Monday press conference: Mike Eaves

Wisconsin men's hockey coach discussed his team's need to bounce back from recent struggles

Audio file 1 (3:42)

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Mike, you heard Mark (Johnson) talk a little bit about numbers and PairWise and power rankings and all those things. Do you find yourself getting, even a click on that page at all ever . . .

"No, I'm like Mark. I'm not a numbers guy either. I'm trying to work on daily practices and figuring out where guys are at emotionally and mentally and physically, and those are things that we can control. I know, like Mark, we have guys on our staff that do that, so I don't get caught up in that either."

Mike, after hearing what some of the players had to say in that Saturday night meeting, probably wanted to get back to maybe practicing even harder than they had been, have you mapped out a practice schedule already for this week? And if so, will it include maybe a little bit lengthier practices, a little bit more of that hard work that they had talked about?

"No, not really. I mean, today is a day that we would normally leave to the young men to have a recreational day, but based on where we're at right now, we need to get back and get back to some fundamentals and some basics. So we'll have that type of practice today, but we're not going to, it doesn't behoove us to go an hour and a half today, an hour and a half tomorrow, and an hour and a half Wednesday. I think we just have to go back to some basics. And that's what we'll do."

You mentioned where the team was at right now. Bigger challenge right now getting this team physically in a different place or mentally, mentally or physically, which is the bigger challenge?

"Well, I think mentally. I mean, you know, for 19 minutes on Friday night, we played as well as we have all year, and we just, the last 15 seconds, it just totally jolted us and we were never able to recover, I think. And taking a look at it, a lot of sleepless nights, you know, trying to find some answers to some questions. And, you know, when we became the 18-2-2 team that we were, we take a look at the fact that we had a young goaltender who developed himself into one of the top players in the country, and our team fed off that.

"We played great systems around him. And he gave us confidence to play in front of him. And with Brian getting hurt, that was a change for us. And now Brian coming back and maybe not being where he is, I see guys caught in between when we watch video. And so that's why today we're going to go back and say, okay, fellas, let's remind ourselves what we need to do and get this thing straightened out here."

Did you interpret, one could interpret some of the comments that were made after Saturday's game is that you've gone soft on them, that you've been too easy on them in practice, that they need to be back playing, practicing harder. Is that a wrong interpretation?

"Absolutely. You know, Andy, one of the things that you guys bring up to me is how hard we practice, and that hasn't changed. I think guys are, when they, they're trying to find answers too. And so they're looking at each other and, you know, good for them if they had a team meeting. I would have been surprised if they didn't.

"But at the same time, in listening to their comments and talking as a coaching staff, you know, we just need to go back to some square-one things and Brian and the defense and the forwards and our systems play and settle things down here a little bit. They're searching for answers, and that was one of the perspectives they had, but I and we as a staff take that with a grain of salt and understand what they're trying to do. And we'll go back and primarily do the same things we've done because one of the things that this group is is competitive at a natural state."

Audio file 2 (3:53)

Coach, will Brian start on Friday night, and how is his confidence right now?

"Well, the best way to put it, I would suspect he would start and, you know, you and I would both probably answer your own question by saying his confidence is not where it was yet. And for Brian too.

"I mean, talking to Coach Howard, you know, he's going to go back into practice today and do some things that make him feel good about Brian and being the goaltender that he was, stopping the puck and some very basic skills. And that's what he needs to do right now. That's what he can control. It's a matter of doing those kind of things and building that confidence up in himself. And that he'll get done this week. I have no doubt about it."

Of the emotions you've seen from your, in your players lately, has panic been one of them at all, knowing that this, you know, this is the last weekend of the regular season? Has that crept in at all in anything you've seen?

"I don't know that, the panic is one end of an extreme emotion. I don't think that has set in. I think they're struggling and trying to find some answers, because there was times when we had system breakdowns before and who was there for them? Brian. And that allowed them to, okay, I made a mistake, I don't have to worry about it now.

"Now that they're in between, they're caught in between, and that's one of the things that we want to try to straighten out today even, is some areas that we've been pretty good in, our defensive zone coverage and our line rush against. We watch in video and we're seeing guys caught in between and hesitating. And that's kind of the stuff we've got to kind of go back and do some basic fundamental reminders today and the rest of this week."

Coach, earlier in the year, you talked about how the team plays differently in front of Brian than they do in front of Shane. Has that changed at all?

"Well, it's part of the, I think part of the reason why our team is caught in between right now in terms of if I'm a defenseman or a forward, I think they're looking at Brian and maybe they're not seeing the same young man that was there, you know, when we were 18-2. And so that's part of the in between that's causing them to act like that. So, you know, if Brian can go back today in practice and work on his part and we go back and we do our other systems play and reminders of what we need to do, that'll help everybody straighten things out and we'll get back going the way we want."

Do you need Brian absolutely to come back and play the way he was, or are there things you can do to compensate if, you know, if he doesn't regain his confidence, because time is getting a little short here?

"Well, I think that if everybody chips in in terms of everybody gets better in all areas of their game, then that would perhaps, if Brian isn't at the same level he once was, if he gets back to a certain level and our defense and forwards play a little bit higher level, knowing where Brian is at, then that'll all help."

Coach, you know, I still don't get a sense of exactly where Brian is right now. I mean, is this, you know, and Rob brought up a mental/physical thing for the whole team. Is that sort of where he is right now? Physically is he pretty much back to where he should be, or is this . . .

"No, it's not a physical thing. I mean, his knee is fine. I mean, that's, it might be a little bit, this past week, we were concerned about his condition, but I don't think that's an issue. That's a minute part of it, I think. It's just mentally, you know, believing and knowing that he can stop the puck, and that's, again, why we're going back to doing some basics this week for him, because that's, when you stop a puck, it builds your confidence level up, and that's what he's got to do this week in practice, and then carry that into this upcoming weekend."

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