Monday press conference: Mike Eaves

Men's hockey coach discussed his team's recent 10-game stretch and the upcoming WCHA playoffs

Mike, I from a glass half full perspective your guys get to set some of the history of the program in playing at the Coliseum this weekend, does that enter into your mind too, maybe presenting a little of what it was like [there]?

"We did that last week when we were practicing there, we talked about different stories and such. It's tough to project. I don't think the guys will truly have the feel of that building until people get in it. So that will be the tough test."

Coach, you've had some pretty good success against Alaska this year. Do you feel pretty confident going in this weekend?

"It's a new season. Those games, really, can be thrown right out the window. It's about – and I'm that's the way they look at it too. The only way they can look at it. For us we have to focus on playing the way that we want to play. That's kind of past history now. We look forward to starting from scratch."

Mike, what's the carrot use right now? Is it that you want to get up to the Final Five? Or is it that if you win this series you improve your NCAA résumé? What's the biggest goal right now that you present to the players?

"All of the above. And I think the biggest thing right now is it's an opportunity that we won't have any more. For guys like Bernd Bruckler, this is his last opportunity to get to the Final Five, and then you build on that, you know, your rankings for the pairs [Pairwise rankings] and getting in the tournament.

"There are many reasons but basically is the moment right now of winning this series because it's a precious series that will help us get to where we want to go."

Mike, you said you maybe want to analyze things a little bit before you addressed it: have you given any more thought to what you think is missing from this team right now?

"You know, I watched the game and if I hadn't known the outcome I'd have said we would have won it. We out-chanced them. We out-chanced North Dakota in North Dakota on [a week ago] Sunday afternoon. We out-chanced [Minnesota-Duluth Saturday] night. The bottom line was we didn't get the wins. That sometimes happens in sports. I said to the guys after the game, ‘Sometimes athletics is cruel.' But the thing is if we continue to play like we did and we eliminate some of the holes, because we had holes; every time we seemed to make a hole for ourself, we got scored upon. That was the thing that was different. We have gone through stretches this season where we've made more holes and won games. So that's just athletics. But I'll stay to the guns that, you know what, we continue to play like we did, and we create more chances than the other team, as we did on Saturday night, we're going to win some games."

You sound very confident talking about your team's chances that way. Do you sense that your players embrace that or based on what their record is the last few games is their confidence waning a little?

"No, I just had lunch with the captains and I think they recognize it too. They fell it. They're in the locker room, they're on the ice. They know they are doing good things. We got outscored 26-27 the last 10 games, with two empty-net goals. First five games we scored more than three goals a game, second five games we were under three goals a game. And yet we did some good things.

"We've got young people in new buildings. There's a whole bunch of things. You can say they're excuses, they're rationalizations. But the bottom line is, within that locker room, they know what they're capable of doing and they believe in that. They believe in that."

Some may say, ‘Has you club run out of gas?' But the way they played Saturday night it didn't look like that was the case.

"Not at all… What was good to see, in a tight game, down the stretch, even we got scored on, made it 4-2, we still had kids playing hard. We had kids playing the way we needed to play to get back in the game, to give ourselves a chance. We scored the third goal because of hard. So that's definitely not the case, and our kids feel good."

To what extent do you need to address last season's series against Anchorage in the playoffs, or do you think that's just knowledge that the guys will have and use it if they want to or not?

"We'll bring it up, but not to any great degree. It is what it is, and perhaps the lesson from that is, ‘Did we take that for granted?' That's why we'll bring it to a level of consciousness. But we won't harp on it. It's just one of many things that we'll talk about."

Are you worried at all, or it's just out of you control, you don't worry about it, the fact that there may not a full house for either Friday or Saturday night?

"You said it best. We can't control that. We just go out there and play."

I know it probably seems like so many of the questions center on what's wrong with this team, but what is right with this team? What is the best thing you see about what your team is doing right now heading into the playoffs?

"Well, right now the first thing that comes to mind was our power play. I was thinking about Coach Johnson, when we got beat in Hartford one night. Calgary, in Hartford, [we] got beat 9-1 and after the game. We… hadn't won in 11 games, going to Hartford, get beat 8-1 or something. He comes in after the game and the guys are looking around, ‘OK, what's Coach going to say?' He says, ‘Fellas, I know we just got stomped but that was the best power play goal I've seen in three years.'

"He kind of lightened the whole mood and that was the year we went to the [Stanley Cup] Final, 1986. So, you know, kind of like that old thing, right before it gets bright it's it's darkest.

"I like that right away. I think we came upon something, the guys performed, took what was given on the power play and created some great chances. Basically we scored four power-play goals this weekend; we're firing at about a 40 percent rate. That's one thing we can build on. And I like the fact of how hard we played. And we did some good things in that area. It's just we had some holes, and that's athletics, especially college athletics. These young men are not professionals yet and the reason they aren't is because they make more mistakes than the pros do. But the fact is if you can eliminate those mistakes, and if you can make more good plays than those mistakes, you are going to end up on the good side."

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