Monday Press Conference: Mike Eaves

Men's hockey coach addressed recent contests and the stretch drive ahead

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You said to me on Saturday 'if someone was to ask me if Wisconsin would be tied for third in the WCHA with 15 wins what would I think would I be dreaming?' What would you have said if they asked you that question? Would you be dreaming or are you dreaming?

"Well in the beginning of the season had you asked us that question, based on where we were, that might be a little bit of a pipe dream. What has transpired has become reality for this team and we're forging ourselves into a pretty good group of players and team and we're right in the middle of the thick of things so…we're happy to be here."

Mike is it fair to say that it took your team an entire month to get back to where it was at the end of the first half? That the team that we saw Saturday was the team that we saw against Mankato at the end of the first half, before the break took place? That you had to kind of work through all the things that you guys went through, with you guys leaving, with some of the slumps those types of things, that you finally got back to that point?

"I would say that we are probably better than what we were than what we were playing before the break. I would say that what we demonstrated on Saturday night was a level that was even higher. Because it was against a very good team and a very hostile environment and there was times in that game on Saturday that you couldn't hear the crowd. That's the way that you need to play when you're on the road and our kids did a great job. Are we back? Well I think we're back and we're further beyond, which is nice to say."

Despite two losses on the weekend your message seems to be positive on what your team took out of this past weekend. Is that tough to pass that message on to the players, do you think the players are buying that message as well? Obviously you haven't had practice yet this week, but do you think that they are hearing it?

"Well, the boys were up this morning at 7:30 in the weight room and the buzz in the weight room was what we we're doing in practice today. That's an awful good sign that they're excided. When they're excided they're going to come with an energy and a focus and that's going to be a good way to start the week."

Sheer numbers would suggest that your freshman have had more impact on what your team has done than a very good group of freshman at North Dakota. Can you compare them that way?

"I don't think that you can compare them that way and I think that you have to…if you went player from player what are their strengths what are the things that they bring to the table. Both groups have been ultimately have had an impact on both teams but with what they bring, they bring a different type of things so their group of freshman have brought their skills and abilities and played to those and our group of freshman have done the same. Both have been effective but man for man we're a little different so it's a little bit comparing apples and oranges."

Mike, you said that you're a better team than you were last time you played Minnesota, has Minnesota improved that much or is it as simple as saying this was played in Minnesota or maybe the teams have kind of adjusted to what you're doing here in the second half of the season.

"Well, I think in the first half we caught Minnesota when they were struggling a little bit so they were questioning some things, their goal tending, they had some defense people that were out of the lineup that made them a different team their confidence was down…On paper if you looked at them coming into this you would have said this team is even better and in that weekend we had tremendous goal tending ad we were opportunistic and we battled and gave ourselves a chance and took three out of four points because of those things. This weekend we go on their role. I mean they have outscored their opponents over the last three or four weekends and they got it going again their goaltending was better, they had all their defensemen in the line up and yet we were a better team than we were in November. We played stronger, we didn't give them as much time and space in our defensive zone. So if you take a look at the big picture, we were a better team and we didn't get any points. That's sometimes the ironic phase of sports that you can actually play better and not be rewarded for your efforts. But I like where we were and playing that way were going to win a lot of games. We play that way down the stretch and into the playoffs; we give ourselves a tremendous chance to be successful. That's why were so excited. You know there's just…being around sports for a long time there's a certain foundation that you have to have a certain feeling about your group of people. You know if they're playing championship level type of play and right now we're getting closer to that and that's why we're so excited after Saturday's game. We demonstrated that we could play that."

Coach, a lot of different coaches like to try unique things to try and motivate their team throughout the season and get them focused on the task at hand. At least on paper any way, you beating North Dakota would be an upset considering that's the top ranked team. So do you try to do anything unique to try and motivate them, like take them to a movie like "Miracle" or something like that just to get them focused on that?

"That's not a bad idea. The thing about weekends like this, to be honest, is the fact that the kids are going to be geared up as it is. We talked about this with Minnesota a little bit you have to kind of find out where your kids are at and give them some balance. If they're too geared up they're not going to be effective and if they're too emotionally wound they're not going to do the things they need to. So I think playing Minnesota the week before was a lesson and I think that Friday night we were too tight. If we talk about ideal performance states with our kids, you can give them all the right verbiage but until you go through something like we did in Minnesota on Friday night we didn't play to our capabilities, Saturday night we did I think because we'd gone through the war, we were a little bit more relaxed and we were closer to our ideal performance state. So I think this weekend coming up we hope that our players draw on from what they learned from last weekend so Friday night we're closer to that ideal performance state so that we can perform at a high level."
 


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