Monday presser: Mark Johnson

Wisconsin women's hockey coach discussed winning the WCHA and the season ahead

Audio file 1 (4:53)

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Coach, are there any aspects of your game or practice that you're going to change now that you've clinched the WCHA title?

"No. We'll continue to do the same things we did in September when we first started practice. I mean, the question is a good one because you have two weekends left in the season. This weekend's match-up with Minnesota State, we'll have Senior Night, Saturday night, and it should be a fun event and we'll present the WCHA trophy that evening. So it should be a real fun event for our seniors. Then we go down to Ohio State.

"But if you change your habits at this particular time of the season or you get comfortable, I think a lesson we learned Friday night in our game against Minnesota is one that the team might have been a little bit comfortable with their position, their ranking, their opportunity to win the WCHA, and they found out that Minnesota came out and they were a little bit hungry. They battled a little bit harder than we did.

"It was a good wake-up call for us because we came back Saturday night and I really enjoyed watching the kids battle. I watched them compete and they really earned their victory Saturday night and it was fun to watch. So to answer your question, no, we won't change anything other than the fact that we'll get ourselves prepared to play Mankato Friday night."

Mark, what kind of experiences are you drawing on to guide you through this time, this unique time, where you've got the title in hand and what you really want is still weeks away?

"It's nice to win the WCHA. Having been on the men's side, it's a nice trophy to have in your trophy case. But it's not the big prize. The big prize is at the end of the season, and that's what I think everybody shoots for when we start in September, and it's no different on the women's side.

"It's nice to win the title. It's my fourth season. I'm very happy for our seniors, especially players like Sharon Cole, who came in as a freshman very naïve about college hockey and has grown into a real good Division I hockey player and has provided great leadership for this team and had a great game Saturday night. It's fun to see kids get rewarded for their work over the course of time. And they got rewarded (with the WCHA title), but the big prize is at the end of the year. That's what everybody shoots for and that's what you work, get yourself in position to, and we'll have that opportunity to do that.

"But the big thing is, and any coach will tell you, is you need to continue the process, and the process is to get better every weekend and we need to do that in the next two weekends because we know we're going to play North Dakota in the first round of the playoffs. We're going to host that game. That's set in stone. So your mindset is what do we need to do to make sure that we're prepared and we're focused. And then our coaching staff will do that on a daily basis like we've done all season."

Mark, you had two nice crowds over the weekend. Do you get a sense that more and more people are learning more about your program and showing a little bit more interest in what you've put out on the ice?

" It's been very rewarding for the players to have those type of crowds. I think anytime you play Minnesota the second half of the year, whether you're on the men's side or the women's side, it's going to create a lot of interest because the people that do come to those games usually are pretty well entertained.

"A lot of people that I talked to after Friday night's game and Saturday night's game were impressed with where women's hockey has come in the last couple years, because some people may not have seen games since the early onset of women's hockey here at the university.

"All of a sudden they come in and watch us play either Friday or Saturday, and it's like, wow, the game's gotten a lot faster. You look at the games being televised right now over in Italy, and, again, you're looking at much better hockey than we saw years ago from different countries now. So the growth of the sport is good and obviously, as you grow the sport, the interest is going to grow in it.

"To see the crowds, probably our last four home games, is a lot of fun because it creates an atmosphere. I mean, Friday night with the band in there, a good number of seats taken, it's just, it's a fun atmosphere and it's enjoyable for our players to come out there and to see that number of people in the crowd."

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