Monday Press Conference: Mike Eaves

Men's hockey coach discussed the approaching season opener and closer enforcement of the rules

Opening statement

"Well, we've got four practices before we open our regular games here and then another week before we open up the WCHA. I think the coaches, we all agree that we planted the seed in a lot of different areas of play or different systems. And now this week will be dedicated to going back, and watering and fertilizing those seeds that we planted, and see if we can get those systems up and ready to go by this weekend. So we feel pretty good where we are. We got a lot of work to do, but we like where we are."

Mike, your players a couple weeks ago were saying how good it would be if in the first week of practice, they were able to get to a point today where they could use this as a normal game week of preparation. Did they get that far or is there still a lot of teaching that needs to be done this week to do this?

"No, this week will be more normal. I think the lines that we put on the ice today will be indicative of what we're going to see this weekend, except for the fact that [Ryan MacMurchy has] got to sit out a game, the first game that we have, so we'll mix that up a little bit. But as it stands, I think we are at a point where we can go back and review and get more reps at the areas that we introduced and it'll be more like a regular week of practice."

Mike, how much do you educate your players on an opponent like Mercyhurst? They all know about everybody in your League. But to what extent do you talk to them about what Mercyhurst is about, their background, their players, those types of things?

"Well, we'll do the same thing that we do for every team, Andy. We take a look at their systems play, and so we give our guys what we think they're going to do. We won't get into individuals as much as we will how they fore-check, what their penalty killing is like, but, for us as a coaching staff, it's easy to get us back in the routine and get the guys a routine of what to expect from us in terms of preparation. So it'll be the same."

Mike, do you feel a buzz about this program with the face-off feast, and the tickets, and everything? Can you feel that buzz?

"Well, the players can. I mean, we just finished individual meetings with our guys this past week and they couldn't believe the amount of people that were there at the face-off feast and the students' season tickets are up twice as what they were last year, and regular season ticket base is larger. So, I mean, I think when they walk around town people talk to them about it. So they sense that, they feel it and they're really excited about it."

After the first weekend nationally, you know, everyone knew that penalties were going to up and the power players were going to be up, but I guess it's averaging like 18 power plays a game nationally. Is that even more than you thought it was going to be or, and do you address that right away in power play and special teams' work this week?

"It's probably right where we thought it would be. I mean, you could get the feeling talking to the Commissioner of the WCHA and listening to the referees, their mandate from the NCAA, it's not just coming from the league, it's coming from the NCAA was to call the game closer, and they're doing that. We spent already four practices, in some form or fashion, dealing with penalty killing or power play.

"This afternoon, we were able to pull up tape, clips from the Maine game, the North Dakota, the Minnesota-Denver game, and we're showing that to our [players], 'this is what they're calling now.' Now, that's just a head's up. I mean, it's tough to break habits, but if this is part of the process by visually showing what the referees are calling, and then it's a matter of going through it and getting used to it.

"These guys have been reaching out and being able to hook on guys for a long time in their life. It's going to be a hard habit to break, but we've got to go through that. We're educating, we're doing the prudent things to help us be better when the games come along."

Mike, how long will your patience live with that? Will it be a period? Will it be two periods? Will it be two weeks? At what point do you say, 'wait a minute, you guys, we've been telling you about this and it's got to drop?'

"Well, in the things that I've read, it takes 21 days to create a new habit. Now this is going to be a big test of that and a test for the coaching staff to recognize that. Some of the calls I saw on the video, I was going, 'wow.' And so I think that's going to be a little bit of a patience, and don't say anything, just get up there in the box. Coaches can't say anything. We've got to go through this process together. So if it's true what they say about 21 days and creating a new habit, we're going to push for that and see if it's true."

Do you believe the intent of this rule will come to play, that all the players will get a chance to skate, more wide open, more goal-scoring? Do you believe that?

"Well, actually, I think we'll lean to that. Certainly you're going to get offense off the power plays and you're going, it's going to be a big help if your power play is going you're going to create some goals, but the idea is to open up the game, let the players skate, and such. And I think, eventually, if they stay on course, that'll happen."

Mike, based on what it looks like it's going to be with regards to the officiating early on, with a guy like [Kyle Klubertanz], do you expect to rely on him quite a bit because that seems to be his forte, the special teams playing on the power play, that he might have as much impact on your team maybe right now as maybe a [Ryan Suter] did a year ago?

"Well, that's going to be proven in games. I mean, obviously, you look at the potential that he has and you watch him in practice and you see some things you like, but there has to be forage under game situations, so he's certainly going to have opportunity to do that. But, again, how effective he'll be will probably grow as he gets more experience in games."

Mike, if there is indeed a more wide-open style of play, how does that help or hurt your team, your particular team?

"Well, you know what, Tom, I think as we look at our group of people that we have, and I think that up front, that will help us. I see our skill level rising every class that we bring in. For our young defensemen, I think it'll be harder on them because they're so young and they'll tend to, they're going to get caught, they're going to get beat, and they're going to reach out and want to hook somebody to make up for the half of step that they've lost. So I think it could hurt them along in the beginning, but that's all of part of their educational process on the ice as well."

We know Bernd had a fine year last year. Can you get, what more can you get out of him, you know, considering the numbers he put up last year?

"Well, for a goaltender the numbers are great but probably the biggest number that he has is under the W column, and I think Bernd recognizes that. And I think he recognizes where we are as a defense in front of him. He is going to have his work cut out for him, and if he thinks it's going to get easier because he's a year older, probably not. Hopefully, he's looking at it, and I think he is, that last year was a preparation for this year because, as you remember last year, he kept us in a lot of games. And we were a more veteran team last year than this year, if you can believe that or not, especially on the blue line. So he's going to be, he'll see a lot of similar things in terms of challenges early on in the year, until our young defensemen get their feet wet and learn some things from the coaching staff, as well as the game situation."

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