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So would you say you're playoff-ready?
"Well, I know this. You wake up this morning and you start looking at who's playing who and the standings. Everybody has got the same number of points, same number of wins, same number of losses. The season ended Saturday night down in Columbus with a 1-0 victory and as I told the team, the second season starts now.
"For us it's really a two-week season, where you have the playoffs, and if you're fortunate enough to win the first round of playoffs, you get a chance to play the following week in the playoff championship series. So we'll talk about that before practice today and we'll set up the formula to get ourselves prepared for North Dakota and go into a two-week season. Then after that season is over, then we're hopefully in a position to play in what we call a third season. That's the NCAA tournament."
Do you like how your team is playing heading into the playoffs?
" I like a lot of facets of it. I tweaked quite a few things in our Friday and Saturday games as far as line combinations just to keep the kids competing and not being complacent. We saw a lot of different looks in Friday's game. I think, Jen will attest to, they were trying to figure out my line combinations Saturday night in the press box and I'm sure they weren't very successful because we were all over the map.
"The big thing is you want to be healthy. You want the kids certainly to be focused and you want to be playing well. I think those three things we have going right now. But as I say, you look at North Dakota, the group of seniors they have, and everybody is even right now and anything can happen, as we all know. If you watched the Olympics, it didn't matter who was playing who, on the women's side or the men's side, you saw a lot of good hockey. You certainly saw some upsets. So I'm sure North Dakota is going to get themselves prepared and come down here Friday afternoon. It should be a real good hockey game."
Mark, I know North Dakota has played some pretty good games this season, I mean, I believe against even you guys. Does that help your players not look past them, to remember some good games against that team?
"Well, it helps you focus in. I mean, our Friday night game up in Grand Forks earlier this season went into overtime and we scored on a power play to win it. They've had some big victories. They walked into Duluth and shut Duluth out, 2-0. I don't think Duluth has been shut out at all in their building and they were able to do it. So it grabs your attention.
"The thing that really grabs your attention right now is, and I think the coaches will attest to this, that it's a fun time of year because everything is on the line. If you don't win, you don't move on, so there's that element of fear that if I don't come out and play well, if things don't go the way you want them to, your season is over. And so that's what March brings us, but I think it also brings the excitement of the opportunities that are ahead of us as a team."
The last couple years it seems like there's been talk of crunching numbers to what it would take to get into the post-season, to get into the national playoff picture. Have you found yourself doing less of that this year, being the regular-season champions, or are you still trying to figure out what it's going to take post-season-wise?
"I've never been one to get into the numbers, the computers and how they spit it out sometimes can be real confusing, so I stay away from it personally. I know one of my assistants, Dan (Koch), likes going on there daily. After somebody plays out East or somebody will play within our league, it's always changing. The big thing is, and I've said along, is to try to play consistent throughout the season, control what you can control.
"If we can control our game and come out and play up to our capabilities and do what we need to do, then everything else sort of takes care of itself. I mean, as we sit here today, we're in very good position. Obviously, our power ranking is quite high. But as we all know, it can change very quickly. I look at this as a two-week season and we'll prepare our team to get ready to play this weekend, and if we're fortunate enough to move on to our playoff championships the following weekend up in Ridder (Arena in Minneapolis)."
Could you comment on Bobbi-Jo (Slusar) and Sara (Bauer) being finalists for the (Patty) Kazmaier Award as the nation's best player? That's of course an honor, winning it or not, that's fantastic, but just to be a candidate is something special.
"Yes. It's a credit to both of them because since Sara has been here she's been one of our top players. She's been our leading scorer now the last few years. And as I think I mentioned in an earlier conference, she's a 4.0 student. She likes to go to school and she likes to play hockey. So from a coaching standpoint, those are nice players to have on your team.
"Bobbi-Jo, after Molly (Engstrom) left last season and Carla (MacLeod) left, two of our leaders back on the blue line, Bobbi-Jo is going to be asked to take a bigger role, not only on the ice, but also in the locker room. And she's done both. She's really developed into, not only a good offensive player for us, but defensively does very well. Both of those players deserve to be on that list. It's a big honor for them and we certainly are proud of both of them."
One of the powers, people in power said that you would be a person that they would consider for the U.S. women's Olympic hockey job. First of all, what did it mean to you when you hear something like that? Is that a job you would be interested in if all the circumstances were right down the road?
"I've got too much on my plate already. You know, just you get the team focused and ready for this weekend. What happens four years from now obviously, we don't have answers to, but I probably don't even really want to comment on it, just because I don't think it's fair to anything we're trying to do right now."
Mark, can you just talk a little bit about your three goaltenders and how you plan to use them moving forward?
"Good question, tough answer. A week ago Saturday, we played Meghan (Horras), our senior, and she got a shutout. Then Friday we played Christine (Dufour) down in Columbus and she had a shutout. And then Saturday we played Jessie (Vetter) and she had a shutout. So I'm feeling very comfortable with all three of them. Obviously, it's going to be a difficult decision come Friday afternoon on who we decide to play.
"We'll make that decision probably Thursday after our practice over here. But I know all three want the puck, as we call it, and want the opportunity to play. We'll see how Friday's game goes and make changes if necessary. But we'll make our decision Thursday afternoon as far as who's going to play that Friday afternoon game."