Monday press conference: Mark Johnson

Wisconsin women's hockey coach talked about his team's drive for conference and national titles.

Audio file 1 (5:58)

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Coach, have you decided who you're going to start in goal against St. Cloud State, whether it be Jessie (Vetter) or Meghan (Horras)?

"We'll make that decision probably Friday after our skate up at Ridder (Arena). We'll see how practice goes and talk with the coaching staff and see who we think might fit well with our opponent, St. Cloud. So we'll make that decision Friday."

Mark, that's one of those things that falls into the good-problem-to-have category. But is it tough to have that kind of decision weighing on you guys and on them as you go into the playoffs here where it's two games in two days, you're looking for a championship, those kinds of things? It's one more thing to think about, I guess.

"Well, from my standpoint, it's a good problem to have because I'm certainly confident in all three of them. They showed that they're capable of playing and playing very well. It's certainly more difficult on the three of them because I know they all want to play, and unfortunately only one of them is going to get the nod Saturday. And we'll see how that game goes and probably come back with somebody else Sunday, depending on who our opponent might be.

"But at this time of year it's just an exciting time to play. It's fun because you know you throw everything on the line. If you win, you move on. If you lose, you're back on the bus coming home. So it's a fun time of year. It's fun to play. It's fun to coach.

"Knowing that if you lose, you're done, and knowing if you win, you move on, that creates the excitement, whether it's hockey or high school basketball going on now. I saw my son lose out in a playoff game a couple weeks ago, and, you know, his team doesn't move on. And then go watch the state tournament last weekend, figuring out why he should be there and in reality they're not there. So it's a fun time of the year. It can go on, and it can end real quick."

Mark, St. Cloud was one of only three league teams to beat you this season. How did they beat you, and does that concern you, knowing that they may have a little bit of confidence knowing they have beaten you?

"Well, they've probably the last five or six weeks they really have put themselves in a position to not only get to where they're at right now, but get in the top 10 in the country as far as our rankings are concerned. And they've been riding a hot goaltender.

"The Saturday afternoon they beat us 1-0 she obviously was a difference in that because I don't think we gave up but nine or 10 shots and probably not any more than one or two quality scoring opportunities. And whatever we threw at her, she was able to stop that particular afternoon.

"Our job is to, as Mike (Eaves said earlier), throw as many pucks as you can, and hope you get to four or five because we're pretty confident that if we get up to those numbers, we have a real good chance at winning. But the big thing with our team right now is just to make sure at this time of year that they're still excited to come back to the rink.

"You have to do things within practice to make sure that you don't over-coach, you don't overwork them, and you really try to push the right buttons at the right time now, because, like I say, things can end real quick or else you can move on. So it becomes a little game of putting a puzzle together. And then when you're done, whether you win or lose, you look back and say ‘did I make the right choices or could I have done things differently.'

"I've got to commend you (Brian Posick) too, because we get players nominated for players of the week, this and that, defensive, offense. After listening to Thursday night (at the high school boys hockey semifinal game) up until midnight at the state tournament and the coming into work early Friday morning and hearing you again, you get the announcer of the week, I guess we'll call it, job well done, because I left after the first overtime Thursday night."

I hate to get you looking too far ahead here, but what would a home NCAA game mean to this program, even though it's not in this building, it would be out in Middleton? What would that kind of bring to this group and to this team as you look to the future that way too?

"Well, it would be a step in the direction that you want to go. Last year we were very close to hosting the first-round game. We ended up having to go to Dartmouth. But at this time of the year, anytime you can play at home, whether it's your playoff games or an NCAA game, I think it's a benefit to your hockey club.

"For us, we won't be able to play at the Kohl Center, but you still get a chance to host the game and it sure beats going on the road. That could be the difference between yourself and the opponent you're playing when it gets to crunch, because everybody is good at that point. Everybody has a chance to win.

"If playing at home is just that little bit of difference in you winning that game, now you're down to four teams. It's a good feather in our cap for our program because it knows we're going in the right direction. If you get that home game, whether it's some years maybe at the Kohl Center or maybe at the Cap Ice Center or at the Eagles Nest, it's a good thing. It's a good thing to have."

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