Monday press conference: Mike Eaves

Men's hockey coach talked about playing Duluth, coaching the World Junior team and Matt Ford's debut

Mike, can you give us an evaluation of how you thought Matt Ford played in his first game just this last weekend, if you saw him on tape at all, and how you kind of broke down his individual play and how he fit in on that line?

"Well, I know this for a fact. Matt came in on Sunday just to ride the bike and loosen up, and his verbiage to Coach [Troy] Ward is that he went right home Saturday night and went to bed. He was exhausted. He was sore. In viewing the tape, I'd say what we got out of Matt Ford was probably what we thought we'd get. I would rate him at an average. He hasn't played since last spring, some point with his junior team, and then, you know, he's getting going, he got hurt.

"So it's still a matter of him, there's things that I saw in this game that I know that we can give him feedback on now and trying to do things that he was doing in junior at a higher level that we need to point out to him, show him on video, and see if he can get on that learning curve here quickly and get it going. But overall, you know, he was very excited to be in there and it was a good start for him."

What challenges does Duluth pose to you? Same as last year, do you think?

"Good goaltending. Big, strong defense. They've got veterans up front that can score, although they're struggling a little bit right now. It's kind of a mystery. You're not sure, you know, when are they going to wake up, is kind of like the thought, because you know, I mean, the coaches picked them to win the WCHA for a reason, the fact that they're a veteran club with good goaltending and solid defense. And not sure what's going on there internally in terms of why they're not having the success that we thought they'd have, but you're almost, that makes you leery because you're wondering when they're going to wake up."

Scott Sandelin is doing what you were doing a year ago, this trying to get the [U.S. World] junior team ready. Can you kind of appreciate maybe how his situation might be more difficult than yours? He's got a gold medal to defend. His team isn't playing as well as everybody thought it was going to. The fact that you had a pretty good working knowledge of the guys you were getting, and he really doesn't. Is his job right now maybe a little bit more difficult than what you were doing a year ago or not?

"Probably one would say yes just because of the fact that he doesn't know the kids he's getting, and he's trying to piece together a team based on listening to what other people are saying about the people he's looking at, not knowing their personalities. So from that standpoint alone, he's got his hands full. Plus, I mean, there is the added pressure of defending. They're not going to go in there and anybody's going to take them lightly, especially Canada and Russia. They're all going to be shooting for them. So his task is more daunting for those reasons alone."

Did he ever seek you out for advice or just kind of

"We've chatted. Yeah. We chatted right away when he was, you know, we just shared ideas. He wanted to know about how we selected the team, maybe some specifics about style of play of certain teams that he wasn't familiar with. Scottie's coached over in Europe before in one of those short-term tournaments. So, yeah, we, and we continue to talk every couple of weeks, just touching base. So he's got his hands full. It's a lot of work."

Just to be clear, they approached you to coach again. Any thoughts sitting here right now going, yeah, it'd be, that you would like to do that.

"No thoughts at all. I mean, we were so busy. I mean, that was done last summer when we were asked. And it was no question that I would not do it again. This is my main job. And that's, as we said then, that was a special situation. We knew the kids. It made sense for us to go coach them. But this is my job. And if this was in the summertime, I would enjoy doing it, but this is where I belong right now."

Mike, do you think your club learned its lesson from Friday night, or, I mean, I guess along the line there could be bumps in the road and they'd have to learn that lesson again, I guess.

"Well, we won't know until we're tested in a similar situation. You know, we met with the captains, as we do every Monday, and talked about 'how was the locker room Friday night? Did you notice anything?' And they kind of thought that things were okay, but, you know, it's tough to get inside young people's minds and souls, and they just, as they said, 'we thought we were but we weren't.' And they said too, 'they can't put one reason for the way we came out and performed.' But as we said Saturday, what was great was the response they had."

You've started well at home like you did last year. In the second half of the season at home last year, the home-ice advantage started to slip away a little bit. Is there anything you can do to make sure that the start that you've had at home and the advantage that you have at home continues throughout the season?

"Well, if you remember, Todd, I think part of the issue was that we were a little separated in terms of the head coach was gone and three of its players, and now for sure we know we're going to have two guys gone, but I think because the coach there'll be more continuity coming back, and hopefully that'll be a factor in keeping our home-ice advantage."

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