, which has been indicative of our success."

Troy, the guys on the Joudrey line seem to be getting a little frustrated with not getting some goals and not getting some points. Do you give them this weekend, against (Michigan) Tech a team that historically your team has scored a lot against, to hopefully get it back into form or plan on making a few little changes here or anything?

"No changes right now, I mean that's something that we have to evaluate when Mike (Eaves) gets back, and certainly we have Jake Dowell to go into the mix in terms of how we want to sort lines out. But I think any time athletes struggle, whether it's a line or an individual, they have to get back to the basics. Especially for that group right now…for me its hard work, it's looking at their game and working hard. When you have the likes of (Ryan) MacMurchy and (Rene) Bourque with the size that they possess and the power they possess, I believe that they need to, this was the message at least on Saturday; they need to play harder first the rest of it will take care of itself. They kind of want the puck to come to them at times and they don't want to go after it. In order for those guys to have success they need to move their feet and utilize their size, that will give more time and space. Right now they don't have a lot of time and space because, as we've discussed, they need to work harder and create that."

Troy, getting back to the penalty kill, how did you change your neutral zone alignment for opponents?

"Well, most of the year last year we were in a one three situation, when I was running it pretty much by myself. When John (Hynes) started off this year we started in the two-two, so we let our two forwards go up and have the freedom to go down ice and force and take advantage of maybe them mishandling the puck and let them pressure. Well, when you go into a two-two you allow them also to counter you real quickly and it's a lot easier to enter the zone. Versus our one-three we've pretty much defensed them from the red-line back and we've forced them to dump the puck and then we've made some adjustments on how we go back versus that to make sure the clears get out. We've kind of fine-tuned that now a little bit so it's really afforded us more time to make plays in our own end and it's easier on line change in terms of the next guys coming out, they know exactly where to go and it's just made it a lot simpler."

Troy, before the four-game stretch with Mike (Eaves) gone, you had asked your players to step up and evaluate themselves, can they improve upon their play, and you wanted to improve as a coach. Are you satisfied with how things went for yourself as a coach and for the team with Mike gone?

"Yeah, I was pretty satisfied overall, through that whole experience. To be quite honest with you I knew in my own heart that after we got the school record against Union that my biggest challenge was to prepare them to play the championship. I was a little disappointed in myself and my ability to get that team ready to play in that championship game. But then at the same time you hopefully learn some lessons and certainly after Friday night's game we played O.K. at times, didn't play so well at times and ended up with a lead and then saw it evaporate twice, only to tie. But I was happy with our staff's answer to the bell and our preparation for Saturday night's game. I thought we played actually one of our better games all year, minus our head coach and three players, and that's sometimes tough to do putting some other guys in the line up. Overall I was disappointed in the Sunday effort versus Ferris, but I'm glad we responded better on Saturday."

I know if you don't want to jinx it and if you want to stall your answer by about a minute here, but you obviously know what it means for coach Eaves and for the players to play on this team and be over at the World Championships, what would it mean for them and for the state of U.S. Hockey and where its at right now, if they were able to hang on and win this gold medal?

"Well this might be one of the biggest statements that the U.S. has made since 1980. This probably is going to be the biggest statement that we've made because we are making it with a younger group. It talks about the future of USA hockey and where were at within our country. So if they can get that done and Mike and these three players can go through that experience and the whole team…this is going to be an unbelievable thing. I mean were looking at…Canada's had two-hour TV shows basically for the last two weeks, every game's been televised. Down here we don't look at it as such. We're O.K. with that as hockey people, but within the state of hockey and within this country the statement that they would make today is going to ring some bells for a long time because I think it really makes a strong statement from the youth on up in our country. I just spent some time in Los Angeles prior to taking over here after Christmas and I was pleased to see the number of rinks in that city and that area alone and where hockey is going. Its closing quicker than we see it, but this is a big thing for the US because it's really making a strong statement at the minor level and really this thing that their involved in right now is looked at a lot in a mini-Olympic situation, I'm real proud of them."
 


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